Ceramicist Simon Stamatiou boarded our boat at Middlewich and reluctantly disembarked two days later at The Anderton Boat Lift in Northwich.
Renowned potter Kevin Millward taught Simon his potting skills after he moved from Whitstable, Kent, to the Potteries to be closer to the Ceramics industry. He was a demonstrator thrower at Gladstone Pottery Museum, and a thrower at Wedgwood’s factory in Barlaston. Recently Simon became the studio manager at the BCB (British Ceramics Biennial) in Stoke-on-Trent.
During the two days travel, for us, it was fascinating to see how an artist of a completely different medium related to the waterways experience.
“You can’t help but be inspired.”
“Because you go at such a slow pace you have time to observe and contemplate something, pull over, grab a camera and document it. The light yesterday brought everything forward, bright whites and shadows on fences that would ordinarily be grey.”
"Patterns and textures were seen that could be transferred into ceramic techniques (sgraffito, inlays, glaze reactions) and it is apparent that a body of work can be produced in response to the trip."
The waterways were not just there to be observed but were also interactive in the sunshine with ducks, heron, and buzzards all visible. “ If you ever see a heron land on the water in front of you, you can do nothing but stand open-mouthed”.
We were chased through the flashes by a swan who had developed a taste for the North Staffordshire Oatcakes.
“As the trip was progressing my eyes were opening to more and more inspirations: wet dog’s layered fur, the combination of colours on a female duck - whites, light taup, dark taup, chocolate brown, on the curved satin shape breast. You can instantly see how that could transform to ceramics with agate or marbling techniques."
Simons got the canal bug now and has begged to return armed with his potters wheel to set up on the towpath, working directly in the landscape which facilitates more engagement from the surroundings, possibly using impressions of reeds, plaster moulds, stamps, sprigettes of found materials around the canal.
Simons experience on board has opened our eyes to how the final ‘Year of the Boat’ exhibition could include many artists’ work and responses to our life on the British Waterways.