Balance and Tension – a visit to the Glynn Vivian.

Last year I managed a rare trip to a gallery (a snatched moment between lockdowns!) primarily to see the fabulous Pansy – Roy Efrat and Catrin Webster’s collaborative exhibition in the Glynn Vivian Gallery, Swansea. While there I was chuffed to spot an old piece of mine displayed in the Swansea Collection gallery.

This is a very old piece and very different from my more recent work. So much so that I have been pondering these differences in order to find the parallels and convergences as well as the more obvious divergences. The linkages are largely based on balance and tension. This early form, above, is finely balanced, a vessel poised to the point of creating tension through a sense of its precariousness. The geometry of the fine lines of inlaid stained clay reiterating that sense of a poised moment in time. 

In contrast this more recent piece, made during my Masters course at UWTSD Swansea College of Art, eschews the clean lines of form and surface pattern and texture. It is no longer even a vessel, a container, in the traditional sense. But still there is that same wrestling with balance and tension, only now that poise is gone; the piece is actually beginning to tip and is in fact balancing, precariously, on warped and layered clay walls. The surface pattern and texture, created by imprinting the clay with plastic mesh, contains areas where the mesh is bunching up and areas of space where the mesh is stretched or torn echoing the warped and torn clay walls.


Cross-current: – 1. a current in a river or sea flowing across another current. 2. a conflicting tendency moving counter to the usual trend.

These two pieces – Cross-currents and Sea Passage feel in some way separate from my other work despite all the elements having been used in earlier work. The specific mix of textured black clay and smooth white paper clay and use of impressed materials to create surface pattern and texture were used in pieces such as Thorn I and II. The sea motif and use of detritus from previous makings is apparent in Sea Change I and II and Sea Bite.

So perhaps it’s the ideas behind the work that were changing and that I have further developed in my most recent work, Faultlines, making these pivotal pieces, and that is why the name Cross-currents seems so apposite.

On a different note when I exhibit Cross-currents, unless it is very strongly spot lit I think I may need to provide a torch so the interior can be seen. I have included some interior views here and if you look closely at the third one you can see signs I have a little visitor!

Shades of Clay

My work can currently be seen at Kunsthuis in the annual ceramics exhibition ‘Shades of Clay’ which features 25 UK and international ceramicists. The exhibition runs until 24th December.

“Shades of Clay’ comprises a whole breadth of clay based work from potters/ceramicists using everything from traditional hand-building techniques to the latest new technologies creating 3D printed ceramics as well as wheel-based and slip cast wares.

Kunsthuis is the Contemporary Art Gallery in Dutch House, Crayke, near York and also features Gardens and a café – I can recommend the walks around the gardens and the café’s delicious coffee and brownies amongst many other things. Kunsthuis were finalists in the White Rose Awards 2016.

If you get the chance please do make the effort to go and see it. Kunsthuis also shows paintings, prints, sculpture, jewellery and other craft-based work. The Gallery, Gardens and Café are open from 10am to 5pm Wednesday to Sunday.

Shades of Clay exhibition
Shades of Clay exhibition

Shades of Clay exhibition at Kunsthuis
Hide and Gangue


‘Longère’ is a paper-clay piece I made while working towards the Mission Gallery Maker in Focus exhibition ‘After the Firing’, but I felt it didn’t fit within that body of work and so it wasn’t exhibited. ‘Longère’ was prompted by memories of holidaying in France in my in-laws home when my children were young.

The handprints reference several aspects of our time there – the girls playing, painting and making in my mother-in law Jean’s studio, the fact that all the family had a hand in renovating the house, our visits to caves filled with art and hand prints.

‘Longère’ alludes to memory, dream, a sense of place and space, and to the passage of time. I thought about calling the piece ‘Dream House’ but this has other connotations that are not so apt. So ‘Longère’ or ‘Long House’ with its connotations of time and longing (in punning English anyway!) perfectly sums up my feelings of nostalgia for both the place and that time in my life.


