Our top picks from 2024’s Manchester Open Art Exhibition at HOME. There are 490 works in this exhibition, picking the top ones isn’t easy. In fact, it’s much more of a ‘5 pieces I like in the exhibition’, than a ‘top 5’. If we had lots of awards and lavish pots of money to give our top 5, we’d be giving it to them. But unfortunately they’ll have to do with my wispy digital praise and a theoretical pat on the back. I’d put all of these on my own walls if they were mountable.

Jane McKeating, Three Chairs in the Studio.

This one struck me quite early on in the exhibition, possibly because it was near the beginning, at number 11. But more so because of it’s kind of depressing, possibly macabre atmosphere of empty chairs in a desolate room, with a littered floor of paper, crumbs and mugs. Add stripes to the chairs and you’ve got me. I love the styling and the questions it induces for me keep me intrigued. As it’s sold I won’t be able to buy it, but I did envisage it on my wall.

Freya Wysocki, Lurch.

Freya Wysocki, Lurch. Artwork at Manchester Open Exhibition at HOME 2024

There’s nothing more fun than a furry painting made of carpet that’s smiling at you upside down. Even it’s belly button smiles. Playing with perspective, this big hairy legged, bendy, orangey-brown bikinied person jumps into a swimming pool, which for some reason has large lipped fish in it. There are drips that aren’t part of it, and it’s carpet texture makes it naff, which just enhances it’s charm. This one makes me smile and reminds me to have fun and not take things too seriously.

Ann Lines ‘Time for Tea’.

Ann Lines 'Time for Tea'. Artwork at Manchester Open Exhibition at HOME 2024

As a potter, craft is important to me in any artwork. A teapot is an object that requires one of the highest levels of craftsmanship in ceramics. This meticulously crafted teapot, not made out of ceramic, but paper, is intricately layered and delicately dainty. Clearly some great skill has gone into making this, but very different from the skills needed to make a teapot from clay. It’s time for tea and if you put tea in this teapot, it would likely turn into mulch after a short period of time. Which wouldn’t make good tea at all. Maybe not it’s intention, but it’s uselessness points me back to the ceramic teapot, which functional by nature, ends up on a shelf unused since the invention of the bleached teabag. I haven’t appreciated paper so much before.

Ella Booth-Pryce, Fridge.

For some reason, I didn’t notice one of the biggest pieces in the exhibition the first time I went round. Maybe because my piece was in front of it, or maybe I thought that’s where the curator’s put their lunch. You can buy this handmade paper fridge for the price of a real fridge, except with it’s contents included for free. There’s something about the handmade nature of this piece that appeals to me as a potter, with the time, care and attention to detail in the making process. With it’s wobbly edges and wonky writing, it is scaled naivety and imperfection, and makes me want a paper version of all my things at home too.

Simon Taylor, filet-O-Fish. Artwork at Manchester Open Exhibition at HOME 2024

Simon Taylor, Filet-O-Fish.

This last one beamed out to me, you can tell its a painting, yet it seems so real, that the bun a crumb texture make me salivate. You know it’s a good painting when it appeals to your desires and evokes deep emotions. In all it’s deliciousness it makes me hungry and there’s just something funny about that.

So that’s my top 5 from the Manchester Open Art Exhibition. If you haven’t seen the exhibition, or, like me, you missed many pieces the first time you went, then it’s on until the end of April. There more details about Manchester Open here.

Striped layered clay nerikomi bowl handmade by ceramicist Sam Andrew