Research Blog

An Identity for Ashton Meadows

All the Contrasts of Ashton Meadows made the identity of the site very explicit to me. Up until that point I had been casting natural objects found on site. However, it was clear that the site had industrial elements as well as being misused by the public. In order to capture the full identity of the site I had to return and collect a range of objects which encompassed the site holistically – this essentially meant collecting rubbish.

I now had a wealth of organic and inorganic objects which could be cast and assembled together. And some of these objects were beautiful!

Having stacked the moulds of disposed drinks cans, graffiti spray cans and packets I cast the assembled moulds. The different elements can be stacked in varied orders. This provided me the opportunity to create individual pieces from a process commonly associated with mass production.

I have become more interested by the insides of these ‘stacks’. As discussed previously, the exteriors can be very rough. In the past I have enjoyed the contrast between rough and smooth. However, I wanted to see what the interior would look like as an exterior, so after casting the stack I poured plaster into the void. The results can be seen above. Although the results here can be debated I think there is clearly an avenue to investigate further.

Looking to a Bristol Identity

In a further attempt to investigate a further Bristol ‘locational identity’ (Kwon, 2002), I headed back to Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. What I discovered was that Bristol was a principle city in the development of Porcelain production in the UK, before Wedgwood got his hands on the patent. Cookman (the original discoverer of a UK porcelain recipe) and Champion used Bristol’s geographical attributes to produce porcelain  – equal to Chinese – and could easily ship their wares across the UK and abroad.

Some further information is outlined in these snippets from Bristol Museum and Art Gallery:

The very clear – and not well known – link between Bristol and Porcelain got me quite excited. I headed to Central Library to discover more and was fortunate to find a text (Owen, 1873) about Champion and Bristol Porcelain. The book was largely correspondence between Champion, his family and clients. However, spaced throughout the book were these fantastic etchings (above). I got very excited at this point to see that the etchings in the book were the exact examples on display at the Museum.

These discoveries, despite providing a historical context to ceramic production in Bristol also provided me with some materials and process to consider borrowing for my own work.

Reflection for action:

  • Porcelain as an important clay in Bristol
  • Industial production
  • Designs and Patterns – relief

Jug 1834

I was made in Bristol.

Commissioned by a father for a son.

I am waist height.

I am amber and umber and all shades in between.

I am saltglazed-stoneware.

I am a container.

I am adorned with Italian sprigs

Their fine, detailed, relief clumsily laid like braces over middle aged spread.

Cherubs lean on Angels piled on Waterbearers balanced on Vines.

Grapes, pressed by the weight of crests and dismembered heads, refuse to yield their wine.

I am solid.

 

I am nearly two hundred years old.

I am a survivor;

Only a cracked handle and sprig figure have been given to time.

 

Tracks of rings signify the hand that made me.

Rees (or Reece’s) thumbprints bridge my beak like spout to my wide, sturdy, unfriendly rim.

 

Yet I am delicate,

Somewhere not readily found.

I have another opening,

An eight petaled, puckered flower

The colour of honey.

 

Inviting

The tap of a barrel

A spigot.

From which beer, goodwill, cheer and a fathers hope flowed.

On that one day.

 

Now here I sit in a museum.

A sculpture, objectified memory.

I can be touched.

I am touched.

Probed by sticky inquisitive fingers.

Grapes pressed and prodded.

Cherubs coveted.

Waterbearers violated.

Flowers plucked and pinched.

My hope replaced by fear

My cheer replaced with sorrow

My goodwill replaced for passivity

My beer replaced for two boiled sweets,

which unnoticed or ignored by the museum staff slowly ooze across my base.

 

I was made in Bristol.

I am a survivor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poem for the Plaster Room

Bend me,

Shape me,

Anyway you want me.

Wet me,

Mix me,

Mould me,

Force me,

Transform me.

Trim me,

Tidy me,

Polish me,

Cut me,

Construct me.

Chisel me,

Shape me,

Anyway you want me.

Dry me,

Stack me,

Arrange me,

Fill me.

Press me,

Smash me,

Reattach me.

Shape me.

Anyway you want me.

Bristol Potteries

Inspired by the Ian McIntyre lecture I set about my quest to discover more about traditional Bristol ceramics and pottery.

Bristol Museum and Art Gallery have a wealth of exhibits ranging from tin white delftware to slip cast tableware from the 1960’s. However, I was mostly struck  by a range of functional stoneware produced by W. and T. Powell throughout the 19th century, due to the explicit similarities between the brown local glaze I hand dug and a decorative band present on most of the wares.

Traditionally functional stoneware would have been salt glazed, reducing cost with only one firing. However, the Powell brothers developed ‘Bristol glaze’  which permitted the inside as well as the outside resistant to water.

Reflection on action:

  • Brown decoration
  • Solid, sturdy functional ware
  • Either limited decoration OR sprigs detailing a narrative
  • Text, stamp, dates
  • Containers for liquid
  • Emelements of the hand at work
  • Function over form (mostly)
  • One firing

Reflection for action

  • Strips/bands/areas of brown – to accentuate features
  • Simple form, contrasting areas of detail/decoration
  • Revisit to examine themes of the narratives
  • Emphasis on function
  • Further info on W. and T. Powell
  • Borrow the ‘one firing’ process –  (the local clay turns to a glaze at 1240c  – offering the option of self-glazing products)

Developments: 8 March 2017

I have coated the plaster moulds in a thin layer of local clay and used stoneware (as used by the Bristol potteries) and earthenware slips in order to provide a comparison.

Fired at bisuqe the clay takes on a speckled sandy-red colour, gorgeous to the eye but not on the hand – the clay is still rough. When fired to 1260 the glaze is silky smooth to the touch, but a dark oaty brown. It is a colour I am falling for, but others remain quite hesitant about. However, this is an authentic glaze none the less.

Importantly, it was through layering the local clay on the exterior that made me realise I could also layer in on the interior, with the stoneware/earthenware sandwiched in between. And I f could do this three times, I could do It multiple times, creating a layered effect.

Further developments on this process will be shared later.

Ian McIntyre

Ian McIntyre Lecture – 27th Feb 2017

ian-mcintyre

McIntrye’s practice ‘sits at the confluence of craft and industrial design’ (McIntyre 2017). He is interested in ‘exploring the inherent qualities of materials’ and uses this ‘as a way of developing a design.’ (ibid) This ethos is something I have been establishing within my own practice.

Though I could go into great detail about his different projects, it was his most recent project that alerted me to something I had been ignoring within my own investigation.

As part of his Phd research, McIntyre is collaborating with the manufactures of the well known (and sometimes well loved) teapot the Brown Betty in an attempt to reignite the historical and cultural significance of this ceramic object. Designed purely from function over form, the red clay used for the body of the teapot is sourced locally to the site of manufacture.

Although I realised the significance of using local clay in my work, as a response to the modern obsession with authenticity, I failed to explore the historical and cultural elements that may have been connected to the site, or the city as a whole. I feel this is an area worth investigating as it may enable me to start developing ideas for the ‘site of the image’ (Rose 2012).