Residency report by Clive Eger
In May I was fortunate enough to spend a month in Rome as a ceramics resident at C.R.E.T.A., the privately run studio/gallery owned by Italian potter Paolo Porelli and his American wife, art historian Lori-Ann Touchette. Located in the oldest and most picturesque part of Rome, the studio is housed in the 16th century Palazzo Delfini close to the Forum and very near the old Jewish ghetto. There is also a second studio in the countryside near Lago di Bracciano, an hour from Rome.
The residency program runs for 4-5 weeks and residents have studio space, the use of three electric kilns and free rein to create and ‘do your thing’. The fee includes excellent accommodation in an apartment in the ghetto quarter close to Campo di Fiore. Residencies are also available at the country location where the facilities include gas and raku kilns.
Various clays are available and there are numerous ‘house glazes’ as well as materials for the formulation of other glazes. Although the residency does not include formal instruction, Paolo and Lori-Ann are extremely helpful with advice and guidance when required. Residents have the run of the workroom and are free to come and go at any time. Most residents include exploration of the sights of Rome as part of their experience and Lori-Ann is a great source of good ideas for places to visit and ‘not to be missed’ exhibitions. And it’s not even necessary to go far to see wonderful artefacts and ancient pottery. The studio building backs onto the Crypta Balbi, an ongoing archaeological dig of an ancient theatre dating from 13BC which can be visited as part of the National Museum of Rome.
At the end of the residency the participants stage an exhibition of their work, a prospect that helps one to crystallise one’s thoughts towards producing work worthy of such an event.
I was most fortunate to have Jim Bowling, a Professor of Ceramics from the USA, as a fellow resident. Jim was a great source of information and encouragement and we had lots of fun and laughter along the way.
My desire in spending time at C.R.E.T.A. was been to break away from the constraints of functional pottery and rediscover the joy of clay and its ability to take on a multitude of forms. I firmly resolved that there were to be no mugs, no jugs and no bowls. In the end I found myself going in unexpected and most rewarding directions, producing a satisfying body of work for the exhibition and opening the way to a new style and aesthetic in my work. Although it is a bit of a cliché that the omnipresence of Rome will subconsciously influence ones work while there, it turned out to be true in my case. And that’s not a bad thing.
My time at C.R.E.T.A. was a great experience and I highly recommend it. Being in such a creative environment and having the opportunity to live in Rome for an extended period meant that it was much more than the usual tourist experience. In fact I felt a bit like a ‘local’ as I made my way to the studio each day through the crowds of tourists. And I pitied them for only being in Rome for a few precious days and not being able to take the time to really experience its soul.