At the end of last term, we were set an interdisciplinary academic unit called The Bigger Picture, in which I was teamed up with four students from other programmes: 2 Graphic Designers, 1 Architect and a Product Designer. In commemoration of 500 years of Thomas More’s Utopia, we were asked to come up with a response to two questions, one set by the course, and a second formulated by ourselves in response to a series of 6 keynote speeches by external experts from diverse backgrounds:
How can my individual area of design practice help to realise a different tomorrow?
How can Flexible Space be used to bring Positive Change to a Community?
Over a 4 week period we were required to prepare a group presentation our ideas, live, including an engaging interactive element. Plus write an individual essay. For our interactive element, we gave each of our 50-stong audience a small ball of clay, and asked them to hold it behind their backs and then gave them 60 seconds to model an elephant without looking, just by touch. The result was a highly energized audience and a herd of delightfully wonky mini elephants. It was an exercise in the importance and pleasure of making things by hand.
So two exhibition Private Views showing my work happened this week, within two days of each other: my Votive Feet were unveiled at The London Bridge Clay Project at Southwark Cathedral on Sunday night with a talk about the whole project by the wonderful Diane Eagles, and the next evening Craftsmanship Alone is Not Enough at the The Lethaby Gallery at Central St Martins, celebrating 100 years of ceramics being taught at CSM. For the latter one, I was chuffed to have my A1 Life plate from a 1st Year project included in a wall display called China Painting for Ladies, showcasing 39 plates by various artists, tutors and students past and present. These plates will be auctioned off to raise money for the Royal Crown Derby Charitable Trust and to contribute to material costs for present students. Click here if you want to bid for mine!
Alison Cooke & Duncan Hooson
Me with Steph Buttle
Alison and I
A couple of days after our ACWU event, my fellow exhibitors, Alison Cooke and Amy Leung were interviewed by London Live, about the exhibition. Click here to view it, and share it on social media if you are so inclined! Alison and Amy did us proud!
By the way the The London Bridge Clay Project will be in Southwark Cathedral until 5th February, so do pop in. There are postcards of my Votive Feet for sale in the gift shop.
Meanwhile, back to Craftmanship Alone is Not Enough, my plate is the one that looks like Archway A1 Gyratory signage. Stands out from the crowd? My thanks to the iconic UK road signage graphics by Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinneir which have been described as the corporate identity of Great Britain. My plate design was one of a series exploring key moments in my life lived for some reason more of less exclusively somewhere along the A1 road. Strangely, this has turned into a commemorative plate, as the Archway gyratory has been completely overhauled in the last 6 months, and is no longer a roundabout!
And on Monday night, my work was also being exhibited in a third London gallery around the corner from college at Pangolin London in Kings Place. My EaTin dishes were still in the Pangolin windows, having been there since November, although that exhibition came down the next day. But who cares! On Monday evening my work was in three galleries! I am hoping it is the shape of things to come!
The London Bridge Clay Project, Southwark Cathedral, London
January 9th – 5 Feb 2017
The London Bridge Clay Project exhibition opens next week. It will be the first real public art exhibition that I have taken part in, not related to Central St Martins. Thanks to my comrades at the wonderful ceramic collective ACWU (The Associated Clay Workers Union) for including me in the project, we are now just days away from unveiling the work to the public. And thanks also to the wonderful people at Southwark Cathedral for inviting us to show in their Link, visitor entrance hall, a stone’s throw away from the site where the clay was dug up from under the London Bridge station. It is a free exhibition of work inspired by the lives and history of the London Bridge area.
The clay we used dates from 54 million years ago when dinosaurs walked the earth, and has not seen the light of day, until now. Its provenance is fascinating and awe-inspiring, but is not ideal for making ceramic work with, as it tends to crack when fired. My piece, “Oh gods, I think we have shot ourselves in the foot with Brexit” is no exception, but I feel that the inherent fragility and dis-function is appropriate to the subject matter.
You may remember my blog post last summer about this project, in which I talked about using a Roman foot-shaped oil lamp, that was dug up by archaeologists during the preparatory ground works for the renovation of London Bridge Station, as the starting point for my inspiration. The project has moved on since then, and become more current and urgent. A post-referendum cry to the gods for help.
The morning after the EU referendum, I woke up shattered by the Brexit result. The only way I could deal with my shock and anger was to channel it into my work.
