burton art gallery and museum
gallery highlights




Kingsley Road, Bideford, Devon EX39 2QQ

Telephone: 01237 471455
Email: info@theburton.org

Admission is Free
Open Daily 10am - 4pm
Sundays 11am - 4pm

Clive Bowen

Clive Bowen produces slip decorated earthenware pots of very high quality and masterful design. Strong simple forms and bold slip decoration are characteristic of his wood-fired earthenware. The rich surface colours, and the happy integration of shape and decoration draw on traditional West Country earthenware but are creatively interpreted and brought up to date.

Clive was born in Cardiff in 1943. 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. He then spent a year as a production thrower at C.H.Brannam Ltd. In 1971 he bought a small agricultural property at Shebbear and set up a workshop in the former farm outhouses, building his first small woodfired kiln, a catenary arch with a capacity of 30 cu ft. In 1976 he built a much larger double chambered kiln with a total capacity of over 400 cu ft, which is used for most of today’s production, sufficient for up to 1000 pots. The kiln may take up to five days to pack in preparation for a twenty-four hour firing. During the firing the kiln is stoked continuously with wood from local sawmills until a temperature of 1060C is achieved. The kiln is then sealed and cooled for up to five days before the pots are unpacked.

The pots are made in the local Fremington clay, a red earthenware clay in use for centuries for the traditional North Devon wares, they are almost all wheel-thrown with the exception of a few hand-pressed dishes. The pots are then decorated by a variety of methods; slip-trailing using different coloured liquid clays, combing and sgraffito. Most of the work is raw-glazed, i.e. the glaze is applied to the decorated pot without biscuit firing. Virtually all his materials are from the surrounding region, to the point that the red clay he uses for slip trailing comes from his own back garden.

The form and function of Clive’s work can be traced back to centuries-old pots such as English medieval jugs and early Tamba ware. He loves the anonymous ethnic pots from all cultures and their feeling of life and freshness. His enthusiasm is still with the clay, the slip and the large wood-fired kiln. The wood firing imparts extra life to the pots. He enjoys sitting around the table sharing meals with friends and his preoccupations are always centred around the function of the pieces, as he wants his pots to be used, not merely to sit in isolation on a shelf. He loves to see them used to enhance the enjoyment of good food.

Clive's work has been exhibited widely both at home and abroad, he is regarded as Britain's finest slip decorator, he has had a one-man exhibition at the Tate St Ives, and he is one of the Pottery Studio's most requested potters. He is also an accomplished graphic artist and his paintings are often exhibited with his pots.

lottery funded