Felicity is an artist of international standing, recognised for her research into large-scale ceramics.
Born in Edlesborough, Bedfordshire, in 1954, Felicity studied at Bath Academy of Art, 1972–8, gaining a first-class Honours degree in ceramics and textiles, followed by a teaching postgraduate year at Goldsmiths College 1978–9. She taught at Bedales School in Hampshire renowned for its art department and ‘progressive’ teaching philosophy, 1979–82 and was a regular visiting lecturer to numerous courses including Loughborough, Glasgow, Goldsmiths and Cardiff while also an associate lecturer in foundation and ceramic studies at Bath College of HE. She taught full-time at Bath Spa University in 1989–2001. During this period she undertook an MPhil degree at the RCA, 1993–6, researching the suitability of glass and porcelain inclusions into clay bodies for large-scale ceramic production – ‘The Elusive Body’.
Felicity has been a member of and an adviser on numerous committees, including the think tank for Year of the Artist in 2000 and The Crafts Council, 2002–4. Until recently she was a trustee of Contemporary Applied Arts and Chair of NACHE (National Association of Ceramics in Higher Education) She remains a trustee for the Craft Potters Charitable Trust and a board member of the acquisitions committee of the Crafts Study Centre in Farnham. Between 2003–4 she was adviser to Cleere Conservation, Coadestone, advising on the development of the material. As part of her personal remit to promote ceramics in education, she is adviser and coordinator of the ‘Discovery’ education programme for Ceramic Art London.
In 1995 Felicity set up a group studio for emerging ceramic artists in a disused saw mill in Bath, and in 2000 she restored an old chapel in Bath, which she shares as a studio with internationally renowned potter Takeshi Yasuda. Since 2006 she has been making work in China and recently co-founded the Red House Design Studio with Yasuda, in the historic ‘porcelain city’ of Jingdezhen.
Felicity has consistently exhibited and lectured at venues throughout the UK and abroad. Since 2000 catalogues have accompanied all solo shows with key essays about the artist and her work. She has been the recipient of two major Art Council Awards, the first in 2002 for the touring exhibition Sense and Perception at Manchester City Art Gallery, and in 2008 a major award for the touring exhibition and artist’s book, Out of China. She organised and chaired the international symposium ‘White Gold’ in 2006, a project funded by the Diawa Foundation.
Education has always played a prominent role in her career. She was awarded a Professorship in Ceramics from Bath Spa University in 2000 and has been teaching Ceramics & Glass at the Royal College of Art since 2001. She has work in numerous international private and public collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and she is represented by Adrian Sassoon, London.
Since joining the Ceramics & Glass programme at the RCA in 2001 as senior tutor, she has been responsible for its day-to-day organisation, course planning and strategy. She has been external examiner to the undergraduate courses at University of Wolverhampton, Cardiff University and University of Ulster and the MA course at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, and University of Ulster, where she was also an examiner for a PhD in ceramics.
She was made a Fellow of the RCA in 2008.
Felicity’s field is the production of ceramics, moving between the developments of her studio-based practice in the UK and collaborations with small ceramic manufactories in China. Its outcomes are exhibitions and publications. Technical experimentation associated with ceramic materials and processes are a driving force behind her investigations. Exploring the blurring boundaries between ceramics and sculpture and the context in which her work is shown forms part of her inquiry – as does where she works and its impact on the object’s outcome. Writing also plays a role, taking the form of articles and reviews for ceramic journals and catalogues and recently the text for her book Out of China.
Felicity established her exhibiting career during the 1980s and early 90s showing work mainly in group shows at small but significant venues – Beaux Arts, Bath; Galerie L, Hamburg; Smiths Gallery, London; and Rufford Arts Centre, Nottingham. In 1990 she was an invited craftsman and guest at the British Fair hosted by Takashimaya, Japan. This involved participating in a touring exhibition, lecturing and demonstrations.
Her first significant solo exhibition was in 1996, The Elusive Body at the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath, a public museum and art gallery where she showed the results of her MPhil research undertaken at the RCA. This then toured to Gerd Werk, the centre for spatial and graphic design in Belgium, 1997. In 1998 she developed a new body of work for a solo exhibition, Dashed, Speckled, Brushed at Loes & Reinier, International Ceramics, Deventer, Netherlands. These smaller-scale, hand-formed works marked the beginning of her concern for the viewer’s perception and interaction with form and surface through touch. In 2000 new works emerged that were an increase in scale, press-moulded with ground and polished surfaces. These were shown at the Scottish Gallery in a solo exhibition accompanied by a catalogue, New Work, an Evolution. With some additional pieces this collection went on to Gallerie Marianne Heller in Heidelberg, Germany, in 2001. Also in 2001 Felicity was shortlisted for Jerwood Prize for Ceramics and the First World Biennale for Ceramics in Korea.
Sense and Perception, an exhibition at the Manchester City Art Gallery in 2002, saw the resolution of several years of research and preoccupation with tactility. Felicity made a collection of pieces specifically for their visual and physical tactile qualities. Experimental in scale and form, they were shown directly on the gallery floor to encourage interaction with the audience. This show was significant in that it was the first major solo exhibition of ceramics shown in the main gallery of Manchester Art Gallery, and it allowed the audience to experience the work directly through touch. The exhibition was supported by the Arts Council and the project was in collaboration with Manchester Metropolitan University. A catalogue (with two essays) was published and the exhibition toured to two further venues, Bath Art Gallery and Blackwell House, Cumbria.