Thorn Forms

Thorn l and Thorn ll are some of the final pieces I made towards the Maker in Focus exhibition at Mission Gallery. They are something of a return to the tree motif I initially envisaged as the major element within this body of work, before the sea took over.

ceramic form
Thorn l – Vulcan Black and White Paper Clay.

I used cuttings from the dying hawthorn hedge in my garden (courtesy of a neighbour spraying brambles on their side!) and pressed them into the clay slabs while the clay was still relatively soft.

The forms appear largely urban/industrial but were also influenced by a thorn bush I came across some years ago that had been sculpted by the wind, and perhaps sheep and deer, into an almost perfect cuboid – just a few stray twigs straggled out of one top corner.

thorn bush
Not the cuboid thorn but there’s still a boxiness to this.

The use of white paper clay alludes to the lichens I found on many of the wind blown trees around the coast as well as on the old oak trees in my local park, Parc Coed Bach.

ceramic form
Thorn ll

Maker in Focus

My latest work is now on display in the Mission Gallery’s Maker in Focus space until 3 April. The gallery is open Tuesday to Sunday, 11am – 5pm. Some images of the work can be seen on the new portfolio page of my website. A big thank you to Amanda, Rhian and all at the Mission for all your help and advice.

maker in focus exhibition

This body of work was produced with the support of the Arts Council of Wales.


Arts Council of Wales Logo

WAG logo for web


After the Firing

My exhibition for Maker in Focus at the Mission Gallery in Swansea is fast approaching and I’m running out of shelf space in my studio! I am having to do a number of firings in quick succession especially as I was held up earlier this week by Storm Imogen when the electricity kept cutting out.

julie brunskill studio

I will be Maker in Focus from 23 February – 3 April.

Out of the ashes … and floods!

York Floods
York Floods

Between Christmas 2015 and New Year 2016 we headed up to the north of England to visit family and friends in York and Middlesbrough. On such a short, busy visit there was little time for art, especially with the dreadful flooding in York, but we still managed to squeeze in a visit to CoCA. They have a wonderful ceramics collection there and an impressive installation by Clare Twomey, but I was most interested in the Anthony Shaw Collection with its emphasis on art, particularly ceramics, seen in a domestic setting.

CoCA at York Art Gallery
Anthony Shaw Collection

I had far too short a time there and intend going again – but there was quite a pricy (and controversial!) entrance fee so if anyone is interested in going I recommend making sure you have plenty of time to make the most of it.

The Anthony Shaw Collection is there until 2017 I think.

We headed up to Middlesbrough with the assumption that this time we wouldn’t get to MIMA as the website showed that it would be closed the entire time we were there. However we happened upon it while it was open for an event and had 10 minutes to make a truly flying visit round the Localism exhibition – also well worth a visit but this exhibition finishes 7 February 2016.

While there I found a piece of work by my old tutor, David Greaves, Cleveland College of Art – atypical in size and form, I think, but showing his trademark marbling technique. I was saddened to see only the words David Greaves, the title and ‘Date of Birth and Death unknown’. It wouldn’t have taken too much effort to at least get that little bit of information I would think. Not to mention the fact that he was Head of Ceramics in Cleveland College of Art for several years.

David Greaves, Ceramic Form
David Greaves, Ceramic Form

David brought significant ceramics exhibitions to the art college – Hans Coper and Lucie Rie, Martin Smith and Gordon Baldwin. I was lucky as a past student to be invited to Baldwin’s brilliant lecture shortly before leaving the North East of England for South West Wales. As I understand it David worked quietly behind the scenes helping develop a great contemporary ceramics collection for the newly created Cleveland Craft Centre.

MIMA rose from the ashes of the Cleveland Craft Centre, Cleveland Art Gallery and Middlesbrough Art Gallery – another unsung gallery that was the original host of the wonderful and much missed Cleveland Drawing Biennale. I can’t help my thoughts turning to these lost spaces as the Arts, yet again, face such bleak times.

Clare Twomey, Installation detail
Clare Twomey, Installation detail


Gordon Baldwin
Gordon Baldwin

Photography copyright Alastair Duncan