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Today marks the tenth anniversary of Blue Room, Bluecoat’s inclusive arts project for learning disabled artists. Head of Engagement, Bec ...

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Artistic Director at the Bluecoat Bryan Biggs pays tribute to Julia Carter Preston

The Bluecoat was saddened to hear of Julia’s death at the age of 85. She occupies an important position in the Bluecoat’s colourful history as a cultural centre in Liverpool, having been a resident artist here for many years and being connected to the genesis of the arts centre through her father, the artist Edward Carter Preston and his involvement in the Sandon Studios Society, whose efforts secured the building for the arts in 1927.

Julia was a brilliant and highly-regarded ceramicist, developing her own ‘sgraffito’ style that was utterly unique in its design, an intricate blending of lettering, imagery and decoration. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Bluecoat Society of Arts in 1977 she was commissioned to create a beautiful circular plaque that was set into the gate at the College Lane entrance to the Bluecoat garden, next to the Display Centre, where she was a frequent exhibitor.

Having an artist of such repute in the Bluecoat was an inspiration to the many other artists who have had studios in the building over the years, whether working in crafts, design or fine art. And, with the door to her studio which overlooked the Bluecoat garden invariably open, she was not an artist who shut her self away, but made the most of this oasis in the centre of Liverpool, sometimes working outdoors in the summer.

Together with her husband Michael Pugh Thomas (who sadly passed away in 2011), Julia contributed enormously to the life of the Bluecoat, especially during the decades before the building was closed for its recent capital development. We had hoped that she would return to her pottery studio when we reopened in 2008, however ill health made this impossible.

Although a connection to the very beginnings of the Bluecoat as an arts centre has been broken with Julia’s passing, she will be remembered with fondness and her exquisite art work will remain as testimony to a truly exceptional talent.


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Liverpool’s centre for the contemporary arts, Bluecoat showcases talent across visual art, music, dance, live art and literature. As the most ...

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