Fired Up
the life behind 318 ceramics
In Profile: Ashley Howard
Written by Jane Lees

As the Chair of the Trustees for 318 Ceramics, Ashley Howard is pivotal in the organisation, and his vision has been significant in helping to get the project off the ground. He is Lecturer in Ceramics at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham, where he is a committed teacher of both graduate and undergraduate students, and he will, of course, be teaching some of the courses for 318 Ceramics. Here I take a brief look at Ashley's work, his inspirations and his thoughts on 318.

Ashley Howard Winchester_004

Ashley has developed a strong reputation for work that is fresh and powerful, with an 'experimental, rather maverick attitude to making'. I enjoyed reading David Whiting's appraisal of Ashley's work – it gives a great sense of the tactile and 'handled' quality of his forms, and I loved the phrase 'a preserved sense of wetness' which perfectly expresses both the fluidity of the clay and the translucence of some of his glazes.

I asked Ashley to tell me something about what first drew him to clay, and about some of his early influences. Like many of us, he first encountered clay whilst at school. But Ashley was lucky enough to meet someone who was to really inspire him and set him on his creative path:

“It was after I left school, however, that I became more interested in pottery. This was due to a local potter, Gill Brown, who ran private classes from her workshops. Gill's energy and enthusiasm was infectious. She encouraged me to apply to the then Medway College of Art and Design. Gill helped me to decide that ceramics was what I wanted to do”

Ashley names a host of excellent teachers at Medway (now UCA in Rochester), including Dave White, Mike Spoor, Peter Beard and Peter Philips, as well as many sessional and visiting teachers, but he singles out Colin Pearson as the person who, without doubt, had the greatest influence on his work. Pearson's approach to his own ceramics was experimental and was said to have 'broadened the language of the potter's wheel.' He encouraged potters to 'approach clay on the wheel with far more freedom, bringing out the raw physicality of the material.' David Whiting, in his article for Ceramic Review, definitely sees Ashley Howard as an inheritor of the Pearson dynamic.

Between 2001 and 2003 Ashley studied for an MA at the Royal College of Art. “One of the many advantages this experience gave me was to nail down some common themes of interest to steer my thinking and my work. These include ritual, ceremony and associated objects and spaces. I also draw heavily on the ever-present Far Eastern influence that I was brought up with, in particular Japan. By this I mean the influence of Colin Pearson and the Leach tradition. I have visited Japan twice to work and intend to go again next year”

And what of Ashley's current work and directions? “Of late I have been re-igniting my interest in expressionist painting and this has begun to feed its way back into some of my porcelain work”

Ashley is primarily a maker, but throughout his career he has always been involved in teaching. Gareth Mason calls him 'a dedicated educationalist ….(who) has exhibited widely and contributed energetically to the contemporary ceramics landscape' He brings vitality and vision to the 318 Ceramics project, having been involved right from the start.

“I am a passionate believer in what this organisation is achieving with regard to raising public awareness and education around ceramics. Similar organisations exist in the US and mainland Europe, but 318 Ceramics is the first of its kind in the UK. It offers focused specialist activities for all ages and abilities under one roof and is able to remind the public of the vast riches that ceramics in our lives and culture can bring”

If you would like to read more about Ashley Howard, visit his website at

Tagged as: Teaching, UCA,
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318 Ceramics is a creative organisation which promotes excellence in ceramics by providing education and support to all makers from beginners to professional. 
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