The Artist in Residence Project, Höhr-Grenzhausen

von Sally Welchman

I am writing as an English artist, working for the next five months in Germany, at the Keramik Gruppe workshop in Höhr-Grenzhausen.

After finishing a two year masters course in ceramics at UWIC, in Cardiff, Wales, I knew that I wished to continue my work in ceramics. Living in Great Britain offers many opportunities for exhibiting work: in the first six months after leaving college I had three exhibitions and sold some work. I also completed two commissions, which paid quite well, but not enough to give up my part-time work. Added to this, I had problems finding a place to fire my work, and I also made all my ceramics in the room that I lived and slept in.

I heard of the Höhr-Grenzhausen Artist in residence project trough old college friends, and also read about it in Ceramic Review magazine. It appealed to me to live abroad for a while, and I hoped that the new environment would have a refreshing influence on my work. I applied and was accepted. I then set about finding funds for my project. I needed money for the rent and other living costs, including travel expenses. After seemingly endless applications, the Arts council of Wales awarded me a bursary for craft, I would still need to take part time work, but the money was enough to see me through the first few months!

In Höhr-Grenzhausen things are very different for me. I have excellent facilities for making work: a studio and a wheel, heat and light, free clay and the opportunity to have an exhibition at the end of my time here. There is also access to a glaze-making room and some kiln-space. I feel very lucky to be surrounded by many expert potters. In Britain the Arts education system is totally different, and we seldom do apprenticeships or even learn to throw pots. There is much I can learn about the practical side of ceramics here. I am now learning to throw and have also learned about simple ways to keep the working environment more clean and pleasant. Things we do not learn in college! I share my workspace with two German ceramicists, who are both always ready with help and advice.

The first month here was comparatively easy for me. I was offered a room with friends in Höhr-Grenzhausen, and most of the people I met spoke good English. So I hardly needed my school level German. Still, it was a strange shock to be in a new country, and get used to new ways, and I found it difficult to be dependent on others for so much. After only one month here things have become easier. I enjoy the peace of the town, and appreciate the time I have to develop my work. I feel more involved in my work than ever before, with time to make drawings and paintings, and to appreciate things with fresh eyes. I feel very excited about the future, and I intend to visit some pot markets and galleries here, to explore the work of contemporary German ceramicists. This is the beginning of an interesting projekt for me. The opportunities I have here are valuable, and I feel very lucky!