Exhibition: Kate Haywood at Manchester Art Gallery

  • Molly Court reviews Kate Haywood's exhibiton at Manchester Art Gallery.
  • Available to view: 23 February 2018–7 October 2018.

Who is guilty of giving their child an iPad instead of a pack of Crayola pencils and a piece of paper?

Traditional crafts are becoming extinct due to today’s idea of art. With the ever-expanding use of technology, it could be argued that art is becoming digital and forms of expression are changing.

Only graduating four years ago, Kate Haywood is one of the country’s greatest new ceramicists. Ceramics is a craft skill that’s listed on The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts.

Kate’s award-winning work explores our connection with objects and how they allow us to create memories. Haywood combines sculpted porcelain with textiles, glass and metallic elements. She is recognised for her impeccable skill to work with porcelain as the material is challenging when modelled because it has a tendency to shrink and disfigure.

Kate Haywood is a current resident at Manchester Art Gallery and her exhibition is in response to Mary Greg.

Greg was quite the character who collected a variety of over 3,000 pre-industrial handicrafts. Ranging from rusty spoons, to toys to personal accessories, Mary had a passion to collect weird and wonderful objects that were beginning to vanish due to industrial products. Hidden from the public for over 50 years, many of her items were one of a kind but most were everyday findings. Greg said that her inspiration behind this was to “spark creativity and imagination in others.”

In a space situated next to the spectacular gallery shop at one of Manchester’s greatest cultural institutions, glass cabinets filled with quaint porcelain objects are dispersed. The deep red and yellow painted walls are dressed in porcelain and cotton hangings. A sombre hum and the patter of footsteps echo throughout the historic buildings, whilst the focus of mixed material surrounds the atmosphere.

Kate Haywood’s individual piece ‘Feast’, a cluster of wheel thrown, carved and built porcelain with cotton and gold thread, was inspired by Mary Greg’s collection of 12 finely decorated Elizabethan plates, known as roundels. The dishes were used for serving dried fruits as sweets at the end of an Elizabethan banquet. The sweets were served on the unpainted side of the roundel and once eaten, the dish was turned over to reveal Biblical quotes and decorative themes. The porcelain in Kates creation are hybrids of the roundels floral imagery fused with Elizabethan table dressing details and the sweetmeats which were served on them.

The wall features are definitely the most captivating pieces of Kates reaction to Greg.

An exquisite item in the exhibition is ‘Cotillion, 2014′, made from wheel thrown and modelled porcelain as well as; stain, gold leaf, cotton, rubber and felt. What seems to be a mellow arrangement of material and rings at a first glance, is actually a playful display (and certainly the biggest). You can’t help but wonder, what do the materials remind you of? What could they have once been? When focusing on the colour, you’ll be surprised. Combine that with the satisfying layout and it’s an engagingly visual delight.

Kate Haywood highlights endangered crafts in her work but it’s rare in this day to have someone like herself who can shape and style porcelain into the way that she does.

Available to view: 23 February 2018–7 October 2018.