Profile | Clive Bowen: ‘Born, Not Made’

Clive Bowen portrait featured image

Read on for a short profile of slipware potter Clive Bowen

Clive Bowen raw glazed jugs

Clive Bowen slipware tiles(above) Clive Bowen carrying his raw glazed medieval slipware jugs; (below) in this short film we see Bowen producing small slipware tiles too

Filmed back in 2014, we follow Bowen as he throws and decorates his slipware pots in his North Devon workshop, digs clay for use in his studio, and opens his enormous 1000-pot, 400 cu. ft. wood-firing kiln.

Clive Bowen slipware jar

Clive Bowen throwing studio(above) grass green colouring on a large oval jar; (below) Bowen throwing a small jar in his Devon workshop

Bowen’s pots are made using the local red earthenware Fremington clay, the same clay used for centuries for making traditional Devon slipware pots, which fires to a beautiful dark-red terracotta colour. His work draws on the great tradition of British slipware potters of the past, using forms from the middle ages such as big-bellied Baluster jugs and large, slip-trailed serving plates.

Clive Bowen clay lump

Clive Bowen large slipware dishes(above) a plastic lump of Fremington clay; (below) rhythm and movement in a traditional slip-trailed large dish

Bowen’s work is undoubtedly modern too, however, extending and enhancing the slipware tradition with expressive swipes and spatters of slip and more abstract forms of decoration alongside its typical trailing, combing and sgraffito marks.

Clive Bowen slipware platter

Clive Bowen square dishes‘expressive swipes and splatters’ – Bowen’s modern touch on a small serving platter (above) and his tour-de-force square dishes (below)

Most of his pots are raw glazed, the slip being applied to the pot without a preliminary biscuit firing. The decoration itself is fluid and spontaneous, with dribbles and sweeps of slip dancing between combed borders and around sgraffito prawns and fish. His use of colour is particularly striking, investing the traditional golden yellows, milky creams, chocolate browns and grass greens of Devon slipware with life and gusto on crimped edged pie dishes and large, square platters.

Clive Bowen crimped dishes

Clive Bowen slipware lidded jarssmall crimped edged pie dishes (above) and lidded jars show off Bowen’s dynamic decoration

We especially like Bowen’s lidded jars, straight out of an A. A. Milne tale at Pooh corner, and his beautifully rounded medieval jugs. His pots add colour, bringing sunshine to our grey days, whether a honey pot on a kitchen worktop, a bell-shaped bottle full of flowers on a windowsill or a teapot awaiting afternoon guests. His range of domestic pots for the kitchen and dining table make everyday meals feel deliciously special.

Clive Bowen slipware teapot‘deliciously special’ – tea from a yellow-gold Clive Bowen teapot is a real treat

Having exhibited all over Great Britain, Bowen has also shown in Israel, Denmark and South America and more recently has had several sell out shows in Japan. He has work in public collections throughout the UK, including the V&A, Crafts Council Collection, Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and Ulster Museum. Internationally, his work is held at Winnipeg Art Gallery in Canada, Mingeikan in Tokyo and Mashiko Museum of Ceramics, Japan.

New pots are now available on the website – check out some wonderful pieces by clicking below.

View ceramics by Clive Bowen here >