CLAY, WOOD, FIRE AND SALT II

FERGUS STEWART
Scotland

I am very mindful of history and ceramic tradition, and seek to interpret and contribute rather than mimic.  I was introduced to pottery and ceramics at high school, and was inspired by the contents of a local ceramic collector’s kitchen.  Pots of Anglo-Oriental tradition, mixed with large jugs, jars and salt glazed crocks from French and English country potteries, and a selection of teapots and handmade utensils of all sorts fought for space with early bowls from Korea and China in the clutter of their daily use and storage.  These influences remain within my work today.

Over time, I have developed a diverse repertoire of domestic and decorative forms that employ a comprehensive range of traditional pottery skills in their making and firing, creating a family of forms related by shared characteristics within the design, making and firing, sometimes challenging traditional concepts about use, and the presentation of food.

My work has developed through repetition and refinement in the pursuit of designing and making useful handmade objects which, when well considered and sensitively made, communicate very directly and intimately with their user, offering a link to our pre-industrial past, whilst conveying notions about intention and attitude, and affirming values of human patience and skill. 

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I work primarily at the wheel, throwing, altering and constructing by joining thrown forms to slabs and stretched thrown components.  Many forms are finished away from the wheel by cutting and carving.  Decorating and creating surfaces often incorporate local materials, with coloured slips and glaze in the green and bisque stages.

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I am drawn to the qualities of wood fired ceramics and have explored the variety within glazed, anagama and salt-glazed surfaces and firing procedures, designing and building kilns for specific results, and making and exhibiting significant bodies of work in each specialisation.
In 1997, it was time to reassess the nature and direction of my studio practice and its location in Australia.  I began travelling back to Scotland regularly to work and teach, and in 2002 made plans to re-settle in the Scottish Highlands where I feel a strong connection and spirit of place which, I feel, will also continue to influence the creative development of my work.

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I am currently developing a range of coloured and variously textured slips for salt glaze using porcelain and stoneware clay bodies for a new generation of work, and have built a smaller scale two-chamber wood-burning kiln to fire work for exhibition and continued research and development.

Born in Aberdeen, Scotland, Fergus Stewart began working with clay while at high school in Dumfries & Galloway.   Following studio based training as a domestic-wares potter Fergus emigrated to Australia,firstly working at Beaufort Pottery, Perth, then establishing a studio and building his first woodfire kiln during 1984 in Perth, Western Australia.  He later relocated to Canberra, where he co-founded  the Strathnairn Ceramics access workshop, and continued his studio practice there until 2001.

Fergus returned to Scotland in 2002, re-establishing his studio practice in the scenic location of Assynt in the North West Highlands.   

Since 1985, Stewart has held and participated in exhibitions and led workshops in throwing, design for function and woodfire kiln design, construction and firing in Australia, Scotland, Denmark, Hungary and the USA.  Part-time Ceramics teaching positions held include Canberra School of Art and LaTrobe University, Bendigo (visiting tutor/artist) in Australia, Glasgow School of Art (visiting tutor/artist) in Scotland and, since 2001, he has been a guest teacher for Bornholm School of Glass and Ceramics, Denmark School of Design.

His work is represented in many private and institutional collections, and in 2006 was represented in 'Salzbrand', the prestigious exhibition for saltglaze in Koblenz, Germany.   Fergus's work has also been the subject of many articles, including Ceramics, Art and Perception, "A Taste of Shino" 1992, and in "Pottery in Australia" in 1995, 1996, 2002/4 and most recently in the Australian Journal of Ceramics summer 2005.

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International Ceramics Studio
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