Amgueddfa Blog: Contemporary Ceramics Exhibtion: Fragile?

Fragile? Art & Craft Workshops for People Living With Dementia

Jennifer Dudley, 24 September 2015

Teacups & Memories

The Exhibition: Fragile?  

Fragile? is an exhibition of contemporary ceramics at National Museum Cardiff, showcasing the beauty and variety of contemporary ceramics practice. The exhibition explores the artistic and expressive possibilities of clay as a material, including the contradiction between two of its innate qualities – durability and fragility. The exhibition includes items from the National Museum’s collection, shown alongside exciting new ceramic installations made especially for this exhibition.  

Dementia-friendly workshops – Free! But limited availability so please book in advance

On October 1st we will be running a day of free workshops for people living with dementia and their carers, with activities inspired by the Fragile? exhibition. The workshops will be relaxed and friendly. No previous experience is required for any of the activities. Tea and biscuits will be provided and chatting is encouraged! Some sessions may be photographed, so that we have a record of our activities, but you can always ‘opt out’ of being photographed. 

Workshop schedule 

Explore the exhibition, 11am-1pm. Maximum 10 people - please book in advance

In the morning, we will take a spotlight tour of some objects in the Fragile? exhibition. You will not be given a full tour of the whole exhibition as it is quite large! There will be tea, cake, and music with different ceramic items available for you to touch, hold and chat about. A family member, friend or helper is very welcome to attend with you.

Lunch, 1 – 2pm.  Maximum 20 people – please book in advance

We would love for you to join us for lunch if you have taken part in either or both of our sessions. Family members, friends and helpers are also invited.

Teapots and Clay pots, 2pm-4pm. Maximum 10 people – please book in advance

In this fun, hands-on session led by artist Jess Midgley, you can have a go at modelling and pattern making with clay. A family member, friend or helper is very welcome to attend with you.

To enquire or book a place please email

In conversation with Clare Twomey and Claire Curneen

Penelope Hines, 10 June 2015

One of the joys of working in the world of contemporary art is the opportunity it presents to hear information directly from the artist.

On Friday we are lucky enough to have such an opportunity from two artists who were commissioned to make works for Fragile? Clare Twomey and Claire Curneen (12/06/2015 at 1.05pm).

Fragile? In Conversation with the Artists, Clare Twomey and Claire Curneen

In preparation for this we have collated sources of information on the two artists:

Clare Twomey

Clare Twomey is a British artist and a research fellow at the University of Westminster who works with clay in large-scale installations, Sculpture and site-specific works. Her work in Fragile? is a version of "Consciousness/Conscience" (

A statement on her University of Westminster Research Fellow profile reads:

"A great deal of my projects my practice can be understood as "post-studio ceramics", my work engages with clay yet often at a critical distance. I have in the past five years negotiated the realms of performance, serial production, and transience, and often involve site-specific installations. I am especially concerned with the affective relations that bind people and things, and how objects can enable a dialogue with the viewer. Clay is my constant medium as it embodies notions of permanence and inheritance, and has a profound connection with the everyday."

Over the past 10 years she has exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate, Crafts Council, Museum of Modern Art Kyoto Japan, the Eden Project, York Museum, Denver Art Museum and the Royal Academy of Arts.

Information sourced (and further available) from the following websites:

Claire Curneen

Claire Curneen is a tutor at Cardiff School of Art and Design. Her work is distinct for its figurative representation which draws us into a world of narrative. She has two works in Fragile? one piece already owned by the museum 'In the Tradition of Smiling Angels' from 2007 (View work in Art Online) and a work commissioned by the Derek Williams Trust called 'Touched'.

A statement on her website reads: " As one of the UK's foremost ceramic artists Curneen draws us into a world of narrative, where the tension between the real and the imagined is played out before us. Her ceramic figures have an imposing presence which tap into our desires, fears and mysteries....These figures bear bold narratives of human experiences and explore themes around death, rebirth and the sublime, which are both subtle and dramatic."

