All the Contrasts of Ashton Meadows

The site is one which has significant contrasts. Textures, appearances, smells and sounds all derive from natural and man made elements. It seems fitting that I should attempt to capture some of these conflicts in the work. In order to do so I have begun a list of all the contrasts I can think of. I will update the list as time goes on.

Natural/Man made

Rural/Urban

Quiet/Loud

Maintained/Neglected

Outside/Inside

Uncovered/Covered

Safe/Unsafe

Clean/Unclean

Mine/Shared

Past/Present

Present/Future

Dry/Wet

Alive/Inanimate

Intact/Decaying

Grass/Tarmac

Trees/Lamppost

Stones/Rubble

Soil/Paving

Wildlife/Cars

Brambles/Skate ramp

Clay/Bridges

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Ceramics for a Local Culture

I try to buy my food as local as I can. This local movement has been present for several years now and it makes sense. The carbon footprint is reduced, heritage breeds of animals become viable once again (think pigs and cows) and local businesses thrive.

With this notion I started to consider where the clay I use comes from…is it local, is it even British even? Ceramic makers like Issac Button would dig and process their own clay. Clive Bowen is an English maker and still processes his own clay as demonstrated in this video.

In a way of commenting on the local movement I think it is only right to start using my local area to make work. So what was the most simplest way of making a vessel? Clay comes from the ground and when removed or dug out a hole is created, a very simple vessel. I recently cast some holes with plaster in my garden in an attempt to discover how these forms appeared as positives.

 

My well dug soil meant that the positives were littered with undercuts, making casting an impossibility, though their forms were attractive.

The hunt begins to find a suitable, local location.

Developing a new methodology

My recent work for The Holburne Museum, Bath has rooted out a new working methodology.

These works were produced by taking a preexisting object (a plastic ready to go jelly pot) and casting it, replicating it, distorting it to create a new work/sculpture. The approach used to make these sculptures echoes the processes used to make the original plastic cast jelly pot.

Gillian Rose (2012) in Visual Research talks about the three sites of production when creating images, or in this case, 3D works.

Interpretations of visual images broadly concur that there are three sites at which the meaning of an image are made: the site(s) of the production of an image, the site of the image itself, and the site(s) where it is seen by various audiences. 

So far I have begun to unpack the site of production. I have used the context of the jelly pot to inform my making process. I see this as being truthful to the production, or history of the object; essentially seeking the truth.

Preliminary drawings and plaster maquettes helped me to assess the visual content of the image itself. Experimenting with individual components was a suitable approach to establishing the most successful combinations.

And the audience site of the work will occur in a museum cafe on a banqueting table, which is highly appropriate.

This approach to making and showing work has been extremely useful in building on my preexisting knowledge and methodology. Concerning myself with the three sites of production will enable me to make work that is truthful, visually strong and is seen in the right space.

Tea Became Dinner (2004)

When I was younger our evening meal was always called Tea. We ate tea as a family when Dad got in from work and always, always before 6pm; around the time Neighbours was scheduled on BBC1 (approx 5.30pm). The Neighbours theme tune was comparable to creating a Pavlov’s Dogs situation back then. I remember anticipating spaghetti bolognaise, made from a Shepard’s pie recipe (always made with beef mince AND baked beans), served on top of pasta, or on top of rice. Growing up on a farm we had a lot of meat, veg and gravy meals, alongside fish fingers, chips and beans, and all the equivalents. Every meal was served with sliced white bread and butter; a routine I harbored until I left the Isle of Wight and went to University.

All my family ate tea, all my friends ate tea. The only time I ate dinner was on a Sunday, at lunch time. But now in my adult life, I refer to the evening meal as dinner and have done so for a long time.

So what changed? What specifically brought about the decision in me to change the name of the evening meal from tea to dinner? Is one better than the other? Does one have more social clout than the other?

I left the Isle of Wight in 2002 to study an art Foundation course in Bournemouth. Living with four others from the Island and thinking about the types of food we were eating back then, there wasn’t much difference from the food I had been eating at home. Of course I met people from far flung corners of the UK and abroad widening my experiences (at this point I still didn’t know what an avocado was), but a similar home life to that of the Isle of Wight and similar foods being eaten meant that I was definitely still eating tea at this point.

I know that by the time I ended my degree I was eating dinner. During the first year of my degree I started to cook the evening meal with a friend. This period not only improved my cooking skills, but the shared experience widened my horizons of the foods I could cook at home; namely food from other cultures- mostly Italian, Chinese and Indian.

The most significant change happened during my second year. As usual a group of us from halls found a shared house together, somewhere removed of the parental reach found in university managed accommodation. At this point I ate humous for the first time and I started using herbs and creating meals from scratch(ish), not just using jars of sauces. We continued to share the cooking regularly and the competitive pressure mounted to create more exciting, boundary pushing meals than the previous cook.