Roman Sandled oil lamp
Gun shot wound in foot, and severed toes
I made the third foot also using the London Bridge clay, and I see it as an extension to my thinking about votive offerings made to the gods to ask for healing. The final piece going on display in Southwark, is made up of the three feet, and expresses my view that we have committed an act of self-harm by voting to leave the EU. If the Leave voters and Theresa May get their way, I fully anticipate that it will lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom, hence my severing of the toes representing Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Romans were the consummate Europeans. These three elements come together as an architypal offering to the gods for healing in this divided country.
Do come down and take a look, once you have recovered from your New Year’s hang over! It’s free, Southwark Cathedral is wonderful (and warm), and just next to Borough Market too, so perfect for a spot of lunch!The show is on for 4 weeks, but Diane Eagles of ACWU will be speaking about the genesis of the project and how we persuaded Network Rail to donate the clay to us, on Sunday 15th January 3pm in the Visitor Centre at Southwark Cathedral. Places are limited do please click here to book your seat.
The London Bridge Clay Project, is supported by the The Craft Pottery Charitable Trust. With many thanks to Network Rail and Costain. All photos Monica Wells/Network Rail
Another day, another exhibition! My most recent project at college, a 4-week whirlwind, exploring slip casting in eco once-fired clay designed to manufacture with reduced carbon emissions, is now on display at the Pangolin London gallery at Kings Place til 13th January.
EaTin: not Take-away, are a series of colourful and playful stacking oven-to-table dishes for convivial home-cooked meals.
Appropriated from foil take-away containers, EaTin are behavioural change dishes, or conversation starters, aiming to address the increasing reliance on ready-made meals and encourage a return to home-cooking and shared meals.
The printed texts challenge users and highlight issues; “S’up?” playfully links the action ‘to sup’ with the street slang for asking how someone is. Sharing family meals has been shown to improve teenage mental health as problems are aired and issues discussed round the dinner table. Other slogans included: Today’s Special, Made @ Home, Made by Us.
Stoke on Trent based, Endeka generously sponsored our project with ample supplies of their special EcoTherm Clay, that is able to be Raw Glazed, and so once fired, reducing the carbon emissions significantly in the production process. Most often used to manufacture hard-wearing dishes used in the catering industry, my response was to design a series of stacking oven-to-table dishes in varying colours. But I wanted to make a point too. Hence the family-size, takeaway container shape and witty slogans aimed to get people thinking about the benefits of sharing a meal together. The project got me making miniature silk screens to direct print the slogans on the leather-hard cast dishes, mold making to capture the detail of the foil corners and edges, colouring the slip body and raw glazing on damp clay. Lots of firsts!
I seem to be crossing another Rubicon. My ceramics are now available to buy via Made In Arts London, (MiAL) a not-for-profit enterprise, promoting and selling art and design by UAL students and recent graduates. That includes me! I was so excited when my work was chosen by the selection panel to be included in the MiAL curated collection.
So if you have friends who enjoy spotting and collecting emerging artists and design talent please share this post with them. Or you fancy buying one of my pieces, ‘an early work’ then please click here and take a look at my new shop window. They are all one-off ceramic sculptures. The prices include the MiAL commission and delivery. Learning to sell my work will be one of the most important skills I hope to graduate from Central St Martins with … so please watch this space, and let me know what you think.
Last week was extraordinary. A 3 day whistle-stop tour of the manufactories of Stoke-on-Trent, the heartland of British Ceramics. We got a unique perspective on the history, the heritage that still stands the test of time, current best practice and the future of our industry. Starting with Emma Bridgewater, who was amazingly generous in her candor, sharing her experience of setting up a hand-made ceramics empire in the dying industrial embers of Stoke-on-Trent over 30 years ago. Go Emma! To a tour of Endeka Ceramics, which has been producing clay for the industry on its present site since the industrial revolution. Endeka are kindly sponsoring our next project by providing the Second Year CSM students with their eco once-fired clay and glaze, to get us to think about reducing our carbon footprint in our production methods. This was followed by the impressive Wedgwood factory, museum, shop and design studio, plus Johnson’s Tiles – ceramic making on a gargantuan scale, and last but not least Armitage Shanks / Ideal Standard who are steadily robotising their factories and producing 100’s of thousands of ‘pans’ and sinks each week.
The numbers of people involved in Stoke’s production is dwindling. For the big boys, robotisation is the only way to survive. Ideal Standard and Johnson’s tiles employ around 35 people to run their factory floors in any given shift, with the factory running 24 hrs a day 362 days of the year. While Emma Bridgewater’s USP is based on the handmade, and employs around 300 workers who run 3 shifts a day, manipulating the plaster casts and hand decorating the ware with hand-carved sponges to her English cottage-inspired style.
