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2 APRIL 2020 6-8PM
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Choosing Keeping is pleased to announce a solo exhibition by British salt-glaze potter Steve Harrison presenting new work on the subject of stationery. As part of a continued collaboration with Choosing Keeping, the artist has created an exclusive one-off collection of writing and drawing furniture and accoutrements for the desk.

‘Desk’ in its most literal sense includes fine cabinetry made jointly with Ben Casson, one of Steve’s long-standing collaborators. In a broader sense ‘Desk’ also speaks to stationery itself, seeking significance in the detail of writing and drawing implements. Dip pens and their Japanese Fukuro cases made by Steve’s wife Julia, from antique kimonos, ink wells and a special brew of French grey ink are but a few examples of Harrison’s atmospheric accessories for his fantasy Desk.

This exhibition draws on Harrison’s relentless drive for perfection of form in cups and teapots while adopting a more experimental approach to uncover the delicate creative environment of the desk. Both an artist and tea-worshipper, Harrison draws parallel between tea ceremony and creative practice. He considers their mutual and relatable experience - brewing tea leaves or grinding natural pigments - both ceremonies requiring set tools and live materials essential in creating a mental ritual for making.

As a backdrop for this exhibition, Choosing Keeping’s existing shop interiors with its furniture and fittings commissioned in 2018 from the artist, offers the viewer a mise-en-scène à la Hammershøi, echoing the tones and atmosphere of Steve Harrison’s own domestic environment.

‘Desk' is also the logical outcome following many years of friendship between the artist and Choosing Keeping shop-owner Julia. Understanding how each other’s work, skills, tastes and interests can complement, excite, inspire and challenge the other will have brought about a truly collaborative drive for this exhibition - to see the writing implement alter-ego to Harrison’s perfect cup of tea. 

About Steve Harrison

Steve Harrison was born in Wallsend, Newcastle in 1967. 

Age 16, he obsessively watched The Craft of the Potter on repeat, a 1976 BBC series following the celebrated studio potter Mick Casson (father of Ben Casson (above) and who would later become Harrison’s mentor) observing the techniques of glazing and firing. While still in school, Steve set up a studio in his grandparents garage in order to pursue his interest.

He graduated from Middlesex University and Royal College of Arts with a BA and MA in Ceramics in 1991 and 1993 respectively. In 1994 a Craft Council grant lead Steve to set up his work- shop in Enfield while firing at his Mother-in-law’s house in Wales, once again calling on relatives for the greater good of pottery. He would eventually relieve her of this duty, setting up more permanently in Powdy mid-Wales, where Steve has had 3 kilns, each lasting a little under a decade, a period over which it is gradually degraded by the salt during each firing. To this day he continues to ferry his pots back and forth between both work-places in a continual 3 month cycle of production.

Each firing amounts to 100 pots approximately, some of which are deemed exceptional, while others are instantly destroyed if considered inferior. Harrison admits to the challenges and rewards of salt glazing which is an inherently unpredictable process - he explains the need for acceptance on his part; to submit to the surprise it can bring, and sometimes also, to its disappointments.

While Harrison is specifically known for his work in salt-glaze, he artfully combines other mediums highlighting the breadth of his skillset and full persona as a craftsman. Brass, burr oak, silver smithing, gilding, iron work are part of Harrison’s visual lexicon and contribute to his pots’ sense of historicity.