I am honoured and excited to take on the role of Chairman for the forthcoming year. For those of you who don’t know me I joined the Guild when I began enamelling in the summer of 1998, having bought my kiln and starter kit by mail order. At my first conference at York in 1999 I was rash enough to enter for selection, gained Associate level and won the Hans Theilade award. More importantly the first people I met were Dorothy, Veronica Matthew, Margaret Taylor and May Yarker who welcomed, encouraged and took great care of me. I volunteered to become librarian which not only gave me instant access to the wealth of inspiring information the library holds but also brought me into contact via the telephone with a wider network of members as they phoned to request books and catalogues. I could not have guessed at the impact these early steps would have on my life, leading eventually to a complete change in career. I am currently artist in residence at Whitby Museum and every day throws up interesting and exciting challenges.
Our AGM and conference this year took place at the Thorpe Underwood Estate near York and marked the Guild’s 30th year. I hope everyone who attended enjoyed the event and must thank the team for all their hard work in organising it, with particular thanks to Liz and Rachel. We had a fantastic group of tutors and speakers and I enjoyed seeing the inspiring work produced by members both at the workshops and for the exhibitions. I was particularly impressed by the work of Michael Cartwright aged 12, I think probably our youngest exhibitor at a Guild conference. He is a student of Tilly Wilkinson who has been enthusiastically nurturing some potential younger members and was one of three members gaining Craftsman status at selection this year. The other two were Joy Funnell and Gillie Hoyte Byrom. Congratulations to you all and thank you to all who entered for selection. It takes a great deal of hard work and commitment but selection is an important part of the role of the Guild in raising the standard of enamelling. I hope I can encourage you all to have a go, even if only for the challenge of producing your best work yet. Gillie Hoyte Byrom has also worked hard developing the bursary scheme and I must welcome our first official joint sponsors of the bursary, Craft & Design Magazine and W G Ball Ltd.
The Guild continues to go from strength to strength thanks to the hard work and enthusiasm of its members, particularly within the regions. I am pleased to welcome Glyn Mitchell as the first regional representative for Jersey and the Channel Islands. Joy Funnell and I will be joining Glyn for the Art Clay Guild conference later this year, where Joy and I will both be tutors. It will be a great opportunity to promote the Guild’s activities and hopefully meet some of our newest region’s members. By the time this goes to print I will have had a weekend in Edinburgh where Dorothy and I have been invited to run an enamelling workshop for the Scottish region of the Art Clay Guild. It is interesting how beneficial links and overlaps with related organisations can be. It is through the Art Clay Guild that I met Mr Toshihide Ueeda, a Director of the Japan Enamelling Artist Association, who I have invited to be one of the tutors at next year’s conference. I am hoping that he will also be able to bring a selection of their members work to exhibit during the conference. He will be just one of an exciting line up for the conference that will take place at Nottingham University.
Looking ahead, I hope to visit some of the regions in what is becoming a bit of a tradition for the Chair. I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible over the coming year. I think one of the great strengths of our Guild is the wide variety of people who form its membership; the fact that it is all inclusive and that everyone is so generous in sharing their skills, ideas and time in promoting our craft. You can be sure I will be enjoying myself this year and persuading as many people as I can to have a go at enamelling, I know how addictive it is. If any of you venture up to North Yorkshire then don’t forget to get in touch and I will be happy to show you whatever odd things I am working on or even give you a tour of Whitby Museum. Anyway, until next time, I hope you all have a happy and productive summer. Long may our Guild flourish and continue to encourage us all.