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Unravelling Vase, 1980, Carol McNicoll © The Artist. Photography by Jon Stokes

The ceramics scene of the later twentieth century was upended by two successive generations, who challenged the prevailing orthodoxy of the well-made pot. Although many of the ceramics made by these artists were containers, they were not intended for use but rather to be looked at, and were often referred to using the more elevated term ‘vessel’.

The first wave included modernist potters such as Lucie Rie, Hans Coper and Gordon Baldwin, who focused on a range of vessel forms. The next wave, of the 1970s, was more radical. Created by a fragmentary group of artists, these colourful ‘New Ceramics’ were normally hand-built, and took inspiration from many sources including op and pop art and textiles.

Although the two groups had a very different aesthetic, they are united in their attempts to deconstruct the vessel form and put it back together in new and unexpected ways, exploring sculptural possibilities.

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