July 30th 2014. The Room! New Project!

Friend and painter/printmaker Jenny Graham has been successful in her bid to Arts Council England for her project ‘The Room’. I will be joining her, and Chris Dunseath, (sculptor), Ralph Hoyte (poet) and Richard Tomlinson (photographer/moving image) to spend the next year rootling around in the stores and archives at Somerset Heritage in Taunton, alongside their great team of curators. The rootlings will culminate in an installation at the Museum of Somerset in 2016. There will be a project blog soon.
SO, I have been ruminating about collections. I don’t think of myself as a maker of collections, but I realise, I have unconsciously put together a collection of wonky pots over the past 15 years, which live on the windowsill in my studio. There are one or two things which are not pots, but which relate somehow, (and there is one bowl which is anything but wonky but makes a great foil for the others). Here is my windowsill.

studio windowsill
studio windowsill

You can’t see the individual objects in any detail here, but the reason I wanted to post a picture of my collection was more to do with their background stories than to show them off and say why I like them. Makes a change from always being primarily visual. So here are the stories. The numbers start with the little bottles along the top, and go clockwise and then into the middle, finishing with the Michael Fairfax sculpture.

1 – 5
Rejected bottles and pot collected from the debris of John Butler and John McKenzie’s wood fired kiln after their final firing at Hurstone Studios in 2004.

6
Beaker made by Martha Stalkopt at Hurstone studios in 2004. One of the gifts she made to all of us who had studios there when she returned to Switzerland.

7 & 8
Terracotta beakers from India. The LH one is a chai cup, (now holding pins) which I picked up from a pile of rejects next to the potter who was making them, in a small remote village somewhere in Rajasthan in 2005. James Crowden would know the name of it; he took us there to see the most spectacular step well.
The RH one I kept from a train journey from Dehra Dun to Delhi, later in 2005. Extract from my diary: ‘As soon as the train starts boys come round with newspapers. Unfortunately all in Hindi. These are followed by bottles of water and a paper cup each. A while later we get a sort of thin spicy pasty, a cup of tea (from a ‘tea kit’), a packet of crisps, one of those testicle like sweet balls (brown this time) and two toffees. After another pause, we get a carton of mango juice each, which are whipped away rather quickly, (no chance of saving for later) and replaced with a cup of spicy tomato soup and roll and butter. NOW comes the major meal, 3 hot dishes, (curried beans, curried paneer, rice & 3 chapatti) a paper bag of salad, pickle, and a terracotta pot of beautiful yoghurt’. This is the very same terracotta pot, and now holds a painted easter egg.

9. 1960s vase from car boot.

10 & 11. Two experimental fired paperclay objects, made by me at UWE Bristol whilst studying for my printmaking M.A in 2002

12. A small beautifully imperfect bowl by Japanese ceramicist Kaori Tatebayashi, bought this year at the Leach pottery shop in St. Ives. It now contains a handful of iridescent green beetle wings from my grandmother’s sewing things. They were presumably for applique, like sequins.

13 – 16 More experiments with fired paperclay, made last year for my Nature of Mending project, using nails and metal washers, with a view to incorporating into tapestries.

17. A piece of circular slate. Cannot remember where I found it.

18. Four rusted antique nails found whilst gardening.

19. A beautiful, serene, perfectly symmetrical and balanced celadon bowl with raku fired pedestal by Devon ceramicist Tim Andrews, bought 2 years ago at the Marle Gallery in Axminster.

20. As 10 and 11

21 As 1 – 5 except this was not a reject and I bought it from one of the Johns. John Butler now making green buildings in Bridport, so he would know.

22 Five pieces of fabric stitched/wrapped with metal dipped in porcelain slip then fired, by textile artist Debbie Smyth. Bought this year from the Taunton exhibition of work made during the Somerset Artworks project Z Twist.

23 Wood and lens sculpture by Michael Fairfax. A much loved 50th birthday present from the artist.

So, a rich mix of pieces by artists, some friends, some not, incidental finds and my own experiments.
Applying this process to museum collections won’t of course be possible, but maybe with imagination, making collections from within their collections can be brought to life in a similar way. Can’t wait!

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