Alison Britton is born in Harrow (Middlesex) in 1948. Between 1966 and 1967 she visited the Leeds College of Art in Leeds. Between 1967 and 1970 she continued her studies at the Central School of Art and Design. From 1970 till 1973 she completed her studies at the Royal College of Art under the tutelage of Hans Coper (MA, RCA Ceramics). Between 1973 and 1975 she shared a studio with Carol McNicholl. In 1975 she moved to a studio at King's Cross with Jacqui Poncelet. In 1976 was her first solo exhibition at Amalgam Gallery, London. In 1978 was her first exhibition in Kapelhuis Amersfoort, The Netherlands, together with Jacqui Poncelet. Alison Britton is a leading British ceramist whose gestural, sculptural pots have garnered an international reputation. Britton is also well known for her contributions as a curator and writer. Instead of taking the high road as a painter or sculptor, she has stuck to pots; negotiating the difficult ground between art and craft, she has become a spokeswoman for her generation and a major contributor to a new period in English craft. Along with ceramists like Elizabeth Fritsch, Carol McNicoll, Jacqui Poncelet, Andrew Lord and Richard Slee, she has defined a new context for the ceramic vessel that defies those that came before. Alison Britton was awarded the OBE in 1990. She is Senior Tutor in Ceramics at the Royal College of Art, an author, curator and ceramist, having her own studio in London. Her work is represented in public and private collections around the world (text source: Aberystwyth Universty and Frank Lloyd Gallery).
Pictures: Alison in her workshop, c. 1980 (source: GalerieKapelhuis, 2003); portrait, c. 2010 (source: csc.ucreative.ac.uk); portrait around 2020, photo Michael Harris (source CFileonline 2021); 'Blue Vessel' (Botterweg Auction autumn 2013); signature 'Blue Vessel'.
Her work plays with the notion of function in that she makes sculptural forms which make reference to vessel shapes. Sheets of clay are decorated in a bold, abstract, painterly manner and are then cut and constructed. In 1993 she acted as joint curator with Martina Margetts on the groundbreaking exhibition, The Raw and the Cooked (source: Aberystwyth Universty).
Britton takes her work extremely seriously, a fact that is evident in the authoritative confidence her pots exude.These are works that have been long considered and deliberately constructed by a dedicated maker. Despite their centered, unambiguous presence, Britton’s pots are difficult to classify.They stubbornly resist being placed within the classical ceramic tradition, or within any tradition except their own.They are built of slabs of clay, rather than thrown on a wheel. Their planes are angular, but not edge-like, as each blends softly into the next.Their surfaces do not suggest a glazed vessel, but rather an expressively painted canvas.The marks that dance across them refer more to modernist painting than to the decorative patterns that are more readily associated with craft.
Even so, a Britton pot retains its ties to craft through Britton’s insistent focus on the functional domestic object as a jumping off point.Moving through a Britton exhibition, one finds a room full of bowls, jars, and jugs.These objects hover between traditional disciplines in a unique hybrid space that Britton has carved out for them.Perhaps they are best described in the words of Quentin Blake, who says, “the work may begin as a jug, but it becomes a free-standing story, a poem, a situation.”Put in the position of reader, the viewer comes back again and again, each time finding a new word, line, or verse to fall in love with (text source: Frank Lloyd Gallery).
- Individual Authors, The Work of Alison Britton, Crafts Council Gallery, 1979.
- Koch, André a.o, Galerie Kapelhuis, Dertig jaar vernieuwing in de toegepaste kunst 1960-1990, Rotterdam 2003.
- Thormann, Olaf, Gefäss / Skulptur - Vessel / Sculpture; Keramik / Ceramics seit / since 1946 Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst Leipzig, 2013.