A collection of rugged ceramics inspired by the Conwy estuary and nearby beaches has won a local artist the Gold Medal for Craft and Design at the National Eiseddfod of Wales held at Llanrwst.

The honour was bestowed on Llandudno ceramicist Bev Bell-Hughes who was also awarded the full monetry prize of £5,000.

Bev Bell-Hughes is no stanger to the National Eisteddfod either – her artwork has been exhibited in Y Lle Celf a number of times over the years. And following her perseverence she’s scooped the prize in her own county.

The selectors Manon Awst, Bruce Haines and Teleri Lloyd Jones responded to to the timeless nature of this ceramcist’s work.

Said selector and craft and design specialist, Teleri Lloyd-Jones:

While it is undoubtedly a cliché to comment on clay’s connection to the earth, in this context it is worth repeating. Surfaces are difficult, craggy and cratered. Each piece is resolutely abstract and yet whispers of forms and textures that we know. 

This is no imitation game. These pieces don’t re-repackage nature for our delight. Instead they are re-enactments, performed by Bell-Hughes and her process, pushing and persuading the clay into form.

Whilst walking on Deganwy and Morfa beaches, Beb Bell-Hughes sees marks left in the sand by receding tides, the seaweed, the erosion of the hard surfaces of shells or rocks. Later on an idea for a new artwork will form. And she’ll work directly with the clay with no pre-conceived plan, pinching and squeezing, adding new materials until craters and holes appear. The end result captures and distills the very essence of coastal landscapes.

Said Teleri Lloyd-Jones again:

“The ceramicist’s shapes and textures are primary, they are felt first and foremost. This may be true of all craftspeople as they twist their material into form, but for Bev Bell-Hughes even more so as she has been partially-sighted since birth. Such a detail doesn’t define her work, of course. Her process is intuitive, working the clay without preconceived notion. What we responded to, as selectors, was her commitment to explore these forms, a truly deserving creative conviction.”

The Conwy County 2019 Gold Medal for Craft and Design is given in memory of Iona Coetmor, Pandy Tudur and the £5,000 given by James Pantyfedwen Foundation.

Bev Bell-Hughes is Chair of the North Wales Potters Association, Disability Arts Cymru Trustee and a member of Makers Guild Wales.

Y Lle Celf is realised in partnership with Arts Council of Wales