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Why is ceramic so important?

March 08, 2024

Skylark Galleries' The Ceramicist blog

Two of Skylark Galleries' ceramicists, Ruty Benjamini and Vivien Phelan provide insight into their art...

Pottery is one of the most common artefacts recovered from archaeological excavations. Unlike organic matter, like wood or textile, fired ceramics is permanent and even a shard of a pot can provide archaeologists with clues as to how people lived many years ago.

Found pottery pieces get analysed by thermoluminescence dating. A machine analyses when and how each piece was made & fired - and what it was used for.

Pottery has played an important role in the culture and traditions of many societies throughout history. From Native American pottery to Japanese porcelain, pottery has been used to express cultural identity, religious beliefs, and social status.

Style and shape tell us how it was used, and even information about the diet, as animal fat is absorbed by clay.

Surface decoration gives us more identifying clues about the time and place in which the piece was made.

Historically, each culture had its style and methods. 


In Europe, for instance, the most famous type of prehistoric pottery was made in the beginning of the Bronze Age, in an area called Iberia, where Andorra, Portugal Spain and Gibraltar are today. The style called 'Bell Beaker pottery', reached Britain around 2500 BC. It is characterised by an inverted bell shape with a flared lip, and elaborately decorated surface with repeated patterns.


Japanese pottery from the Jomon period (14,000 BC) is recognisable by the use of rope patterns, pressed into the clay before firing. Jomon in Japanese means, 'patterns of rope'.


In The Netherlands, Delftware, also known as Delft Blue, was developed in the early 17th century in an attempt to replicate the blue and white Chinese porcelain, which was very popular but expensive.

Delftware is a type of tin glazed earthenware, in which colour decorations are painted on top of white glaze.


The term 'studio pottery' refers to unique or short run ceramic objects, hand made by ceramic artists. Typically all stages of manufacture are carried out by the ceramic artists themselves. Demand for studio pottery has seen prices rise rapidly in value.

Ruty says, "I rather like the idea of the Japanese Wabi-Sabi.  It expresses the appreciation of the beauty  found in the imperfect and incomplete, in studio hand made ceramics, versus the industrial, factory made."

The Centre of Ceramic Art is part of York Museum. It has the largest and most important collection of British studio ceramic in the country.

Skylark Galleries has six ceramic artists, each with their own style. Click on the links under their images to see more of their work.

Richard Dixon ceramic Skylark Galleries

Richard Dixon Classical Flask Stoneware / Underglaze H30cm, W24cm. Price £325. An original graphic on a traditional flask form, using black and white  underglaze.  The whole vessel is then lightly waxed.

 Ruty Benjamini Skylark Galleries ceramic

Ruty Benjamini Three Shell vases Slab built. Sea Shell impressions . Decorated with underglaze colours. Glazed and fired to Earthenware 1150C. Size and price from left: H32x10cm-£170, H28x8cm-£150, H27x9cm- £150. Contact

 Jonquil Cook Skylark Galleries Ceramic

Jonquil Cook - Octopussy vase and platter with Sgraffito decoration. Vase £540. Platter £260. Contact the artist.

 Caroline Nuttall-Smith ceramic Skylark Galleries

Caroline Nutall-Smith - three vases. They are made of stoneware clay with colour slip & glaze decoration. The smallest is H13cmxW14.5cmxD7cm. Price £170.  The medium is H18cmxW14.5cmxD7cm. Price £180. The tallest H22cmxW14.5cmxD7cm. Price £190.  Contact the artist.

 Heather Tobias ceramicist Skylark Galleries

Heather Tobias “Moving On” Porcelain sculpture. Decorated with blue cobalt. SOLD.

 Vivien Phelan ceramic dog Skylark Galleries

Vivien Phelan- Shaggy Dog. Thrown and altered. H28cmxW31cmxD14cm Price £280.


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