I work within the classic tradition of wheel-thrown ceramics. My medium is porcelain and I use a blend of Limoges, mixed with other porcelain bodies to achieve a high level of translucency. I seek painterly effects in my glazes and prefer the natural characteristics of reduction firing to augment the decorative process. Whilst I aim for control in my forms I attempt to induce elemental or spontaneous qualities in my glazes.
My work is an ongoing process of study and experimentation. This results in a high level of kiln failures, however I feel that this is an inevitable, but acceptable outcome, that has ultimately enabled me to express my ideas in many different ways.
I have always loved colour. In painting my inspiration comes primarily from the Impressionists. Other painters such as Rembrandt and Rothko used layers of transparency and colour in their painting technique to create luminosity. I approach glazes like copper red and celadon in much the same way.
My recent work demonstrates my current preoccupation with mark-making and splash effects. The randomness and apparent spontaneity of this particular glaze game comes from a practised technique of application that has evolved through a number of mutations over the past three years.
Its appearance is entirely contemporary, however its origin lies in the study of the brushwork of Song Dynasty pot decorators, the wild application of paint by artists like Jackson Pollock, and my visualisation of the exuberant randomness of an herbaceous border in full flower.
Hand thrown signature-piece studio porcelain in Limoges and blended
porcelain bodies. I usually work to exhibition or commission.
"My primary interest is in the thrown form and I am working with Limoges porcelain and blended bodies to achieve maximum translucency. I am less interested in decorative embellishment and prefer to allow purity of form and the natural characteristics of reduction glazes to convey my message." Ivar Mackay 2001
Work generally available from:
The Scottish Gallery - Edinburgh
Own Studio Gallery.
Propane gas fired kiln. Reduction glazes to 1290c. I look for painterly
characteristics in glaze quality and I specialise in classic and
variant forms of celadon, copper red, tenmoku, cobalt and crackled
cream glazes created out of an ongoing process of experimentation.
Each signed piece is hand-thrown, then carefully wheel-turned when leather-hard to produce a finely delicate structure, biscuit fired, glazed and then fired again to a temperature of 1290c. The result is an exquisite high-gloss, transparent glaze finish on a translucent porcelain body.
Glaze colours are achieved through reduction firing. Liquid turquoise celadons, sang-de-boeuf and speckled copper reds, cobalt blue, intense tenmoku black and crackled cream glazes feature in Ivar Mackay's expanding repertoire of specialist porcelain glaze recipes.
Born: 1950, York
Education: Ceramics, Harrow College of Art
Tutors: Michael Casson & Walter Keeler
1974/1979 - Production of contemporary silver jewellery
1982 - Established Shire Pottery in Tynedale, Northumberland
1982 - 1998 - Produced 1/4 million hand-thrown terracotta pots for home and export market
1998 - Developed new production of studio porcelain in Celadon, Tenmoku and Copper glazes
1999 - Moved to Alnwick, Northumberland
October 1999 - 2006 - Opened Shire Pottery Gallery & Studios (on-going presentation of studio porcelain within programme of contemporary art exhibitions)
2005 - Axis
2005 - Elected to Crafts Council Photostore Selected Makers
2005 - Elected Professional Member of the Craft Potters Association
2007 - Network Artists in Northumberland
2007 - Selected Member at www.studiopottery.co.uk
2003 - "Sky After Rain - Studio Porcelain by Ivar Mackay", Matthew
Blackman, A-N for Artists July 2003; "All Fired Up", Jane Pikett,
Exclusive Magazine July/August 2003; "Ivar Mackay: Sky After Rain",
Julia Palmer, Ceramic Review September/October 2003; "Ivar Mackay"
Upfront Review, Ceramics Monthly December 2003; "Ivar Mackay Profile",
Chitose Uchida, www.e-yakimono.net
2004 - "International Exhibition for Alnwick Potter", Angie Boyer, The Craftsman, July 2004
2005 - "Ivar Mackay" Upfront Review, Ceramics Monthly, May 2005; British Studio Potters Marks (second edition, published 2005); Living North Magazine Fine Art Guide 2005, Arts Council England Own Art feature advertisement.
2006 - Pick of the Shows, Listings Ceramic Review March/April 2006; News & Events, editorial & image, Craftsman Magazine, April 2006. "Ivar mackay Shines at the Scottish Gallery", The Craftsman, July 2006.; Living North Magazine, Arts Council England Own Art feature advertisement.
