Robson Visual Arts Masters Award supports new face of creativity

Iris Churcher

The Robson Visual Arts Master Award played a significant role in MA Glass and Ceramics student Iris Churcher achieving a distinction.

The scholarship allowed Iris to buy books that would assist in the research for her final presentation, and also to buy materials to experiment with different clays and technics. The 70-year-old was also able to travel to museums and galleries to see ceramics collections and to meet with curators.

Iris, whose narrative illustration is now finding new expression in the form of ceramic teapots, said: “The research for the final MA academic presentation led to a broader knowledge of teapots and the history of porcelain and stoneware.

“In particular the Victoria & Albert Museum visit and a closer study of the Rodin teapot influenced my narrative thinking about birds interacting with teapots and studying the work of Richard Notkin and Adrian Saxe.”

Iris was born is Essex, studied BA Graphic Design in London, and worked as a layout designer on Punch and Design magazines. She married a Canadian and moved to Montreal in 1978, where she worked as a freelance illustrator before becoming a full-time teacher of illustration and Design at Vancouver Island University.

She retired in 2008 and returned to freelance illustration, and pursued her passion for the environment – but frustration with working in two dimensions got Iris thinking about working in ceramics – and returning to the UK after 40 years away.

“The National Glass Centre’s position by the River Wear and the North Sea attracted my attention, and the program looked interesting,” said Iris.

Her work uses beautiful hand-made teapots to depict, birds, Sunderland and nature.

“I imagined birds visiting teapots, and so they are stories of imagined events, but relate to my personal experience. I leave the actual story up to the viewer. And so you might say that my ceramic work translates my illustrative interest into three dimensions.

“Pottery, functional or otherwise, is usually made for people living at a particular time and place. Contemporary techniques, materials, lifestyles and current social attitudes are reflected in the forms, colours, decorations and functions of pottery. It fascinated me that in the long running TV program Time Team, the pottery experts were always called in to date the finds, because the clay used, the process of firing and glazing, and the purpose of the pottery found, told the archaeologists so much about the culture and people who made it.” 

She concluded: “The Robson Visual Arts Master Award made all the travel and material purchases much easier and helped me greatly in my final research. Thank you.”

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