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Art inspired by the Brenchley Gallery by Lionel Ousdine

Ella Martignetti
28th Feb 2020
By Ella Martignetti

I am a designer maker who spent my working life as a ceramicist making wood fired ceramics. The inspiration being Shoji Hamada a Japanese potter from Mashiko, who was a National Living Treasure in his own lifetime. I enjoy his Bizen like pieces and the humble dignity of the Mingei movement. Another hero of mine is Mahatma Gandhi and his belief in self-reliance (swahedi).

This doctrine of his ultimately led to Indian independence.

Thirdly another hero is David Pye , Senior Lecturer at the Department of Furniture Design at the Royal College of Art. Since my retirement I have enjoyed furniture making, wood turning and sculpture. His influence in the nature of art and workmanship of risk where the quality of the result is continually at risk during the process of making. I constructed a working replica of his Fluting Engine in order to incorporate fluting in wooden bowls and platters. Very different from the workmanship of certainty which we see in mass production and standardisation.

Over the years I have fulfilled many commissions ranging from Royalty, the National Trust, English Heritage, the RAF. and of course, the family around the corner!

I originally came to Maidstone Museum to view the exquisite Japanese collection with the Kent Potters Association. In particular I enjoyed the lacquerware, the boxes and the prints besides the ceramics! On a later visit I then discovered the Benchley Gallery which led me to an interest in Oceanic Art.

I have always been fascinated by tribal ethnographic artefacts especially from Africa where I was born. They have such a sculptural presence I look upon them as tribal art.

The Brenchley Gallery at Maidstone Museum contains a treasury of Oceanic artefacts…a precious source of reference material.  My wife Denise and  I came to visit to have a close up look at the design and dimensions of clubs for my next project.

At present I am working on a Tongan ceremonial war club.

©L & D Ousdine

I have Previously made different types of clubs including  a Sali club and a series of throwing clubs from Fiji.

©L & D Ousdine

I have made reproduction artefacts for the Discovery Chest in the Brenchley Gallery which give visiting school groups an enjoyable hands on experience with tribal art.

©L & D Ousdine

I hope you enjoy investigating these fascinating objects next time you visit Maidstone Museums.

Lionel Ousdine