Denise Wren plate, Elmbridge Museum
This display, which is visiting Brooklands College until January 2020, revisits the work of Denise and Rosemary Wren - mother and daughter potters who lived and worked in Oxshott.
The Oxshott Pottery was founded in 1920 and quickly gained a reputation as one of the most successful studio potteries in the country. Denise and her husband Henry had a child, Rosemary, in 1922 who also had a distinguished career working with clay.
Denise and Rosemary both worked out of Oxshott Pottery until 1978 so it is interesting to compare works that are very different yet created in such close proximity to each other. Denise had kept many animals at her Oxshott home - including dogs, cats, chickens and an aviary of birds - but it wasn't until the 1960s that animals became present in Denise's work. Rosemary, on the other hand, experimented with many forms but always returned to representing animals.
Mother and daughter
Denise and Rosemary Wren's practices were, at times, radically different from one another. Denise's vessels and traditional Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) vases took relatively traditional forms. Rosemary's preferred shapes, on the other hand, were stylistically 'artistic', informed not only by nature but also modern sculpture and her education at art school. It is in their tactile, hand-made strategies and the marks their works carry, however, that the two potters share common ground.
Everyday objects like wooden rulers, butter knives and blunt quills were used by both potters to mark their clay works. The hands-on approach toward mark-making displays a propensity for experimentation. Whereas artists working in other mediums - painters, draughtsmen, etc. - potters make very permanent and direct works; this can be seen in Denise's goblet, below, which displays a hatch of scratches that are bold, beautiful and inerasable.