North East Connected

“Ceramics is on fire”: Graduate artist returns to inspire next generation

From an early age, University of Sunderland Glass and Ceramics graduate, Craig Mitchell, has been drawn to the old tin toys of an earlier era – like space rockets and cranes – and now, the established Edinburgh-based artist is hoping to inspire others to follow in his creative footsteps.

Craig, who graduated back in 1989, specialises in creating surreal cartoon-like ceramic figures and sculptures, inspired by cartoonists and illustrators from the 1950s and 60s such as Ronald Searle and Miroslav Sasek.

“I was obsessed with the old Ladybird book The Elves and the Shoemaker and it was my favourite story as a child,” Craig, 55, said.

“I loved how the shoemaker would lay the leather out flat, go to bed and while he slept, they’d be transformed into three-dimensional shoes.

“I feel like that is very much what I do now, make things that begin life as flat slabs of clay and I transform them into three-dimensional figures.”

After graduating from the University, Craig headed south to continue his studies at The Royal College of Art in London. Then in 2006, he established his studio practice in Edinburgh while working in the ceramic department at Edinburgh College of Art, initially as technician and later as a lecturer.

Next week, Craig will return to Wearside to inspire the University’s budding artists by featuring in the Mike Davies Masterclass programme, which is being held at the National Glass Centre.

Mike Davies CBE is an internationally renowned architect with 40 years of involvement in projects such as the Pompidou Centre in Paris, Lloyd’s of London, the Millennium Dome and Heathrow Terminal 5. Mike is famed for his unique approach to urban design using the latest in technology, scientific research development, and for his distinctive red clothing.

The masterclass, on Wednesday, February 23rd, will see Craig talk about his practice, demonstrate his techniques, and offer career advice to Sunderland students.

Craig, who is originally from Irvine in Scotland, said: “Ceramics is on fire at the moment.

“It’s come around full circle and is more popular than ever because more people are rejecting mass-made products and there is a shift back to handmade and artisan, with social media making it very easy to advertise and sell.

“With growing concerns about global warming, we’re seeing a growing demand for sustainable items that will last, so ceramics is very much a viable career option.”

On his time studying at Sunderland, Craig added: “It was brilliant.

“Narrative and story-telling is very important in my work, so that drew me more to the ceramics element of the course, as it’s a much more immediate material for what I wanted to say.

“Sunderland is great for letting you try different things and hopefully find your niche, which is exactly what I did.”

Professor Kevin Petrie, Head of the School of Art and Design at the University of Sunderland, said: “It’s great to have high level creative entrepreneurs like Craig Mitchell working with us as events like this offer important artistic and career examples for students to draw upon.”

Programme Leader and Senior Lecturer in Glass and Ceramics at the University, Rob Winter, added: “Craig’s work has a magical formula, which enables it to engage and resonate with a diverse audience.

“It is colourful and fun, conveying a contemporary, sociological narrative”.

The Mike Davies Masterclass has been funded by the University’s DOSH (Development Office Scholarship) scheme.

Every year the University offers tens of thousands of pounds worth of funding to current students, to help improve their studies, professional practice and employability. DOSH offers students studying at Sunderland non-means tested, non-repayable scholarships from £250 to £10,000.

You can find out more about the DOSH scholarships currently available HERE.

The University of Sunderland is supporting MadeAtUni: Creative Sparks, a national campaign to showcase the creative talent produced by UK universities and encourage the Government to promote and support the importance of creativity and creative courses.

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