‘The Art of Bonsai: For Beginners’ hosted by Modern Clay

‘The Art of Bonsai: For Beginners’ hosted by Modern Clay

A unique course combining bonsai and pottery.

Join Modern Clay and Tree In A Pot’s Andy Baker for a curated course in bonsai tree and pot making.

Learn about tree work and the theory behind this with bonsai specialist Andy Baker. He will also impart his knowledge on plant feeding and cover some of the science behind this. Attendants will get access to Modern Clay studio to make a clay pot for their bonsai tree, and later glaze the pot to create a special finish. Lastly, the course will be wrapped up by planting the bonsai in the finished clay pots.

There are only 10 places on this course taught across 4 Lessons which will last around 3 hours.

Each participant will receive a bonsai tree and their own specially made clay pot.

Session 1 March 10th

Tree work, single tree into a training pot with basic styling. (Theory and practical workshop) demonstrate group plantings what we will be aiming to achieve in week 4

Session 2 March 17th

Pot theory and practical clay workshop where you will be making a landscape pot and accent pot
for your bonsai group/forest.

Session 3 March 24th

Glaze the pot from previous week and theory about planting of seeds, working with cuttings,
plant science and aesthetics behind successful bonsai.

Session 4 April 7th

The finale!
Planting of trees (group planting into ceramic pot) planting a plant into accent pot. With Photo session!

All lessons will be held from 10am to 1pm at Modern Clay

Modern Clay

Unit 17 Minerva Works
Fazeley Street
B5 5RT 


Introduction to clay workshop


Introduction to clay with Mark Essen

In this practical 2 hour workshop you will learn the basics of step-by-step process of clay into ceramic.
We will also explore two techniques used in pottery and will be given an insight into basic processes.

This workshop is for up to 10 people, it is ideal for those with no previous clay experience or
those who want to know about the techniques of hand building.

11.00 – 13.00

Phoebe Cummings at Modern Clay

Pleased to have a workshop with Phoebe Cummings next month 11th November see below for link for tickets.

In this workshop you will work with artist Phoebe Cummings to explore the potential of sprig molding and hand building techniques. Two-dimensional designs will be used as a starting point to create simple press molds, from which you will construct and adapt into more elaborate three-dimensional forms. This workshop will consider relationships between historic design and contemporary sculpture.

This workshop is aimed at beginners and intermediate experience of clay.

Lunch will be provided with this workshop at nearby Dig Brew Co, River Street.

Phoebe Cummings studied Three-Dimensional Crafts at the University of Brighton, before completing an MA in Ceramics & Glass at the Royal College of Art in 2005. She hasundertaken a number of artist residencies, in the UK, USA and Greenland, including a three-month Arts/Industry residency at the Kohler Co. factory, Wisconsin (2008) and six months as ceramics artist-in-residence at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2010). Cummings was the winner of the British Ceramics Biennial Award in 2011 and exhibitions have included a commission for the Museum of Arts & Design, New York and a solo show at the University of Hawaii Art Gallery, Honolulu. She was awarded the second ceramics fellowship at Camden Arts Centre 2012 and is shortlisted for the Woman’s Hour Craft Prize 2017. She is currently Research Associate at the Ceramics Research Centre UK – University of Westminster.

Artist in Residence

Emily Hawes and Laurie Ramsell are currently artists in residence at Modern Clay.

Both Birmingham based artists will be working in the studio researching and developing new works.

Emily will be expanding the role of slipcast ceramics within her work, broadly exploring entanglements between nature, culture and bodies. While on the residency she will be experimenting with the cultivation of local plant-life making responses to the location of Modern Clay through a playful series of ‘Digbeth Ikebana’.

Laurie will be researching methods of clay 3D printing technology and researching into unconventional means of making humans. His work often explores ancient beliefs that humans can be made using recipes and from materials such as marble and clay, through a process known as ‘spontaneous generation’ or material evolution.

Both artists will be working in the studios for the next two months with public presentations in the future.


Laurie Ramsell, novo sapiens, 2015
Laurie Ramsell, Novo Sapiens, 2015










Emily Hawes,Liquid Assets,2016
Emily Hawes,Liquid Assets,2016











Introduction to Ceramics with Nam Tran

Introduction to Ceramics with Nam Tran
Saturday 2nd September
two workshops
10.30 – 12.30
14.00 – 16.00

In this 2 hour workshop you will learn the basics of ceramics, from hand building techniques to
wheel work. You will be given an insight into the work of Nam Tran with examples of
how he makes his works.

This workshop is for up to 10 people, it is ideal for those with no previous clay experience or
those who want to know about the techniques of used by Nam Tran.

The ticket price includes drinks after the workshop at Centrala Space

Nam Tran is an award-winning practitioner who gives lectures and demos at universities and exhibits internationally.

Nam specialising in wheel thrown raku, bringing years of experience and craftsmanship to every object made. Tran’s work focused primarily on exploring the physical properties of clay and material experimentation is a strong characteristics of his work.
He has been developing making enclosed forms that are much stronger than open forms and therefore resonates well with the alternative firing technique he uses.
His work is dominated by thrown pieces that subtly echo the urban roots and conceptual design.
Nam Tran first made pots as a teenager on a wheel in his own bedroom and remembers being captivated by the experience.
With his unique alternatives methods and approach to ceramics Nam Tran identifies rules and manipulates and bends them.


