Deirdre Burnett – South London potter

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It gives me great pleasure to include a few pieces of work by Deirdre Burnett in my exhibition that begins on 27th April 2017. Since showing with me back in 2008, Deirdre hasn’t really produced very much work and it was exciting to receive a telephone call only a few weeks ago to say that she was back making again. It was even more exciting to get a further call last week to say that she would like to have some work in my Spring Exhibition, if I had the room. Naturally, “the room” was found and the six pots shown here are included.

Deirdre Burnett grey cylinder and turquoise flask
Grey cylinder and turquoise flask.

Deirdre Burnett has been based in South East London since graduating from Camberwell School of Art & Design in 1967. There she studied three-dimensional design with ceramics as her major area of study and silversmithing as a subsidiary. She had first become interested in working with clay a few years earlier while studying sculpture at St. Martins and has never really wanted to do anything else since. As she said to me before her solo Harlequin Gallery exhibition in 2005, she was instantly fascinated by the plasticity of clay and needed to be making pots.

Deirdre Burnett flasks
White glazed flasks.

At Camberwell, she was influenced by visiting lecturers, Lucie Rie and Hans Coper, who instilled in her the need for a potter’s work to reflect their own personality and never to compromise. This has stood Deirdre in good stead over the years and has meant that she has concentrated on making individual vessels that have developed and changed but have always followed the direction that she has wanted. Many people compare her glazes with those of Lucie Rie, who Deirdre visited on many occasions for tea and cakes, but, as Deirdre states, “We never talked about glazes or pots just general gossip or the colour of the shoes I was wearing.”

Deirdre Burnett thrown and altered turquoise cylinder
Large thrown and altered turquoise cylinder.

Deirdre  Burnett has exhibited widely over the years, since her first solo exhibition at the Peter Dingley Galley in 1975, and her work can be found in many prestigious collections in this country and abroad. These include MOMA, New York; the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; CoCA, York and the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich, as well as museums in Australia, Belgium, New Zealand and the Netherlands.

Deirdre’s ceramics are vessel forms in oxidised stoneware but she has used porcelain in the past and has some in storage that she plans to experiment with in the future. Mostly her vessels are wheel thrown, turned and altered, as are the examples in this exhibition, but she does hand built some larger pieces. The volcanic, reactive or colour qualities of her glazes come from oxides or materials in the body of the clay and are not applied to the surface. These develop during the firing process that she takes up to around 1280 degrees Celsius in her electric kiln and require much skill and experiment to achieve the effects that Deirdre wishes to create.

Deirdre Burnett single rimmed bowl
Single rimmed bowl with lava lace glaze on the outside, cream inside.