Richmond Art Society Featured Artist – Catherine Ball

Catherine Ball

From my studio in Cheshire I supplied ceramics to a handful of galleries ranging  from Aberdeen to Winchester. The most successful one was The Potters’ Gallery Conway, a cooperative we started some 15 years ago. The gallery is at 1 High Street, the only road through the town, and so anyone visiting Conway goes past it. It is therefore wonderfully positioned for sales. We were a collection of 20 Potters and ran it ourselves.  It is still open, so a real success story.
At that time I made high-fired reduction stoneware domestic pottery with a palette of richly coloured glazes, as seen in my photos. My main influence had been the work of Janice Tchalenko, the person who Dartington Pottery brought in to revamp their produce.
 That anyone could produce such finishes on stoneware pieces blew me away, and that is what I wanted to do. These glazes, especially the reduction red  took years to develop to an acceptable level  , but the results were extremely satisfying.  
 My studio had a workshop with 2 kilns and 2 potters’ wheels. I ran weekly classes and courses in the summer months. I have many happy memories of such times and the work my students produced. I remember one in particular who wanted to make a pot for her Mum.  She firstly coiled a pot, then made a lid, then when biscuit fired I asked what were her mother’s favourite colours and we did our best.  Eventually the pot was fired and I said , I hope your Mother likes it, ‘oh no, she died a while ago the pot is for her ashes’. Aah, fond memories.   Next to the workshop was a showroom, pictured here with a younger me posing outside. I could always put a collection together for an exhibition or supply a present for a customer for a wedding, birthday.etc. 
Then, ten years ago, due to family circumstances all that changed.  We moved 250 miles to Teddington. At this time I was experimenting with sculpture and the raku process, so working on a smaller scale suited my new situation.  With the flat we bought , came a garage, now workshop, gold dust apparently down here.  I bought a small electric kiln and made a raku kiln out of a garden brazier lined with ceramic fibre and that was me , sorted. I could continue with hands on clay, albeit on a smaller scale, which I was ready for.
 Most recently I have slightly changed direction again and am exploring the properties of porcelain, another love affair, like Edmund de Waal with his book the White Road, a journey of the development of porcelain. This clay, like all clays has its own characteristics . It is more difficult to handle then most clays but I am getting to know it.  The results of which are starting to appear in RAS exhibitions.



Jim Woodman

Artist portrait by Trevor Aston Photography

“I am a self-taught painter, a strange expression when you think about it – it means you didn’t go to art college. Well I didn’t, but I would not describe myself as self taught. I have loved art all my life and my first port of call when visiting anywhere is the local art gallery. By looking at other people’s work I get inspiration and a sense of direction about where to take my own art. Early on I found inspiration in painters who leave something to the imagination. Photo realism is not for me. I find that a Vlaminck, an Auerbach or a Cézanne, where some of the artist’s own involvement with the subject is evident does so much more for me. So they are my teachers.
I have been painting full-time for about 18 years after decades of occasional watercolours squeezed in amongst the pressures of family and jobs. It is a great privilege to be able to do the thing you love without distraction. During those years I can think of a number of paintings which have meant a lot to me. For instance the first one I ever sold was a little watercolour painted in Mexico and carried in a rucksack as I backpacked round the world. It came back with me and sold at an art society show for £15. I can still remember the thrill of finding out that someone had parted with money for my painting. It was a sort of affirmation. The journey had started and despite frustrations, dead ends and rejections along the road, I’m back at the easel each day fired by my love of painting.
The piece which has meant most to me was painted some eleven years ago. I had just had a milestone birthday, one ending in a zero, and my wife, Liz, had a special present for me on the day. I had been enthusing about a particular painter’s work for the year before and she had picked up the vibe. He was Richard Pikesley who is now president of the New English Art Club. He paints both in oils and watercolour and in each medium is a master at capturing the effect of light. On the morning of the big day I was told to get in the car and off we went to his studio in Dorset. Liz had made contact with Richard and arranged the day. We were received at his home and he took me around his studio. On an easel stood a watercolour which he casually indicated was my birthday present. I have it to this day and I still love looking at it. Spending time with someone whose work one admires so much is an inspiration. We left for Scotland soon afterwards and that is when I painted Portree Harbour in Skye. It is not a Pikesley but somehow he had influenced me. The painting is instinctive and I did it quickly. The focus was to capture the wonderful light which comes between the headlands that guard the harbour entrance. Here it is.

I no longer have the painting. I sold it and when last heard of it was in the Blackpool area, maybe decorating the wall of a B & B there. But, with a sense that it may be popular, I had some giclee prints done, which I sell to this day. I have tried to recapture the mood of that painting but cannot do it. Perhaps another trip to Dorset is required. Since then I have moved more to painting in oils. So the journey continues but the beauty of watercolour still appeals and en plein air paintings in that medium provide source material for oils I paint in my studio. Here are some of my oils.

Richard Pikesley’s work continues to inspire as do other painters, mainly Scottish. Joan Eardley, who died tragically young, is one of them. Her free landscapes and seascapes of the east coast of Scotland are amazing for their energy and vitality. (One to look out for).
These days my life is taken up with painting and exhibiting. With a group of fellow artists I exhibit at art fairs such as Cambridge and Edinburgh. We have been at the latter for the last 8 years. Also my work goes into galleries around London and in Scotland. It all started with membership of an art society, Twickenham first and then Richmond Art Society.”

Jim Woodman