Here’s a new year’s resolution that will make a difference: start a new art collection.

The art form I recommend collecting is ceramics, and there are many good reasons why. Firstly, it is very difficult to go wrong. Much good quality pottery is available direct from the maker, or from small galleries, and prices start quite low. You can use it for displaying fruit, or collecting paper clips, or storing the unused stamps you’ve steamed from envelopes.

Pottery has wide and unifying appeal. You may be a fan of pastel landscapes, and married to someone who likes hard-edged abstracts. Though you’ll never agree on a painting to hang above the mantelpiece, you can agree on the same pottery to put on it.

Some potters’ work can easily be included in the realm of fine art: artists such as Grayson Perry, and Edmund De Waal, for instance. When we opened our gallery in 2011, my first choice as exhibitor was the potter Dan Kelly. He finds inspiration from the human form, and I consider his larger pieces to be as much sculpture as pottery.

I buy pottery and never regret doing so. I have some of Dan Kelly’s work; pieces by Steve Neville and Julie Ayton, and many others whose maker I have forgotten. But I always remember where I bought them: pottery holds memories just as well as paper clips.

Ceramics had its heyday in the 1960s and 70s, and its teaching has dwindled at art schools. I believe it’s due for a comeback, and here’s why: the TV production company that brought us The Great British Bake Off has a new project under way, with the working title Britain’s Best Potter. Think of the really big story of 2014, The Binned Baked Alaska, and just think what that could do for the world of ceramics.

I have one bit of advice, which is probably unfounded prejudice. The best pottery is made by people who called themselves ‘potters’, never ‘ceramic artists’.


Martin Urmson

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