WHEN Pyramid Gallery owner Terry Brett asked Lesley Birch to curate a show based around her paintings and monoprints, she chose fellow York artist Emily Stubbs to work with her.

From Thursday evening to July 1, they present Sandsend: Pots & Paintings by Emily Stubbs & Lesley Birch, an exhibition of paintings, ceramics and glass, inspired by sea, sand, coast and cliffs,

Lesley and Emily are among 19 artists and makers at PICA Studios, a shared space on the ground-floor of an 18th century printworks in Grape Lane, York. Influenced by wild environments, Lesley's paintings of land, sea and skyscapes have an impressionist, poetic quality, expressing her feelings and ideas about time and place; ceramicist Emily is among the founders of the York& art fair and her work has been highlighted in the Guardian at the Ceramic Art London show.

"We're both founding members of the studios and find ourselves bouncing ideas off each other, as we have an affinity with tone and texture and love each other’s work, so it seemed natural to exhibit together. We’re really excited about it," says Lesley. "I’ll be exhibiting vibrant colourful paintings from Sandsend to dramatic, moody weather paintings from Islay in Scotland; Emily is showing new coastal-inspired textural pieces."

Together they are laying out the Pyramid exhibition room, using their own work to set the sea-and-sand theme and then incorporating other artists' work, mainly contemporary glass by Peter Layton, Joseph Harrington, Will Shakspeare, Jade Pinnell, Charonne Ruth, Crispian Heath and Dreya Bennett. Such is the proliferation of glass pieces, the show will spill out into the back exhibition room too.

Terry Brett, who has been trying to persuade Lesley to mount a full Pyramid show for many years, says: "We always have Lesley's work on display, but she has always been too busy to do a full exhibition. This is a very pleasing moment for me and I'm delighted that she and Emily will decorate the main exhibition space."

Lesley grew up in Glasgow, enjoying family weekends at Loch Lomond and summer holidays spent on the wild west coast of Scotland. "I think this memory of water and shorelines is the reason I’m a landscape painter today," she says. "Dad was an architect and as a five-year-old I loved drawing with him at his desk. My mother painted in gouache and took me out plein-air painting in my teens."

After graduating from the University of Glasgow with an MA in English literature and music, she became a professional musician and English teacher before embracing her love of painting, working mainly in oils and acrylics too. "I use all sizes of brushes and palette knives too," she says. "I can create texture as well as translucency and rich layers of colours by mixing oil paint with the medium of cold wax."

Sandsend, near Whitby, is her favourite place, even lending its name to the exhibition. "It’s the expanse of the bay which, even in wild weather, has a calm mystery to it. And the headland is very appealing as a shape to paint," she says.

She is equally drawn to Whitby, Bridlington and Flamborough, with its "weird stack shapes which are hugely inspiring" "I love the Lakes and Cornwall too and I’ve recently been painting on the Scottish island of Islay," she says.

Working out of two studios, one at home, the other at PICA, Lesley combines her painting with printmaking, where she experiments with a mix of monotype, drypoint and collagraph.

Her mantra for her creativity is: "I see, I hear, I feel…I paint". "The emotional connection is the main thing for me," she explains. "I always carry a sketchbook. I draw and paint with pencil and watercolour, quickly and instinctively. Sounds around me are just as important as colours and shapes, as well as the feel of the air. When I’m in the studio, I try to enter back into the ‘feeling’ of place and recapture that moment."

Co-curator Emily, who was raised in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, had her first encounter with clay on a foundation course at Dewsbury College. "I instantly fell in love with this tactile, expressive medium and so I studied ceramics at the University of Wales in Cardiff," she says.

She now works predominantly with earthenware clays, slips and glazes. "I love the vibrancy achieved with the glazes at this lower firing temperature," she says.

Specialising in hand building and slip-casting techniques, she says: "I love colour and mix my own shades using slips, stains, underglazes and glazes. Each vessel is unique as each is hand painted with colours mixed specifically for that piece.

"Texture is massively important in my work. I'm fascinated with creating contrasts between smooth and textured areas, torn and cut edges, glazed and unglazed surfaces.

"I've always been fascinated by the juxtaposition of contrasting elements, placing them side by side, such as glazed and unglazed, patterned and unpatterned, and leaving it up to the viewer to establish connections and impose a meaning."

Emily enjoys making and painting large vessels. "The surface area is like a canvas to work on and I can create expressive and gestural marks with large brush strokes. They have a lot of movement in their surfaces, giving a really dramatic look.

"Working with clay is very therapeutic. The very nature of the material means that you have to be patient and take your time. The tactile qualities are a great stress relief. It's a great medium to work in to escape from the world outside the studio."

At Pyramid, she will be exhibiting sculptural ceramics prompted by the weather and textural landscapes of Sandsend and other coastal settings. "Frequent trips to the coast as a child sparked a long-lasting fascination with the sea and its surrounding landscapes," says Emily. "Inspiration comes from the ever-changing weather, from beautiful, deep hues of blue sky to tumultuous grey stormy waves; yellow broken sun beams across the surface of the water to jagged rocky shorelines. For this exhibition I've tried to capture these colours and textures, placing contrasting elements side by side, creating a narrative across the surface of the vessels."

She and Lesley will be present at this evening's opening from 6pm to 8.30pm and will run two workshops on May 26 and 27 where you can make a painting and a pot in a day, with more details available from lesleybirchartist.com/workshop.html or from Pyramid Gallery on 01904 641187.

Sandsend: Pots & Paintings – Lesley Birch and Emily Stubbs, Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York, Thursday evening to July 1. Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm; some Sundays, 12.30pm to 4.30pm; check first.