2008 "The Ceramics Book" 2nd Edition, edited by Emmanuel Cooper, CPA
Shire Pottery was established in Tynedale, in the heart of rural
Northumberland, in 1982 by Ivar Mackay and his partner Francesca Wedel.
From a traditional pottery workshop base, Ivar and Francesca developed their range of superbly finished hand-thrown terracotta garden pottery, quickly establishing a healthy wholesale business, trading through independent garden centres.
In 1986, Shire Pottery won a contract with the prestige department store chain, the John Lewis Partnership, to supply 5 premier stores. In 1994 they went nation-wide with 25 John Lewis Plc stores and began a significant export arrangement with Japan. In 1995 they trebled their Japanese export commitment.
By 1996, the range of hand-thrown garden pots had expanded to include 50 different styles of tubs, bowls, strawberry and herb pots, wall pots and plaques. Although a small player on an increasingly big stage Shire Pottery continued to maintain a high profile in the market place.
In May 1997, with the support of the DTI, Shire Pottery was presented to Japan's premier trade buyers at a gardening showcase exhibition at the British Embassy in Tokyo. By 1998 Shire Pottery had shipped over 5,000 pieces to Tokyo department stores and garden shops.
After 16 years and a quarter of a million hand-thrown garden pots under his belt, Ivar Mackay decided he needed a new challenge. He looked to porcelain, realising a lifetime's ambition when, in June 1998, he began to experiment with a material at the opposite end of the making spectrum to terracotta.
In December 1998, Ivar held his first exhibition of signature-piece reduction-fired studio porcelain, featuring celadon, tenmoku and copper red glazes. Encouraged by an excellent response he began to look for premises where his new work could be displayed in a gallery surrounding. The historic County Town of Alnwick, Northumberland would provide the ideal location for the new Shire Pottery Gallery and Studios project.
In October 1999 Her Grace the Durchess of Northumberland opened our first exhibition of paintings and porelain at Alnwick.
After forty-six exhibitions of contemporary art, we closed our gallery doors in January 2006 to concentrate on Ivar’s burgeoning external exhibition programme, although we do still welcome visitors by appointment to Ivar’s home studio (see above).
1976 - Loot, Goldsmith's Hall Silver Snuff boxes
1997 - British Embassy, Tokyo, garden Ceramics
1998 - Queen's Hall, Hexham, porcelain launch
1999 - Corrymel Scott Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne; Potfest, Perth & Penrith; Bluebell Gallery, Byker, Newcastle-upon-Tyne; Leith Gallery, Edinburgh; Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool; Candover Gallery, Alresford, Hampshire; Katie Jones gallery, Westbourne Grove, London; Tinny Fowler, Kings Road, Chelsea, London
1999 - Shire Pottery Gallery and Studios officially opened on 18 October by Duchess of Northumberland
2000 - Gateshead Central Library Gallery (solo with painter); Liberty's, London; Godfrey & Watt, Harrogate; Corrymella Scott Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (solo with painter); Leith Gallery, Edinburgh (solo with painter); Gossipgate Gaslight Gallery, Alston; Potfest Perth; Potfest Penrith; Desmoulin, Newbury
2001 - Pyramid Gallery, York; Godfrey & Watt, Harrogate; Laburnum Ceramics, Penrith; Wynd Gallery, Melrose; Courtyard Gallery, Crail, Summer Exhibition; Leith Gallery, Edinburgh (solo with painter); Northern Arts (solo); The Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead.