In 2007 an exhibition at the Carlin Gallery in Paris showed a new group of work that returned to the ‘vessel’ as part of the investigation. The pieces explored textured surfaces using hand-forming techniques and were layered with polychromatic colour to create a visual interference with the surface of the form. In 2008 these works were shown at the Quest Gallery in Bath. Additional monochromatic works in celadon were used as a counterpoint to the coloured works. A catalogue was produced for this venue, Four Pots and Twelve Jars.
In 2007 Felicity undertook a research sabbatical in China. With Arts Council funding the resultant work was exhibited in a touring show that started at Canary Wharf. Her diary of her time in China was published as a book, Out of China, and also she produced a short film of her work practice and experience.
Further research in China looking at traditional techniques and possibilities for contemporary interpretations culminated in a solo exhibition, Working to Scale at Contemporary Applied Arts in 2009. A catalogue was produced as documentation.
In 2010 she undertook a short residency at the Royal Delft Porcelain Factory in the Netherlands, her first experience working with industry. A professional film was made documenting the research. It is proposed that a series of her designs will be produced by Royal Delft, and the complete works produced during her residency were shown at Galerie Terra Delft in 2011.
In November 2011 she was one of four artists included in the exhibition Porcelain City at the TT Tsui Gallery of Chinese Art at the Victoria and Albert Museum, with work made in Jingdezhen, China, the historic world centre of porcelain production. Two monumental works were selected for display – one example of blue and white painting, the other of Fencai colour ware. A publication was produced –Porcelain City Jingdezhen, with an essay, 'Scooters, Buddahs and Waterlilies' by Aylieff – and during the exhibition period she gave two public talks and ran a workshop for the education programme.
Writing exhibition reviews and articles are part of Felicity’s practice along with presentations, lectures and masterclasses. Most recently she was national commissioner for the European Ceramic Context 2010, selecting and writing about artists’ work from the UK, and a panel member for the selection of the Jerwood Makers 2011 prize and exhibition.
Current and recent projects
Porcelain City: Jingdezhen
4 November 2011 – 25 March 2012
Porcelain City: Jingdezhen was an exhibition shown in the TT Tsui Gallery of Chinese Art at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The concern of this exhibition was to bring together four artists who are in different ways ‘wanderers between cultural worlds’, linked by their common interest in Jingdezhen, China – the historic world centre of porcelain production – and its history, identity, people, and the technical and material opportunities it presents. The exhibition aimed to offer insight into the rich language and history of Chinese porcelain and the present-day life in Jingdezhen through contemporary ceramic-making.
Residency/Internship with Royal Delft, Netherlands
This residency involved museum and archive research of historic examples to create surface pattern designs. Felicity Aylieff studied the development of Delft blue and white painting and made a series of tests to create contemporary interpretations. The resultant work from the residency was initially shown within the museum at the factory and further outcomes will be displayed at an exhibition at the Galerie Terra Delft. During the residency a professional video archive was made for the public.
Working to Scale
Solo Exhibition, Contemporary Applied Arts, October 2009
This cross-cultural project in China researched the history and techniques of ‘Famille Rose’ enamel painting and large-scale porcelain production. It investigated this traditional skill as well as appropriate imagery and pattern development suitable for contemporary translation. Six monumental jars (two metres) and six small jars were shown at the exhibition, and a catalogue with an essay by Ann Elliott was produced. In addition to a public lecture, sketchbooks, reference material and tests were made available for the exhibition and education programme.
Publications, exhibitions, other outcomes
Aylieff, F. (2011) essay, in: Porcelain City: Jingdezhen
(2010) essay by Amanda Game, in: Drawing Through Making, Contemporary Applied Arts
Aylieff, F. and Elliott, A. (2009) foreword, in: Felicity Aylieff – Working to Scale, Contemporary Applied Arts; essay on ‘Famille Rose: A contemporary interpretation’
(2008) Four Pots, Twelve Jars, Ripe Digital Ltd
Aylieff, F. (2008) Out of China: Monumental Porcelain, Sculpture Exhibitions Ltd; essay by Dr Emmanuel Cooper, 'Time Present Time Past’
Felicity Aylieff, Galerie Terra Delft, 2011
Porcelain City: Jingdezhen, TT Tsui Gallery of Chinese Art, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2011
COLLECT, represented by Adrian Sassoon, Saatchi Galleries, London, 2010
Drawing through Making, group exhibition, Contemporary Applied Arts, London, 2010
Felicity Aylieff Focus, represented by Adrian Sassoon SOFA, New York, catalogue and lecture by artist, 2010
Deviants, group exhibition, Crafts Council touring show, Hub, Sleaford, Lincolnshire; Brighton & Hove Museum, 2009
Felicity Aylieff, focus exhibition, Galerei auf Keramik, Handwerkskammer fur Munchen und Oberbayern, Germany, 2009
Working to Scale, solo exhibition, Contemporary Applied Arts Gallery, London, 2009
Cup, group exhibition, Contemporary Applied Arts, London, 2008
Flow, colourware group exhibition, London touring, Hub, Sleaford, Lincolnshire, 2008
Four Pots, Twelve Jars, Quest Gallery, Bath, 2008
Monumental Pots, represented by Adrian Sassoon, COLLECT, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2008
Out of China: Monumental Porcelain, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf; Oldham Gallery, Manchester; Barn Gallery, West Dean; Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead; The Lightbox, Woking, 2008
- (2010/11) Residency/internship with Royal Delft, Netherlands : museum and archive research using historic examples to create surface pattern designs; research and development of Delft blue and white painting to create contemporary interpretations.
- Acquisitions advisory panel member for Crafts Study Centre, Farnham
- Education coordinator and adviser for Ceramic Art London
- Collaboration in the production of large-scale works with Chinese manufactories Wu Works