With the passing of Morgen Hall at the all too young age of fifty five, the ceramics world has lost one of the most skillful, passionate and well-loved potters of her generation. For thirty years Morgen was a central presence in the vibrant Cardiff ceramics and arts scene. She came to Wales in 1983 to study for her Masters degree in ceramics in what was then the Faculty of Art and Design at South Glamorgan Institute of Higher Education (later to become UWIC and now Cardiff Metropolitan University). She arrived in Cardiff from Gray's School of Art, Aberdeen, although by birth she was American, born and raised in Northern California. In 1973 her adventurous parents sold their restaurant in Mendocino and moved to Scotland after buying a small working farm and the love of food, and more than that, a delight in sharing food as a token of friendship and goodwill remained with her for the rest of her life.
I first met Morgen in 1998 when we were both appointed as Ceramics Research Fellows at UWIC. It was the beaming smile that you encountered first and then remembered for ever. Afterwards it was the little gestures – the tangerine or the Tunnocks caramel biscuit left waiting for you on your desk when you arrived in the morning – that spoke of her warm and generous spirit. For many years she taught at Cardiff Open Art School and of course the students adored her, benefiting from her years of practical experience and her incisive critiques, as well as her boundless optimism and the occasional piece of fruit or chocolate to cheer things along.
Consummate and dedicated potter as she was, you couldn't help but feel that Morgen had got her priorities right; ceramics was all well and good, but in the end it was people and their enjoyment of life that mattered. Indeed that approach to life energised and gave direction to the pots that she made. The banana bowls, the cabaret tea services and the couscous dishes, all painstakingly crafted with meticulous attention to detail, firmly delivered the (actually very serious) message that eating should be fun, art should be fun and living should be fun. Against the grain of the times there was nothing frivolous or ironic about this attitude and the resulting joyous body of work. There was an authenticity about the pots and their maker that is rarely encountered these days. She never let go of the gentle but urgent call to relish fully the delights of what is set in front of us. Her pots will now continue that good work.
Morgen was at home in Cardiff, and indeed in Wales. We once got talking about the Welsh language and the word people often use to wish one another goodbye – 'hwyl' (pronounced something like 'hooyl'). This lovely word has many overtones: you should sing with hwyl, you must cheer on your favourite team with hwyl and when you throw yourself wholeheartedly into any activity you do so with hwyl. It is a word that speaks of spirit and enthusiasm and also simple, uncomplicated fun. Morgen was delighted to hear that for Welsh people 'hwyl' is a favourite word of farewell. All we can do now is say –'hwyl, Morgen'.
She is survived by her partner Rob, her mother Marlene, her brothers Rand and Dana and sister Glory.
Prof. Jeffrey Jones, Emeritus Professor of Ceramics, Cardiff Metropolitan University.