Sheffield’s first ceramics festival

Photo credit: Jenny Wren

Photo credit: Jenny Wren

The first Sheffield Ceramics Festival was held in autumnal sunshine in Meersbrook Park Walled Garden last weekend. There was a wide range of ceramic creations from abstract garden sculptures, to shiny calf length boots, to eggcups and teapots. The quality was outstanding. And the Walled Garden felt like the perfect location to host such a collection.

“The ceramics Festival had its beginning back last September,” said Brian Holland, who has curated the festival. “Kaktus [Leach], who leads the walled garden team, comes to my Friday morning ceramics workshop. I was lamenting the demise of the ceramics festival that the Frith’s used to run in a walled garden in North Wales when Kaktus said ‘We have a walled garden’. So Kaktus set about talking to the Parks and Recreation people.”


Photo credit: Jenny Wren

Holland then organized the potters side of things. He approached the Northern Potters association and local potters. They filled their 35 slots on a first-to-pay basis, and used the slot fee to pay for advertising. “I also felt that it was time Sheffield had it’s own ceramics fair,” he said.

Holland used to teach full-time at North Notts College running the ceramics department and when the students had gone home he used the space to make his own work. Then 18 years ago he set up his own studio at Yorkshire Art Space, Persistence Works on Brown Street. He still does some part-time teaching and runs workshops, partly to pay for the studio, but also because he loves teaching and seeing other people enjoying working with clay.

One of the ceramicists, Bev Seth, who studied at Bath Academy of Art and now goes to classes in Penny Withers’ Studio in Persistence Works, said: “One of the best things about the Sheffield Ceramics Festival was selling directly to people, the moment when it feels like someone just understands what I have been trying to say in my pots and likes it enough to hand over money for it. That’s a hard feeling to beat.”

“There were a lot of great things about the Festival but the best part must have been the range of people who came. From fellow potters to people who had just wandered in. There were a lot of families and I’d like to think it might have inspired kids to think they could have a go and create something themselves”, she added.

There was also a lot of praise and enthusiasm for the festival and the delicious selection of cakes, biscuits, and drinks on sale. Let’s hope it was the first of many.

You can find out more about Brian Holland and hit ceramics work at

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