Division of Labour does MODERN CLAY, Digbeth First Friday July



Division of Labour



David Burrows,
Jemma Egan,
Yelena Popova


Friday July 7th 6-8pm

Modern Clay
Unit 17 Minerva Works,
Fazeley Street,
B5 5RT

Looking at Art Looking at People

David Burrows, Jemma Egan, Luke McCreadie and Yelena Popova.

LaALaP is a sequel to the 2016 London exhibition entitled “Looking at People Looking at Art, curated by Mark Essen. Here the gallery was divided by a large yellow platform (with over 21 works of sculpture) and a lofty viewing gallery, a sound booth with a glass window. The audiences were given two options; to move into the room along a narrow path surrounded by the artworks or to climb into the viewing room and watch the people amongst the art.

To look at the art or to look at people looking at art.

Essen and Division of Labour are both concerned with making in two distinct ways. In Essen and Modern Clay, he makes, invites and exhibits art which is all about the art studio or the pottery, materiality, an interest in form and process. Essen’s investigation is tangible, material and physical. Division of Labour is interested in the political aspects of making, how do groups of artists deal with the society they inhabit, how do they transfer knowledge and how is art made? In particular this exhibition explores and discuss’ the shared transnational location of art making and how communities share and develop knowledge. The artists could be seen as self-controlled worker making art in isolation and at the same time making collectively in clusters or ‘innovation systems’ (1) Leadbeater and Oakley describe the transfer of knowledge through “flexible production structured around short-term relationships between artists (that is for example; private views, shared studio, talks and parties) and external partners” (galleries, group shows, talks, parties, critics and curators)

Essen describes the artists gathered here (Looking at People Looking at Art 2016) as ‘a collection of makers, doers, plants, connectors, generators, dynamos, emitters and conductors’. Manual labour, work, the importance of studio practice, making and materiality run through the objects he has collected together. This is paired with an (Division of Labour’s) interest in the modes of sociality and interaction that might occur around the works. (2)


(1) Invisible and visible geographies of artistic labour in Toronto (Bain)
(2) This is Tomorrow, Tim Dixon 2016 –

©2017 Division of Labour, 13-19 Herald Street, London E2 6JT /

Residency call out for artists at Modern Clay

Ceramics Residency 2017

Modern Clay are inviting applications from early- career West Midland based artists (up to 5 years since MA, or 10 years since BA) who wish to develop their practice within ceramics.

There are 6 residencies available for 2 months, 3 artists from August to September and 3 from September to October.   

Resident artists will be able to use the new, purpose- built studio Modern Clay, to experiment and make new work with clay. The studio is a shared space which can accommodate up to 12 people at one time.

Modern Clay will provide a set amount of clay and glaze as part of the residency, but it is expected the artist will purchase any additional materials. Technical help will also be provided.

It is expected that all artists using the space will contribute to the running of the studio, this includes helping in workshops, running monthly Digbeth First Friday events, and the general daily running of the studio. There is an emphasises on creating a community and contributing towards its collective knowledge.

The aims of the residency are to:

• Enable the selected practitioner to learn new skills and create new a body of work.

• Inspire public interest in creative practice and making.

• Raise the profile of contemporary ceramics in the region and build a community of like-minded artists.

• Offer professional development to the selected practitioner in public engagement and arts education.

As part of the residency, artists will have the opportunity to take part in an imaginative participatory programme to engage the public. This could include workshops, open studios and presentations of work, talks, family art activities, student projects and more.

The residency is aimed at people wanting to develop new skills as part of an artistic practice. In applications we seek interesting new ideas for experimentation with clay. Selections will be made based on the potential of your ideas over work already produced.

Dates: August to October 2017

Resident artist fee: £850

Deadline: Sunday 9 July 2017

To Apply

• Send a CV including your address during the residency period (only artists based in the West   Midlands during this time will be eligible)

• Up to 10 images of your work or a link to audio visual material.

• A short statement detailing why you want to work at Modern Clay, your approach and ideas for making work during the residency.

Please email application as a PDF file to with the subject “Ceramics Residency 2017”  

About Modern Clay

Modern Clay is a studio project run by Mark Essen it provides a studio facility for the production of ceramics. It is accessible for artists, local community and charitable groups and artistic educational projects. The studio will also develop a new programme of artistic opportunities for West Midlands artists.

The studio is greatly influenced by John Ruskin and the Ruskin Pottery of Smethwick, which ran from 1898 to 1935. The pottery was set up by Edward R. Taylor, who was also the first head of The Birmingham School of Art, 1877–1903. He adopted many of 19th century critic John Ruskin’s philosophies in the running of the pottery.

One of the aims of Modern Clay is to adopt and adapt the philosophy of John Ruskin and Ruskin Pottery to see what an artists’ studio can provide for society. The value of the studio is a political and economic theory of social organisation. This is practiced by means of production, distribution, and exchange, which is owned and managed by the users; they control their own productive process.

17 Minerva Works,

Fazeley Street,

B5 5RT

Residency Modern Clay