A collaborative, creative writing project between a writer and 3 makers.
It starts with a conversation. The writer and the maker meet where the work is made (home, studio, workshop) and together they explore the objects, handle them, react to them, talk about ideas and inspiration, anything that is relevant to the maker and how they work.
After this meeting, the writer creates two pieces of writing. The first is along the lines of a traditional artist’s statement, drawing out aspects of the maker’s practice from their own words and ideas, along with her own interpretation of the context of the work. The second piece of writing is the writer’s response to the work, a more poetic piece of creative writing: emotive, evocative and descriptive. Writing that celebrates the power of objects to affect and to inspire.
The aim of this project was to allow the writer, Melody Vaughan, to develop a method for working with emerging makers, to produce different styles of writing inspired by their work. The results are a shared product, text which the makers, who perhaps do not have the time to spend writing longer pieces, or who find it challenging to put their ideas into words, can use to promote their practice. The motivation behind the project is to create new writing and to develop a framework which benefits and supports everyone involved.
Harriet Elkerton would like to envelop you in a handcrafted existence. Her objects, with their unassuming simplicity, are designed for living, for enhancing everyday pleasures. Natural materials, plants and food play a key role in this lifestyle; Harriet uses these elements in her display, on hand-constructed shelves and tables, suggesting how easily these pieces will fit into a domestic environment. It is important to her that people are “getting something real”, that these objects will happily take on any purpose they are put to, and give you enjoyment while you use them.
Harriet’s functional objects are slip-cast porcelain, with unctuous glossy white glazed interiors. They undulate and they ripple and they move, but they are also still quite crisp; there is a clean, modern aspect to them. Each piece is slightly different and this irregularity is intentional – Harriet’s use of paper to create the models establishes an inherent instability in the process. The moisture in the plaster causes the paper to buckle, to stretch, leaving unpredictable shapes in the final mould. She deliberately leaves the evidence of construction visible: the seam lines, the torn pieces of tape. Once the porcelain is cast, the kiln has its way with the material too; the waves encourage deforming and movement in the final form of the object. Harriet sets up these moments of unexpectedness, to get a handmade feel, an individuality, from repetition: “I like having the process translated, so you can see from stage one all the way through. I like that people still see them as paper in the end.” There is a rhythm and cadence to these objects, especially when they are grouped together. Relationships and familial traits become visible – the back and forth of surface and form, of the hand of the maker and the unpredictable nature of materials. And, secretly, there is an underlying structure and order to Harriet’s pieces. Mathematical ratios underpin her choice of sizes, creating harmony within the collection.
Her decorative ware, which Harriet displays nestled amongst the functional pieces, explores the interaction of materials and craft processes, and interrogates the purpose of tools and functional items. She combines found objects, such as shards of rusted iron or abandoned splinters of wood, with purpose-made porcelain additions, skillfully uniting them with cotton, leather or wire, through stitch, wrapping and other craft methods of attachment. The inheritance of these objects is discernable in her functional vessels; there is a language of deliberate skill speaking through her work and a desire to keep visible the hand of the maker.
Creative Response to Harriet’s work
Vessels and travels
Tall garden of vases, reaching upwards, curving inwards
hugging and diverging forms,
sinewy, stretched. Shadows pulled out like sticks of rock.
[In a winter garden by the sea I saw ferns
wrapped up and coddled from the frost.
Their shapes suggested by the white, creased fabric.]
Bright reflections, the inside of this pot like molten glass,
soon will be unseen, filled with green growth.
I hold the soft stony roughness of porcelain left bare.
[The light is achingly bright, bouncing off the building’s
hewn stone, whitewashed walls.
A blue so rarely seen, surrounds everything. I search for it still.]
Gentle pour-lines curve in this lily pad platter,
edges ripple softly, crimped pastry relaxing,
expectant and waiting.
[Flat unevenness, out to the mountain’s crinkly edges.
It took days to drive here, and now distance means nothing.
Lost in an expanse, lost in white.]
Sophie Southgate loves the transformative power of installation art, how the experience of being immersed and surrounded by the idea of the artist changes the perception of the viewer, and how elements of colour, light and space combine to alter people’s sense of reality at that moment in time, in that particular place.