2002 - Godfrey & Watt, Harrogate; Pyramid Gallery, York; Wynd Gallery, Melrose; ArtParkS, Sausmarez Manor, Guernsey
2003 - "Sky After Rain" Solo exhibition at The Oriental Museum, Durham (31 May - 31 August 2003) Godfrey and Watt, Harrogate; Leith Gallery, Edinburgh; South Street Gallery, St Andrews; "Baker's Dozen", Roundhouse Gallery, Foston, Derbyshire
2004 - "Ivar Mackay Porcelain", Roger Billcliffe Gallery, Glasgow (solo); Gateshead Central Library Gallery (non-selling solo display, with painter); Arts Council England North East, Newcastle upon Tyne (non selling solo display); "Christmas Present", the Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead; Godfrey & Watt, Harrogate
2005 - Yufuku Gallery, Tokyo, Japan (international debut solo exhibition, March 2005); International Ceramics Fair & Seminar, London (with Adrian Sassoon); The Leith Gallery, Edinburgh (solo, with painter, May 2005); Adrian Sassoon Gallery, London; Godfrey & Watt, Harrogate; Red Barn Gallery, Melkinthorpe, Cumbria
2006 - ‘Ivar Mackay Porcelain’ The Scottish Gallery, Dundas Street, Edinburgh (solo); ‘Interior Spaces’, Thomas Goode, Mayfair, London, (with the Scottish Gallery); ‘Evolve’, Designed & Made showcase exhibition, Blackfriars, Newcastle-upon-Tyne; Christmas Exhibition, Castlegate House Gallery, Cockermouth, Cumbria; Godfrey & Watt, Harrogate
2007 - ‘CPA at 50’ Group exhibition, The Gallery at Bevere, Worcester; ‘Vessels for Spring’, The Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh; Castlegatehouse Gallery, Cockermouth, Cumbria; Godfrey & Watt, Harrogate
2007 Moved to France and commenced construction of new studio
2010 'In View of the Pyrenees', The Scottish Gallery, Dundas Street,Edinburgh (solo)
By the Sung period in China (960-1279AD), celadon glazes had reached their height. Greatly prized for their beautiful colours, these celadons had a profound depth and changeability of character, reminiscent of the hues to be found in a cool body of water. Pots produced for the imperial court carried elegant sgraffito designs using the fluxing characteristic of celadon to create a deepening of tone within the decorative cuts.
Specially formulated and developed during reduction firing, celadon glaze colours range from turquoise to melt-water blue, grey to soft green and olive. Varying in density from opaque to transparent and with surface finishes smooth matt to high gloss, some celadons may also exhibit the crackle characteristics much prized by the potters of ancient China, lending an interesting textural quality to finished pieces.
Unconstrained by fashion trends, celadon glazes are ageless in their simple elegance. Complemented by the translucent whiteness of porcelain, the calm, meditative liquidity of celadon continues inspire the ceramic artist.
Emerging experimentally during the Tang Dynasty (618-907AD) in China, reduction-fired copper red continued to perplex successive generations of Sung, Yuan and Ming potters, who developed, then lost and finally regained, the techniques required to stabilise and replicate the glaze for commercial production.
A glaze family of extraordinary beauty, copper reds range from pink, to delicate blushes of red, peach bloom, fresh or bright red, flambe, cherry to the deeply visceral heat of sang de boeuf. Surface textures may seem creamy, opaquely curdled, richly layered or clear.
Minute changes in setting, glaze thickness, arrangement of kiln furniture, even the shape of the pot itself, can dramatically affect the quality of copper-red colours. Modern potters working with this glaze must accept variation and a high loss rate as part of the production equation.
Black glazed bowls are recorded as being used in tea competitions held by the Chinese imperial court during the Sung period. The Japanese word 'tenmoku' derives from 'T'ien-mu' a mountain group in the Fuchien Province of China. Priests visiting a monastery there returned to Japan bearing Buddhist altar items, including black glazed tea bowls. The drinking of tea in Japan before this date is unconfirmed, however, by the Middle Ages (Kamakura and Muromachi Periods), the practice had become widespread throughout the country and Seto Potters had established their own tenmoku production.
With their startling intensity, iron-oxide rich tenmoku glazes contrast exotically with their reduction-fired counterparts. Intense black, Oil Spot, Hair's Fur and tortoiseshell tenmokus, glossy and, on occasion, lustrously iridescent, may flux to produce elegantly contrasting amber breaks at rim and on raised decoration. Others variations such as pig-skin or tea-dust have semi to matt effects.
1998 - Business Link, Northumberland, support for export promotion material.
1999 - Awards from Northern Arts (CBV Grant), Heritage lottery Fund and North East Development Agency, for porcelain development and Alnwick gallery and studios project.
2001 - Alnwick Civic Society Special Conservation Award - Gallery Project 2001
2002 - Arts Council England North East Award for exhibition catalogue and events
2003 - Arts Council England North East Award for "Sky After Rain" exhibition catalogue
2004 - Arts Council England North East Award for Japan research trip; Arts Council England North East Award for pottery equipment
2005 - Arts Council England North East Award for Japan exhibition and travel
Museo Nacional de Cerámica "González Martí", Valencia, Spain
American Museum of Ceramic Art, Pomona, California
The Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead