Studio Insights | Clive Bowen

25 Feb 2020

Clive Bowen | Studio Insights February 2020

Christina Jansen visited Clive and Rosie Bowen in Devon earlier this month, at his pottery and home in Shebbear. It was an opportunity to check-in and catch up with the artist before his joint exhibition in April but also a chance to simply enjoy their company. We discussed and chose pots from the studio, specifically looking at the best examples of his slipware to show alongside the Japanese master potter Masaaki Shibata. Clive Bowen & Masaaki Shibata Masters of Slipware: East & West runs from 1- 25 April 2020

Clive Bowen is as a gestural decorator, even something of an action painter, applying a fluid spontaneity and broad hand to his trailing, pouring and combing. Seeing his pots in groups - runs of splendid jugs, bowls, platters and press-moulded dishes - reveals Bowen's ability to explore within the parameters of his signature forms.

David Whiting
Studio Insights | Clive Bowen
The Gallery at Shebbear Pottery, Devon, February 2020

Bowen is a master slipware decorator, which stems from his initial training as a fine artist and classic studio pottery training in the Leach tradition. Each pot is a homage to the ancient tradition of pottery and a connection to the earth; in Clive's work there is always a sense of dignity, warmth and joy. He can be found listening to Radio 4 or music from his large jazz collection in the studio: this helps him concentrate as he throws or decorates his pots. The following images are a visual reference of his home and work.

Studio Insights | Clive Bowen
Shebbear Pottery, Devon
Studio Insights | Clive Bowen
Studio Insights | Clive Bowen
Studio Insights | Clive Bowen
Clive & Rosie's dresser

Clive has been busy throwing and decorating numerous works for April: his huge wood fired kiln can hold up to 1000 pots and Clive has been creating and decorating large medieval jugs, storage jars, vases and large decorated platters as well as numerous functional wares for the kitchen. His wife Rosie holds the whole operation together and is also a wonderful cook. Every kitchen item has to be fit for purpose, which means that all of Clive's kitchen pots have been product tested and passed by Rosie before they are ready for the gallery.

Studio Insights | Clive Bowen
Clive Bowen preparing and measuring the clay prior to throwing, February 2020
Studio Insights | Clive Bowen
Designs for side plates, each one will have a different pattern on the border
Studio Insights | Clive Bowen
Preparing, cutting, measuring, pugging and rolling the clay
Studio Insights | Clive Bowen
Clive throwing a side plate
Studio Insights | Clive Bowen
Thrown earthenware vases which are left to dry on the racks
Studio Insights | Clive Bowen
A pottery with a view
Studio Insights | Clive Bowen
Inside the throwing and drying studio
Studio Insights | Clive Bowen
Clive always refers to his sketchbooks, which hold numerous drawings and measurements. Each pot is part of a robust tradition and meditation in English slipware.
Studio Insights | Clive Bowen
Studio Insights | Clive Bowen
Studio Insights | Clive Bowen
Rosie's kitchen
Studio Insights | Clive Bowen
Everyday art

Clive Bowen Classic British Studio Potter

Clive Bowen is a classic British studio potter who specialises in slip decorated earthenware pots.

In 1965 at the age of twenty-two, after studying painting and etching at Cardiff College of art, he joined Michael Leach as an apprentice at Yelland Pottery and stayed there for five years. In 1970, as well as working as a thrower at Brannan Pottery, he helped Michael Cardew at Wenford Bridge at weekends, and built himself a kiln. He set up his own pottery at Shebbear, North Devon in 1971, and has been working there since. Clive has not marked his work since the early 1970's when he used a circular seal with his monogram.

Studio Insights | Clive Bowen
A vintage image of Clive's kiln circa 1970's. Every opening is a magical moment.

He fires his work in a down-draught circular wood-fired double-chamber kiln that he built in 1976, similar in design to the one at Wenford Bridge. It has a 400 cubic foot capacity - sufficient for up to a thousand pots. The red earthenware pots, usually slip decorated - sgraffito, trailed, or both, are fired at 1060° centigrade. Firing takes twenty-four hours and the kiln is then sealed for the five day cooling period.

Studio Insights | Clive Bowen
The wood fired kiln
Studio Insights | Clive Bowen
Wood for the kiln

Clive's work is loved by collectors and curators and is in numerous public collections including the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; his has been exhibited widely both at home and abroad in particular Japan where he is highly regarded and accepted as a master potter. He is one of Britain's finest slip decorators and he's had a one-man exhibition at the Tate St Ives. He is also an accomplished graphic artist and his paintings are often exhibited with his pots.

Clive Bowen & Masaaki Shibata Masters of Slipware: East & West runs from 1- 25 April 2020

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