Claylarks: Great Gathering

With the launch of our 'Claylarks' collection, we will be sharing an insight into the narratives, skills and the found objects that inspired these new works. In this first instalment, we take a closer look at Matthew Raw’s tiled dining table and wall light, James Rigler’s dishes and platters inspired by the ‘Thames Potato’; Aude Van Ryn’s terracotta sculptures and Michael Ruh’s collection of vases.

Claylarks Great Gathering


Throughout the millennia, clay has played an integral part in our lives and daily rituals. Many of its uses have not strayed far from their original uses - from building materials and home furnishing to pottery and figurines. When our group of makers gathered together on the foreshore of the River Thames, each piece and fragment they picked up told a story of the object it once was and its original use.

Matthew Raw was fascinated by the pottery sherds strewn across the foreshore and on display at the Museum of London. At the museum, the pieces which were laid out to view across a bright blue table throwing their shapes into sharp relief. Matthew loved the mystery of their origins and purpose, as well as the way the sherds had been worked by the river into graphic shapes.

Claylarks Great Gathering


When he returned to his studio, Matthew’s research led him to create his own ceramic ‘sherds’ made from rolled, shaped and textured slabs of clay. Some edges are cut - a nod to their original ‘function’ while others have organic edges, where the sherd would have been changed by its experience. He began arranging the pieces to create various formations. He enjoyed their form, how they overlapped and creating space in between them. This idea of sherds coming together to create a composition led to the creation of the Tide Light - a ceramic wall light in a tonal palette of glazes and textured surfaces.

Claylarks Great Gathering


Matthew also has a deep appreciation for building facades and the historical surface application of tiled buildings in London. The project allowed space for Matthew to develop his Welcome collection, extending from cabinets to introduce the Welcome Dining Table in Oak. The 8-seater dining table has two cylindrical column legs which are tiled with handmade tiles by Matthew, which emerge through the top of the table with two tiled circles on the surface. Matthew studied the varied hues of the sherds he had gathered in creating the glaze for the table. The Welcome cabinets are designed to welcome people as they arrive into a home, while the new dining table invites them to gather.

Claylarks Great Gathering


Whilst mudlarking, James Rigler found himself drawn to smoothed out pebbles in a variety of earth tones. He learned that these were Thames potatoes, ubiquitous pebbles of London brick, rubbed smooth by the river. The tumbled fragments of London’s architectural history inspired James to create a collection of graphic-shaped dishes and platters, referencing objects that were once used, held then lost. He was drawn to the idea of rediscovery providing a new purpose and value, creating a whole new story. The colours and textures throughout the collection reflect the materials and qualities of the Thames potatoes and the glimmering foreshore.

Claylarks Great Gathering


Meanwhile, Aude Van Ryn marvelled at the unique tidal quality of the Thames and the resulting miscellany of objects and artefacts that washed up on its shores, ranging from yesterday’s trash to centuries-old treasure. This rich layering of London’s history led Aude to create a series of one-off sculptures.

Claylarks Great Gathering


The book ‘Terres de Saintonge’ by Jean Yves Hugoniot was loaned to Aude by Stuart Wyatt from the Museum of London. The French pottery book pictured vases and vessels in the shape of women, dating from the 14th to 18th century. Often crudely made, each figure was elaborately decorated. Aude’s own collection of assemblages and sculptural juxtapositions become her own set of characters. With nods to queens, warriors and deities, each figure floats in time representing the significance of the distinguished river throughout the centuries. After researching spriggs and roulette work from various historical references housed in the Museum of London archives, Aude handmade a collection of clay stamps, roulettes and tools for mark-making, which she used to add decorative surface patterns.

Michael Ruh came to feel that the real ‘treasures’ of mudlarking were not his findings, but the stories they told. With each sherd he envisioned a group of people gathering together to tell him how they lived throughout the centuries. He was hugely inspired by the collection of vessels housed in the Museum of London, as he imagined the wealth of stories they contained, having gathered at banquets to share food and drink and converse.

Claylarks Great Gathering


The pottery vessels influenced the silhouettes and textural quality of his collection of vases, with some literal transcriptions into glass and others interpreted. He aimed to keep the same approachable and humane quality, enriched by the story of London and its inhabitants. With this collection, Michael hoped to create pieces that had a welcoming sense of festive significance, ready to join new gatherings and stories of their own.

Explore the work by Matthew Raw, James Rigler, Aude Van Ryn & Michael Ruh below.