Her work has been exhibited both in Britain (Mission Gallery, Swansea, London and Ruthin Craft Centre to name a few) and internationally in Switzerland, the USA and France.

Information sourced (and further available) from the following websites:

Vinyl Records in Fragile?

Penelope Hines, 27 May 2015

Keith Harrison's superb installation Mute in Fragile? focuses on the viewer/ visitors interacting with the work. From seeing yourself reflected in gold tiled surface of the work to walking around the huge installation in the gallery to spinning a vinyl on the deck.

The "aim" of this installation is to make the slip in the speakers break down and discover what happens to the sounds: a voyage of discovery as much for the artist and the museum as the exhibition is for the visitor!

Records are played on one or both of the decks in the gallery which are attached to the main body of the installation, the music then sounds through a wall of dried slip (dried liquid clay) filled speakers, which crack and crumble as the music reverberates through them. Keith supplied several vinyl's for people to play on the decks of Mute. All records feature brass and horns and are ready to be used on shelving at the back of the gallery.

However he was also keen to encourage people to bring in their own records to be played in the galleries, and over the last few weeks we've noticed that the number of records seem to be growing!

Originally starting at 14, the number of vinyl's has grown to 18 (one was being played as the image was taken!). People seem to be leaving records in the space for others to enjoy!

If you want to experience this incredible installation why don't you bring in a record to play on Mute and contribute to this installation?

It may be some way off but a date to put in your diary is Keith Harrison's "In Conversation" on July 19th:

Also Spillers is hosting a late night event tomorrow (the 28th June!):

Smashed: An Alternative Guide to Fragile

Sian Lile-Pastore, 21 May 2015

The youth forum worked extremely hard to get their first publication out in time for the Fragile? exhibition and it looks so wonderful! It contains interviews with artists, responses to the work on show and even an article about Spillers and Vinyl. We were also really lucky to have a great designer on board to work with the forum to create something so gorgeous - so thanks Chipper Designs!

You can pick up your copy of the youth forums magazine (or have a look at the pdf over on the right) at the exhibition and we would love to know what you think about it. Also we would love to know what your favourite fragile thing is, a baby? a cup? a building? let us know on twitter or instagram using #fragilefaves

Feedback on Fragile?

Penelope Hines, 20 May 2015

We have created word clouds based on the most commonly used terms in the responses to two questions on display in the exhibition. Figure 1 shows the feedback to the question "Which object would you recommend to a friend?" and Figure 2 shows the terms used to the query "How do you feel surrounded by so many fragile objects?".

We hope to periodically produce these word clouds; they may show that the most frequently used terms change over time or that they remain the same. Interesting conclusions could be drawn from either. If they change it could be that people will appreciate certain works due to the time of year, the likelihood that they attended an event or changing fashions. If they remain unchanged the conclusion could be drawn that some works resonate strongly with the majority of visitors.

The questions are posed using two methods on the landing of the west wing galleries; as a comments section on the iPad's and a bulletin board with paper and pencils provided to write a response (Figure 3).

These questions were posed to combat the standard "What do you think of the exhibition?". Rather we wanted to create questions which would encourage key concepts of the exhibition: to stimulate curiosity and encourage debate. This (we hope!) will happen through visitors reading the questions and considering their own responses and by seeing the responses of others which are left on display in the space.

Excitingly we have found visitors have taken to this style of questioning; the responses to the question about recommending an object to a friend (on the "bulletin board") have been through text and images with some visitors expanding upon why they like certain works (Figure 4) . In the comments field on the iPad's which asks about personal experience in the exhibition we have been interested to seeing the varying reactions. Such as a visitor on the 5th May who responded: "Scared worried but its lovely" or from the 16th May "I really liked the pull between wanting to touch and not being able to touch. When i stepped into the first installation i was overwhelmed with a child like want to feel and discover for myself.".

Let us know If you have any comments on the exhibition, questions or if there's a subject you'd like to see a future blog post about. By Penelope Hines & Jennifer Dudley