Edmund Mcgowan

I was born in Shoreham-by-Sea in Sussex and grew up in Brighton and Lewes where I first came into contact with clay at the age of six. Framed by chalk cliffs, cut through by the River Ouse (Celtic for water), Lewes was a quiet town that exploded on November 5th each year. Flying embers from huge bonfires danced above the trees, lit up the hills of the usually quiet evening skyline. Burning tar barrels, crosses, effigies of Guy Fawkes, Popes, Thatcher, other despots were paraded through the boarded up streets on their way to be burnt.     


Things led to the coast as a kid. My mother worked in Brighton, father in Newhaven, the gentle South Downs landscape of white chalk hills and their abrupt fall into the English Channel was my daily journey to school. The polluted sea, pebble beaches, bracketed by concrete groynes, emaciated by longshore drift were the end of the land. The land stretched into the sea though, the abandoned skeleton of the West Pier in Brighton stood ornate in seeming deference to the gaudy tack of the Palace Pier.      


“The Missing Years.”


After a family move to Malvern when I was 13, I got heavily into ceramics under the tutelage of sculptor Cindy Jones. During these five years at high school, I learned hand building and slip casting skills that I would use a decade later when I got back into ceramics. Furthermore, Miss. Jones taught me how to articulate and realize my ideas in clay.


Academic studies in Art History, Archaeology and Chinese at SOAS, University of London got me thinking again about ceramics. Taking concurrent modules in Art and Culture in Imperial China and Japanese Art, I was struck by the contrast between cold, otherworldly Ming porcelains and the warmth of early Shigaraki pieces, this was the my first exposure to wood fired ceramics. 


“Feed the Pigeons some clay, turn the night into day.”


After graduation, I made music, drove vans, broke down trading desks, made check-in desks, cleared gardens. Clearing out my parents’ fireplace, Christmas 2008, I bagged up the ash and took it back to London, enrolled in an afternoon ceramics course at City and Islington College. I fired the glaze in oxidation in an electric kiln, it was dull but it worked! In 2009 I moved to Taiwan and began learning about wood firing. During my time here I have learned how to fire from local and international artists. I mostly slab build and press mould these days, favouring elemental ash glazes which come to life after lengthy wood firings.

I enjoy the “can do” attitude on this island, and hope to continue making here.

Me and cousin Max, fresh out of the clay pit circa 1992.

Night shift in Miaoli Taiwan, 2017.

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