Frances is high Priest-ess of ceramic tableware

Artist Frances Priest with some of the cake slicers from her ceramic collection which is launched on Saturday
Artist Frances Priest with some of the cake slicers from her ceramic collection which is launched on Saturday

THE artist in residence at Yorkshire Artspace’s Manor Studios, Edinburgh-based ceramicist Frances Priest, is putting on show a range of New Manor Ware in the recently-restored Tudor Turret House on Manor Lane.

Her contemporary design of ceramic tableware was inspired by the 17th century decorative plaster ceiling, still intact, and found in the Turret’s House banqueting room.

During the 17th century, potter John Fox set up a workshop in a disused wing of the Manor House at Manor Lodge where he produced his domestic pottery known as Manor Ware. Widely used across Sheffield, remnants of the pottery are still being found in the archaeological digs that regularly take place across the Manor Lodge site.

The artist began her residency at this site in January this year and involved elderly people from Age Concern, young people from the Wybourn Youth Trust (pupils excluded from school) young people from Ruskin Mills’ Freeman College (a school for young people with learning difficulties) amongst other groups in her creative design workshops.

Their response to the richly layered history of craftmanship and decorative art that forms an integral part of the Manor Lodge story from 16th century through to the present day became the starting point for Priest’s final designs for her New Manor Ware, a new range of contemporary tableware.

“I am from Wakefield originally and it was a pleasure to come back to this part of the world,” says the artist. “I was amazed to find out about all the Tudor history because like a lot of people I associate Sheffield with the industrial revolution and steel.

“The thing about the the site is all the layers of history. Mary Queen of Scots was here for 15 years and then afterwards so many other people used it in different ways.

“From royalty and high society it went to a more general and humble use when part of the manor house was rented out in the 17th century to a potter.

“That was a bit of a revelation. Right across the site there are layers of craft history – little mesters, cutlery handle makers and so on so it’s nice that there’s a renaissance with the craft makers who have studios there now.” She says there were two things in particular which inspired her ceramics. “There was the history of the very austere dull pottery that was made and was used by generations of Sheffield people and then the ornate banqueting room from Tudor times.

“I am interested in decorative art and language and how we use patterns. The new Manor Ware bridges the gap between these two parts. I have made a table setting for the banqueting table. In Tudor times the banqueting room was used for the sweet course.

“I have produced a set of five designs for a cake slice because I discovered they served things like gingerbread decorated with gold leaf. Using Victorian designs I found in the museum I made the ceramic handles for the cake slice and the metal part was produced at the Freeman College cutlery workshops.” At the opening on Saturday the artist will be serving – with her cake slice – specially made gold leaf decorated ginger cake, made on site by Green Estate café manager Anthony Dunn.

The exhibition will be open to the public every subsequent Friday until October 21 between 11am and 4pm.

It will move to Persistence Works Gallery from November 2-11.