Sophie creates sumptuous objects that achieve this sensation on a smaller scale. With their exuberant bursts of colour and intriguing geometric elements, they are absorbing, joyful, confusing, complex. Vessels made in clay that defy the nature of a vessel to hold, and challenge the aesthetic of the material. Colour and negative space are used to enhance the sculptural feel of the pieces, to highlight how they sit within a space, how they interact with each other, how the viewer perceives them. Spraying slip onto the cast forms produces a gorgeous granular surface, saturated with flat, matte colour. It is a surface that is incredibly tactile and unusual- with its electric hues it can easily be mistaken for other materials, and this uncertainty delights her: “I enjoy them as objects; they’re everything I want out of a ceramic piece – they’re tactile, they’re ambiguous, they’re curious.”
Sophie’s sculptural pieces look effortless, as if spontaneously formed, ceramic geodes cracked open to reveal glorious treasure: their shapes and colours, like mineral forms, astounding and surprising, hard to distinguish as natural or manmade. And, much like crystals or gems, these pieces have been the subjects of intense energy, forces and time, transmuting the soft, plastic clay into sharp, durable forms. Sophie strives for perfection at every stage of the making, and there is a gradual build-up of time-consuming, controlled processes and techniques. The result of this care and attention to detail is a flawless, precision object. In fact, it is Sophie’s wish that she, as the maker, is hardly visible within the finished piece; “I don’t want there to be any mark of me on it, so I’m refining my processes and my pieces to the point where I almost want them to look manufactured, but I don’t mind if the material leaves a sensation of itself.”
Paradoxically, this desire to remove herself from view only highlights her skill and complete mastery of her materials. Yet whereas she insists that every aspect of her involvement with the clay is perfect, she respectfully allows the material to exist in its own way. She responds to the natural tendencies of clay to inspire new developments within the work, such as a collection with fluid, marbled surfaces, inspired by colour inconsistencies in the slip. This slight softening of the objects’ appearance opened up possibilities like pastel hues and tantalising gold leaf, and led Sophie to explore more organic forms within the pieces.
Drawn from her sculptural work, and inheriting similar qualities, Sophie’s functional range of objects allows her to share her work with a larger audience, creating beautiful objects that are also highly practical.
Creative Response to Sophie’s work
a hop, a skip, a jump
of geometric joy
bouncing back and forth
between the bowls.
platonic solids, dipping down
inside the planes
the bright, bright hues.
Anya Miles is a jeweller who composes in materials, creating collaged objects from the results of her tests and experiments. These assemblages of experimentation, considered and crafted constructions, function as wearable sculptures. For Anya their proximity to the wearer is crucial: “having it on the body, having it close, is important to me.” Jewellery’s association with the body, how it occupies a space of personal closeness, allows her to reflect on the translation of sensory experiences into awareness and memory.
Her recent collection, Ipseity, created as part of the Artist in Residence programme at Birmingham City University, focused on the urban environment as a site of conflicting emotions and states. Adjusting to a new city, Anya explored making as a method for claiming the place as her own, for ordering it and making sense of it. Experiments in enamelling and forming, creating texture through mark-making in metal, became compositional elements of the final structures. Vessels form an integral part of the work as “they explore a space both inside and outside, suggest barriers, emptiness, openness and opportunity.” These slightly contradictory elements, of loneliness and possibility, reflect the experiences of a new place, of not belonging, of being kept out, and yet the excitement of the new, the adventure.
Anya works through exploration. She takes a technique, a material process, and plays. Design decisions emerge through this interaction, from the unexpected and serendipitous outcomes. The samples that are created find their way into final forms, valued for their ability to lure, to entice into touching, examining. But the other senses are not forgotten: the sense of smell, so closely linked to remembrance, and the ability of sound to transport us, are aspects of the work that Anya hopes to develop in upcoming projects. She is fascinated by narratives of disintegration or disappearance, and how objects worn close to the skin might engage with these processes.
An important aspect to her practice is the act of making with other people, and the role that making can play in allowing people to tell the stories about themselves, to express parts of themselves they may find hard to articulate. She works regularly with the charity Crisis, delivering mixed media craft workshops. The response of participants echoes her own experience, that making can be a therapeutic process offering a creative safe space. Collective making, and collaboration, informs Anya’s making practice and provides the context for her teaching practice.
Creative Response to Anya’s work
I trace the line of squared silver
around the perimeter of this structure,
aubergine enamel overhangs overlaps
the dry worn green below,
textural planes like walls
and windows and I am picturing it
emerging like an architect’s model
for an abstract modernist building,
from this angle the construction is framed
by an aperture, captured by a frame
and held for a moment, complete.
All text Copyright © 2016 Melody Vaughan