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Mo Jupp

My connection to Mo was as a student at Middlesex University in the dog days of the ceramics course during the 90's. He was my personal tutor for four years. Diminutive of stature and blinking in the funny way he did, we all came to love him as a tutor.

Middlesex then,  had a reputation  for slip casting and mold making, and I was awful at both! Instead I had more of an interest in sculpture rather than functional tableware. Mo seemed to take an interest in my progress. He was very perceptive of individual students' abilities and offered guidance without ever dominating the discussion. He could be critical of course,  but in such a way that was constructive and not "dead ended." 

At times he played down his reputation ,when we  first year students twigged what a great artist he really was. He simply claimed that he was a big fish in a small pond unlike his heroes - Giacometti or Modigliani. Modestly he said his income nearly all came from teaching. Yet here was a guy with work in the V & A- who had been taught by Hans Coper!

 He “proudly” never owned his own kiln and was often seen working alongside us  students in the evenings. He fashioned his female sculptures from the university clay supply  coating them in casting slip straight from the blungers. 

Mo was  concerned that his work had reached "silly" prices and so made chawans  or cast figures which were   affordable-  he didn't just want to sell to rich collectors. He also made no secret of his belief in socialism.

 My fondest  memories of him are at the end of my time at Middlesex. After a particularly bad day of raku firing, i came into the studio with a jug I'd salvaged and I must have looked rather crest fallen. The glaze hadn't worked or it was underfired and quite honestly this piece was going to get the hammer. Mo  clapped eyes on the pot, at once picked it up  and exclaimed appoplectically -" What are you going to do with this? Are you going to chuck it? You fucking idiot!  it's a fucking nice piece!" (his words by the way) before showing it to Emmanuel Cooper who enthused rather more politely.  I shall hold on to this mental image of Mo and Emmanuel for as long as I shall live! He had an affectionate rapport with Emmanuel once phoning him up on my behalf whist Emmmanuel was at the offices of Ceramic Review,  to get a matte grey glaze recipe for me to use on one of my jugs....  "Emmanuel you old Queen how are you? " What a character!

At the end of our  degree course, the tutors gathered  in a huddle in course leader Paul Astbury's office to slug out grading.  I  well  recall a fellow student ushering me into the studio next to the office whilst Emmanuel Cooper and in particular Mo- argued my case.  
 I wasn't perhaps going to get top marks from some of the other tutors.... There was quite a commotion going on....But somehow between them Mo and Emmanuel seemed to swing things in my favour. I am still grateful to this day!

Mo saw something in me, as I am sure he did countless other students. Looking back  I had a bit of a rough time at Middlesex but I grafted and came out with a 2:1-  it still means a great deal.  Despite his encouraging me to go to the RCA to get on the ceramics course, an interview I categorically failed, his choice words and encouragement during my time as a student served as a motivation which continue to  resonate with me. If only he could know how he touched people's lives, I am sure he would be proud, but then again- he was quite a modest man I think and he would probably play it down. 

After my degree  course at Middlesex had finished,  ex students were generally allowed to go in for a term and use the facilities a few days a week for free.  I still had contact with Mo in about 1999. He supported my application for the Society of Designer Craftsmen  membership too. I didn't get in. The then head of the society ( I won't name names- but it was Kenneth Clarke)  hated my portfolio (too modern - too "kinky!"). Mo knew him and just said "Don't worry about him, he's a bitter old bastard, Probably jealous." 

Mo Jupp...... gone- but not forgotten. 

Footnote: The best piece of advice Mo ever gave me was that he observed me working intuitively. He always stressed that meaning should develop from the making process and not the other way around, otherwise he felt it would lead to pretension. I still believe he's right. 

For more information check out Mo's website run by Christine Jupp. There is a superb article by David Whiting. 


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