We got home exhausted but bubbling with ideas for Manufactoring and Materiality. Watch this space …. Looks like my project will be a rye challenge to Take-Away food culture, and reflect on the importance of sharing home cooked meal – all in ceramics of course.
We had been set a brief to come up with porcelain giftware and objects that could be used in the planned Jingdezhen Porcelain Cultural Exchange Centre, in a new development planned for the birthplace of porcelain production, Jingdezhen in China. Yourun, our clients were keen that we develop designs that would encouraged creative playfulness with porcelain, were these pieces to be manufactured by the master craftsmen of Jingdezhen.
My response was Serendipity, a slip cast coat peg and set of door pulls and handles that explored the tension between Perfection and Imperfection, sleek finishes and rough ones that can be achieved when you contrast the sharp lines of slip casting with the roughness of clay snapped at the leatherhard stage.
Snapped clay from earlier project
Richness of snapped clay
Cast with a bullet end
Unique roughness snapped at leatherhard
Snap off end when leatherhard
Montage showing pegs with different colour tips
Line blend glaze test
Gradation of colour along pegs
Glaze to soften snapped clay
My project was designed to be contemporary, playful and bridge a cultural divide between craftsmen that seek perfection and those who embrace the happy accidents inherent in ceramics.
I was thrilled when I won a prize of £500 for my project. Thank you Yourun, for the provocation, generosity and opportunity.
Over the last 6 months, I have been grappling with the challenging question of what is the point of attempting to sculpt portraits in an era of 3D scanners and printers. After all, these amazing machines can make exact facsimiles of complex shapes including humans, showing all the tiny details, like eyelashes and wrinkles. How can I or any practicing portrait artist possibly compete? This summer, I had a go, taking part in a 3 day workshop with Portrait Artist Hazel Reeves at Morely College. She was full of top techniques of how to capture a likeness. See my rendition of Anne below.
But it seems that the Royal Academy is thinking about this challenge too. A few weeks ago I noticed an article about the public being invited to be 3D Scanned by The Veronica Scanner, the high tech brainchild of Madrid-based Factum Arte, located this week at the Royal Academy. All the time slots was all sold out when I tried to book but was so excited yesterday when I received an email saying I had won a competition to be included in the cohort of people being recorded.
The scan took all of 4 seconds, and despite my best efforts to think about how I would like to compose my face, when put in the scanning pod, my face went into a rictus stare. Reminiscent of the stress of being in a passport photo-booth, only this time 8 cameras on a mechanical arm whizzed round the pod taking 96 photographs of me from all angles. Factum Arte will email the digital file of me in the coming days. I am now mulling over how I can explore the boundaries between exact printed portraits and hand modelling. There is a ceramic printer at college so the first step when terms starts will be to print and fire the Mini-Me.
Watch this space!
Me & Veronica Scanner
Head milled in wood
Printed in chocolate!
Padre Justo Gallego printed at various different scales
Roman inspired feet, for the ACWU London Bridge Project
So I am associate member of of ACWU – the Associated Clay Workers Union. A wonderful collective of non-functional ceramic artists who are come together to make joint site specific projects in unusual settings. As a Ceramic student I am still on the fringe of this budding organisation, but I was delighted that they have included me in a project they are organising with Transport for London at London Bridge. The wonderful Alison Cooke and Diane Eagles approached the contractors responsible for the renovations of London Bridge Station and asked if we might have some clay dug from under the station, to use to make site specific work, based on the history of this area of London. They agreed and screwed down 30m into the earth below the station, with one of those enormous pilling drivers and brought us up some virgin clay that is 50 million years old! A successful grant application to London Potters Association brought ACWU £500 with which to hire a van to collect the clay, and buy a box and sieve for all the ACWU artists to enable them to transport and process the clay. Even after seiving and drying on a bat in the spring sunshine, the clay is very sticky, and quite tricky to work with.
Soaking the rock hard clay in water for a few weeks made it maliable enough to sieve and make ready for modelling.
The archaeological dig that took place before building work at London Bridge began, revealed a rich history dating back to Roman Times. In fact an oil lamp in the shape of a foot was found under the construction site. Which is my starting point. I am thinking of giving my foot nail polish, with a nod to gender issues we face today. I will keep you posted as to how the project progresses.
Greek foot from the Elgin Marbles
ACWU is working to exhibit the work in London Bridge Sation at some point late summer or early autumn. I will keep you updated as to when this will take place!