Image of Thames pottery shards by daveograve@ from the Londonist Flickr pool
Turner Prize winner (2003) Grayson Perry is joining a campaign to protest against the closure of a well-known pottery department in the University of Westminster. The ceramics course held at the Harrow campus of the University was where he trained and the alumni includes other equally highly prized ceramicists, albeit with lower profiles than the man with a bow in his hair.
Only four years shy of its 50th birthday, the department will close because of low uptake, a sign of the weak promotion and retention of pottery classes at the early stages of schooling. Who would think of ceramics for their higher education if they never had the chance to play with wet clay on a whirring wheel while still young? If there's never a chance to learn about kilns, slip, glaze and washes, how do you know if like it or not?
In his eloquent and succinct manner, Perry berates the decision to close the ceramics course and points out that there is genuine craft, skill and technique to master in pottery that can encourage tangible rather than virtual artistic merit. "The digital generation need to have a go at something messy and difficult to remind them that you cannot always change the world or build a career at the press of a button."
Indeed. There is, as yet, no Wii pottery wheel on the market or kiln simulator for the PC. But with the closure of the University of Westminster course and with no plans to replace it, USB powered pot throwing may be the only option.