Spotlight On: Jan Byrne

29th April 2021 / Museum, Museum blog

Our Spotlight On blogs and vlogs introduce thirteen of the artists featured in exhibition ‘Spotlight On: Modern and Contemporary Art from the Collection of Chippenham Museum’.  The second in a series, the exhibition presents 40 works acquired in the last five years to ensure our collection better represents North Wiltshire’s creativity, with the majority of works donated by the artists.

What is your name, where are you based, what medium/style do you work in?

My name is Jan Byrne, I live in Bath and I have a studio at my home, where I work mainly in ceramics making fine art pieces.

Why did you want to be involved with this project?

I studied at Bath Academy of Art from 1974-1978 and worked for over 33 years as the Head of Art and later, when the school gained Visual Arts specialist status, as the Arts College Director at The Corsham School. I have a strong connection with this area of Wiltshire and thousands of students who studied art there.

Jan in her studio

How did you decide which piece to donate to the museum and can you tell us more about it?

I felt that this piece represented the techniques that I frequently use and would benefit from being viewed from above in the museum. ‘Sidmouth Beach’ has been made from white earthenware clay in a press mould. It measures 32cm in diameter approximately. It is carved with applied ceramic pebbles, shells, wriggly bits of undergrowth and looks like a rock pool viewed from above. Shells are made separately in a handmade press mould and attached to the piece with slip. The piece has then been indented with pattern and fired to 1160°C. Coloured glaze has been rubbed into the carving and wiped away as well as being painted on to the surface area before being fired to 1080°C. A final layer of enamel on-glaze colour, lustre, mother-of-pearl and ceramic transfers have been added and heated to a temperature of 800°C to add further detail and colour. Glass marbles have been dropped into the base of the piece before firing, adding a rich watery depth to the inside. Shells and other bits of detritus have been added to the base of the work. The underside is also carved with decoration. It is signed and dated by the artist. January 2016.

Jan Byrne, Sidmouth Beach, ceramic

Why do you think having public access to local art is so important, such as through this new collection being created at Chippenham Museum?

Not everyone has the opportunity, funds or knowledge needed to investigate artwork or historical artefacts. Having a local museum enables all people of every situation to discover and enjoy these things which also could be relevant to local people as well as being of interest to the wider community and tourists who visit the area.

Why do you think North Wiltshire has such a creative culture?

Wiltshire has always been a draw for tourists and travelers alike because of its historic monuments and beautiful landscape. To live in Wiltshire as I did for many years, small museums and galleries like the Swindon Railway Museum, Trowbridge Museum or the Calne Heritage Centre to name just a few, are invaluable as a resource for teachers and pupils alike. The National Trust has a wealth of historic houses and gardens like Lacock Abbey which also has the Fox Talbot Museum, greatly benefitting the many students studying for A level Photography. As schools’ budgets are cut for the arts these museums become even more valued and deserve support within the community.

‘Spotlight On: Modern and Contemporary Art from the Collection of Chippenham Museum’ is free to visit 17 May – 19 June. Open Monday – Saturday with two ways to visit:  drop in 10am – 1pm or book a free Private View for up to six people or two households at 1pm, 2pm or 3pm. 


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> Exhibition Catalogue (£5) available in the museum shop and online