The Annual Christmas Open exhibition opened its doors over the weekend at the Burton at Bideford, Art Gallery & Museum. Organised as a fundraising event by the Friends of the Burton, the Annual Open offers an opportunity for local artists, both amateur and professional, to exhibit alongside each other. Featuring an eclectic mix of print, paintings, textiles, ceramics and more.

The work of the Burton at Bideford is supported by the dedication, hard work and enthusiasm of the Friends of the Burton Art Gallery. The Friends are a separate charity that support and enhance the Burton’s work. The Friends of the Burton get involved in fundraising, sponsorship of events and acquisitions, and promotion of The Burton throughout the region.

The Friends have also played a pivotal role in the Burton’s other exhibition currently on show: The Christine Halstead Ceramic Collection. Bequeathed to the Friends of the Burton Art Gallery & Museum in 2014 the Christine Halstead collection amassed over 400 items of Studioware passionately collected over forty years which now sits within the Burton’s Permanent Collection. The current Christine Halstead exhibition is an opportunity to view a large selection of the collection including pieces from 1973 when she started collecting works by Lucie Rie, David Leach and Bernard Forrester to works by Mick Casson, John Maltby, Colin Pearson and Marianne de Trey, to mention a few.

In 2002 Christine Halstead approached John Butler, the Curator of The Burton Art Gallery & Museum during this time to discuss securing a future home for her collection of studio ceramics upon her passing. A few months passed and it was agreed that the Burton would visit Christine at her home in Riversford, South Brent, Devon, to view her collection of ceramics and discuss what inspired her to collect over the last 40 years.

Upon arrival, to our surprise we discovered a very large collection of Studio ceramics housed in a purpose-built extension, overlooking the river Avon. A lot of the pots within the collection were not chosen by Halstead because of names, it was all about the pot. Eclectic in her tastes, the durability and functionality of domestic ware were important to her.

Christine Halstead was a great supporter of The Burton Art Gallery & Museum with family connections to Bideford through the Durrant Hotel in Northam. She was instrumental in the development of the Devon Guild of Craftsman in Bovey Tracey and was a great patron to the arts and artists.

Following the visit, Bearnes Auctioneers were commissioned to undertake the task of producing an inventory and valuation of the collection, with Christine’s help. It was then agreed in principal that the collection would be housed at The Burton Art Gallery & Museum and Christine had this written into her will, that the collection would be bequeathed to The Friends of the Burton Gallery & Museum, a separate charity that supports the work of the Burton.

Studio Pottery is handmade pottery, made by an individual potter or maker in a studio, rather than mass-produced pottery made in factories. Typically, all stages of manufacture are carried out by the artists themselves.

Not only does this collection represent Studio ceramics in the South West (over the last 40 years) but the collection is also the next step in the evolution of ceramics, an evolution on from the Reg Lloyd Collection (which is primarily a collection of traditional North Devon Slipware). Without this foundation of North Devon Slipware, many of the makers featured in Christine’s collection would not have been inspired to become potters. A number of these potters can also be found today in The Burton at Bideford’s craft gallery.

In 2013, Christine now in her early 90’s sadly passed away. The Burton was then contacted to arrange collection. Once it was safely secured in the gallery, the inventory began and high-resolution photographs were taken and the pieces identified, building and finalising the inventory Bearns had begun in 2003, with many new pots being added which had been purchased after this date. The collection totals over 400 pieces of ceramics and features many influential Studio potters/ ceramists.

The open is on display until December 23 and the Christine Halstead Ceramic Collection until January 8 2023.