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Ceramic Review Issue 327

May/June 2024

Derek Wilson by Nic Eames

Derek Wilson is known for both his elegant functional wares and abstract sculptures, but finding the balance between the two hasn't always been easy. Dominique Corlett catches up with him in his Belfast studio to discover more.

Work by Derek Wilson; photo by Nic Eames


What does success look like for a contemporary potter today? Showing at Ceramic Art London and selling all your stock? Being taken on by a top gallery? Maybe it’s working flat out to keep up with demand for your wares? Getting your own studio, or having a solo show?

The unquestionably successful Belfast-based ceramist Derek Wilson has ticked off all of these markers at some point in the past ten years. But having experienced the thrill (along with the pressure and subsequent burnout) of being an in-demand ceramic artist, there are other things that are more important to him these days. Things like the freedom to run his practice as he likes, the time and space to be creative, the chance to move between his functional and sculptural work, and the luxury to choose what he does and doesn’t want to take part in.

Wilson is relaxed, focused and in high spirits when CR catches up with him in his studio at the Portview Trade Centre in Belfast, where he has been based for the last five years. It’s a lovely old building that used to be a linen mill and is now populated by a mix of creative businesses, independent cafés and retail outlets. He is getting work ready for two upcoming shows – a collaboration with furniture designer David Gates at the Hauser & Wirth

Maker Space in Bruton, Somerset, and an exhibition at St. Peter’s Church, Cambridge, organised by the Flow Gallery. ‘It’s nice to be working on a couple of smaller exhibitions,’ Wilson muses. ‘Over the last couple of years I’ve attended a lot of big shows, it’s been non-stop, but I’ve recently had time to concentrate on new work.’

While the Cambridge show will feature new functional ware, Hauser & Wirth will showcase new developments in his structured vessels – the geometric lopsided vases and jugs, reminiscent of something from a cubist painting, that he produces from porcelain in a range of colours and is perhaps best known for. The vessels will be displayed on Gates’ cabinets and tables, a pairing that Wilson is delighted with. ‘I’ve always been interested in Gates’ pieces,’ he says. ‘There’s a similar aesthetic to my work in the way his furniture occupies domestic space and the way they push ideas of what furniture is, they’re very sculptural.’

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For more information visit derekwilsonceramics.com

Work by Derek Wilson; photo by Nic Eames