An artist residency during a pandemic is not ideal. I have been away from Hawthbush Farm more than actually been present there during the past nine months. But I’m not complaining. There’s no point.
But because of this a large part of what I have been considering is how much of my work in general is about what I think about when I am making, and how I remember great places, people and events whilst I work. How does this influence what I make?
Combining these ideas I have been slowly making a memory of a walk. A small book that started out as a line of clay slip taken from Hawthbush, overlaid with inks and paint, drawn whilst remembering the walk to the hut in which I am based at the farm. This over time has been overlaid with stitch, done slowly all whilst remembering the beauty of the farm and the feelings I have when I am there about anticipating having a great creative time. All done when I am not actually physically there at all.
Next step is to make a cover. It’s definitely a book. And when I open it up in years to come I will still remember.
It’s not been the ideal year to embark on ‘coming out’ as an artist and undertaking an artist residency. However I do feel I’ve achieved loads and learnt lots – and the residency at Hawthbush will continue into 2021 culminating in an exhibition of my work at the end of April with a pop up show.
This is the last piece I made this year as part of the residency. I love it. Earthenware clay, burnished and fired once in my electric kiln then Smoke fired in a bin with sawdust plus dried nettle stalks and dandelions from outside my hut at the farm. Searching for beauty in the everyday.
I haven’t been to Hawthbush since October due to a further lockdown. And although I’ve made masses of work (including setting up a shop on my website) I haven’t spent loads of time explicitly working on pieces that relate to my residency. Finally this week I had a chance to spend two days at the farm and got masses done. I’ve obviously been thinking A LOT about what I want to do next and although I didn’t have stacks of time there I worked hard and achieved loads. Very satisfying.
One thing I achieved was this little book. I had been wondering what to do with these scraps of dyed fabric, and today I found an unplanned use for them. Is it a book? Or a story? Journal entry? Or a series of thoughts? I really like the feel of it, and I loved making it so perhaps that alone is its purpose and it doesn’t need a title to explain further.
This is yet again something I have never done before. As part of my ceramic practice I have always used calico to roll clay on and lean on. As part of my general artistic practice via studying for a diploma at West Dean College calico also gained a place for writing, sewing and working on. I have make patchwork using the English pieced-paper technique since I was little and generally am quite handy with a needle. So I knew somehow I wanted to explore sewing and fabric whilst at Hawthbush and have been using a big sheet of calico as a tablecloth which has been written on and has picked up evidence of my work as I have gone on, but I wanted to go a step further.
Embracing the foraging mentality and trying to use just what is outside my hut I collected stuff that I could use as a dye and via a number of useful Instagram and websites have picked up the rudiments of dyeing fabric. I am delighted with the results and although each have faded a lot since I dyed them simply through washing I am pretty happy that I’ve got a lovely pallet of fabric to work with. The mordants I used to ‘fix’ the colours played a big role: alum and oak galls and they have created their own family of colours which I have tried really hard to document carefully (a skill I am not great at). I am looking forward to getting stuck into some patchwork which is excellent to work on throughout the winter months.
We spent another few days at Hawthbush during the children’s half term break. I’ve been coming regularly since the summer but have only done one firing since it’s rather tricky doing it on your own and not exactly advisable. This time it was so very wet my beautiful pits were full up with water so I decided to use the metal bin and blimey I’m pleased we did. It was easier, more controllable and safer.
I had made a whole batch of pieces I wanted to pit fire. These were a combination of some by-mistake-mixed-up terracotta and black clay that I had worked into pinch pots. Before I do a smoke firing on the actual Hawthbush Clay I wanted to see what the smoke does to other terracotta rather than wasting my precious hand dug pieces. I also made last week some sculptural pinch pot pieces with a clay body that I had stained blue. I want to see what would happen with the smoke effect. All of these were fired once at home and then layered up with copious amounts of animal bedding material. So not sawdust exactly. The fire went off really easily and lasted a magnificent 24 hours safe and sound.
And I am delighted with the results. Much to repeat and think about