Mike Dodd Ceramics Exhibition Walk-Through

Join us live from Goldmark gallery for an exhibition walk-through with gallery potter Mike Dodd and gallery writer Max.

‘I can think of few potters as thoughtful, sensitive, and committed to their craft as Mike Dodd,’ comments Mike Goldmark: ‘This exhibition will mark an extraordinary 65 years since his discovery of the joy of clay – an astonishing achievement.’

Mike Dodd at Goldmark will feature stand-out examples of his ‘expanded’ vase forms, whose geological surfaces have become something of a Dodd signature (an example is now part of the permanent collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum). ‘I can think of few potters as thoughtful, sensitive, and committed to their craft as Mike Dodd,’ comments Mike Goldmark: ‘This exhibition will mark an extraordinary 65 years since his discovery of the joy of clay – an astonishing achievement.’

Almost entirely self-taught as a potter, Dodd began his relationship with clay at an early age. Born in 1943, he watched a production thrower at work in a shop window in 1956. The experience fixed in Dodd’s mind, and would kickstart virtually his entire career. Dodd’s parents encouraged this new obsession and enrolled him at Bryanston School, one of few with working pottery facilities. The department was run by the sculptor and ex-Ditchling acolyte Donald Potter, who taught by silent example and exposure, leaving pots by Shoji Hamada, Bernard Leach and Michael Cardew around the school workshop for pupils to handle and emulate. This formative experience would influence Dodd’s own approach when he was head of the ceramics department at Carlisle College of Art, Cumbria, in the mid-1980s.

In the six decades Dodd has been making pots he has established as many studios, built a kiln for a charitable initiative in Oxapampa, in the depths of the Peruvian jungle, and given masterclasses internationally. He turned down a career in medicine to become a professional potter after studying at Cambridge University (where he was more inspired by Chinese pots in the Fitzwilliam collection than by his anatomical textbooks). The seeds of his ethical veganism were also sown during his time at Cambridge, when he and 200 fellow students were each given a pregnant tortoise to dissect (Dodd refused).

A philosophy of honesty, mindfulness and aesthetic integrity has informed Dodd’s career ever since. He is perhaps best known among the ceramics community for his use of, and dedication to, local materials. From early in his potting life Mike Dodd has made a concerted effort to source as many of the mineral ingredients for his clays, slips and glazes as locally as possible – whether that be basalt from nearby quarries; crystals of cobalt chipped from the slag lining the subliming tunnels of Cornish tin mines; iron dug from rivers or found in a rotting Cumbrian ironstone cave; or willow ash collected from the burnt offcuts of a nearby cricket bat factory. There are currently more than 40 individual glaze buckets in use in his studio. Each one represents no less (and often more) than two years of judicious development.

Dodd’s favoured glazes – fluid, runny, and made from wood ash and local rocks – are chosen for their ability to show off the innate plastic qualities of clay, which Dodd captures in a broad repertoire of forms. ‘Clay is vulnerable and innocent,’ he says, ‘and will therefore show us the slightest mark when handled. The potter needs to stand back and respectively learn to allow plasticity to show itself, to be mindfully unfussy. With practice, feeling and respect, vitality can emerge.’

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