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Pottery brings traditional ceramic storytelling from the past into the present

A HISTORIC pottery tradition which gives voice to the political challenges faced by the people has inspired a new exhibition at Rugby Art Gallery and Museum.

Emilie Taylor RAGM
May Day, May Day II by Emilie Taylor. Photograph by Karina Lax Published Friday, 7th May 2021

May Day, May Day, May Day features the work of Emilie Taylor, a Sheffield-based potter who creates large-scale ceramics to tell the stories of the communities she works in.

Taylor explores the concept of May Day as both a Pagan celebration of land, fertility and abundance, and its modern day identity as International Workers' Day.

But with Taylor creating all the pieces for the exhibition during pandemic lockdowns, the May Day motif also serves as a distress signal, highlighting the current social, economic and climate challenges we face.

Taylor tells her stories through slipware, a heritage English craft which traditionally combined personal experiences with political illustrations and messages. 

Slipware vessels were commonly used at community gatherings for the sharing of food and drink, and Taylor focuses on giving a voice to communities through her work - exploring contemporary urban stories and the challenges facing the modern world.

A birch maypole has been installed at the centre of the Art Gallery for May Day, May Day, May Day, from which flows an embroidered call to arms.

Taylor's pieces include large vases, smaller vessels and wall-mounted plates, fusing traditional craft with contemporary narratives - stories of today with timeless roots.

During May Day, May Day, May Day's run, Taylor plans to work with young women from Rugby to collaborate on further works to be added to the exhibition.

Nikki Grange, Rugby Art Gallery and Museum's arts, heritage and visitor services manager, said: "Our journey with Emilie started in 2018 with a studio visit to discover her stunning large pots and to hear about the research, techniques and community engagement which influence her production of ceramics rooted both in tradition and contemporary life.

"With the support of Arts Council England, we were delighted to commission Emilie for a new exhibition which was originally scheduled to open in the autumn of 2020.

"While disappointed we were forced to postpone the exhibition due to Covid restrictions, the lockdowns have given Emilie's work even greater relevance, with her pieces addressing many of the social issues which have been brought into sharper focus since the start of the pandemic.

"It's a beautiful exhibition to welcome visitors back to Rugby Art Gallery and Museum from 18 May, and we cannot wait to open our doors and showcase Emilie's work."

May Day, May Day, May Day runs at Rugby Art Gallery and Museum from 18 May to 10 July.

The venue reopens in line with the latest Government guidance. 

Visitors must be limited to groups of up to six people or two households. To avoid waiting, visitors should book in advance online. Track and trace details need to be provided.

Rugby Art Gallery and Museum offers free admission to all exhibitions. To book, and for more information and opening times, visit

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