I was invited out for food and I hosted friends, people who I didn’t live with. Time pressures meant that we wold eat later into the evening 7-8.30pm –  quite a significant change from the traditional 5.30pm slot. Alcohol, namely wine, would be taken alongside the meal and there may occasionally be a starter or dessert, but rarely both.

It is important to mention here that I studied in a very small country town, one without a cinema even and the lack of entertainment forced us students to create our own – and a part of this was cooking and eating.

I started to visit the Island less often and Island friends would tell me that I’d changed. And I was changing. I’d allowed myself to broaden my experiences which subsequently  informed my decisions in a whole new manor of ways. The language I used altered, cultivated from my course no doubt, but also through social connections. My accent softened.

The education I was receiving and my social situation was dramatically altering my outlook on life, my values and even my taste. I may have been in debt at this point but my cultural capital was in a metaphorical Swiss bank account. Looking back, I recognise this as a time when I thought that my future could have a brighter outlook than I’d previously been encouraged to consider.

Despite the fact that my awareness of my growing cultural capital may have enabled me to simply change the noun I used for the evening meal, which other factors distinguished dinner from tea?

  • Time of the meal
  • Range of foods
  • Courses
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Cooking from scratch(ish)
  • Social pressure/competition
  • Hosting

In a bid to find out what this discovery means to me I have started to produce 2D works based on this name change.

 

Tea Vs Dinner – https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/aug/03/tea-with-grayson-perry-supper-dinner

Getting over the slump

I’ve been a bit stuck the past couple of days, unable to see truth or purpose in any of the work I have been making. In order to move on from this I’d like to summarise what I know about eating culture and what I have been able to observe and determine from my research?

  1. Convenience food is dominating lunch times.
  2. Convenience restaurants are suited to ‘on the go’ lifestyle; quick service and public (bench) seating.
  3. Convenience food is fast.
  4. Convenience food is eaten off premises.
  5. Convenience food is eaten on premises in disposable packaging.
  6. Convenience packaging is single use.
  7. Convenience food is mass produced.
  8. Convenience packaging is mass produced.

 

  1. Ceramics remains prevalent at home and full-service dining.
  2. Ceramics is being replaced in all other places aside from those mentioned above.
  3. Ceramics is often used with a table cloth.
  4. Ceramics is often used with slow food.
  5. Ceramics is often made for Michelin restaurants.

 

  1. The knife is disappearing from English eating habits.
  2. Paraphernalia is used to match the culture (chopsticks, spoon, hands, bread) when dining out.

 

  1. I love eating out.
  2. I love cooking.
  3. I use paraphernalia to match the cultural roots of the food (chopsticks etc) even at home.
  4. I set out a full place setting but often the knife goes unused.
  5. I cook dishes from different cultures and chefs.
  6. I’m currently interested in Yotam Ottolenghi – his food is great and his cultural capital is vast. (Gay Jew from Jerusalem, string of London restaurants, recipe books, writes for the Guardian)
  7. Cooking food from chefs I perceive to have integrity adds to my cultural capital.
  8. I tell people about recipes they should attempt.
  9. I cook nothing from Anthony Worrall-Thompson or Gary Rhodes.
  10. I have a guilty pleasure for McDonalds and KFC but cant face eating it publicly.
  11. I buy my food from Aldi, Sainsbury’s, Lidl and local independent retailers.
  12. I feel comfortable telling people I buy from the aforementioned retailers. 
  13. I’d love to be vegetarian.
  14. I can’t digest vast quantities of dairy without embarrassing myself.

 

I dont eat:

  1. Dairy from cows – cheese, milk, ice cream, butter.
  2. Cucumber.
  3. Black pudding.
  4. Olives.
  5. Cold cured meats like salami.
  6. Pork.

Potential ideas from this reflection on action

  • Ceramic food in disposable packaging – slip coating disposable packaging didn’t work as mentioned in the previous post. If the packaging cant be ceramic, maybe the food can. 
  • Portraits of people from what they don’t eat; highlighting the middle class obsession with dietary disorders and the  moral high ground of food origins. (Veganism, buying local, responsible products)
  • Highlighting the connection between the remaining constant link of ceramics and tablecloths. 

Defining the Quest

‘unpretentious beauty, purity, dignity, and humility’.

(Touching Stone 2015)

These words are going to be the goals of my quest. They have become a beacon, something to head for in the dark moments of my research. If I can aim for these four landmarks, then I feel I am heading in the right direction.

In order to support how I quantify my success, I feel it is essential to clarify exactly what the definitions of my four beacons are.

Oxford Dictionaries elaborates:

Unpretentious: ‘Not attempting to impress others with an appearance of greater importance, talent, or culture than is actually possessed.’

Beauty: ‘A combination of qualities, such as shape, colour, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially thesight’

Dignity: ‘The state or quality of being worthy of honour or respect’

Purity: ‘Freedom from adulteration or contamination’

Humility: ‘The quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance’

(Oxford Dictionaries, 2015)

Tea Bowls

Japanese and Chinese tea bowls have been an alluring object for ceramicists/potters world wide.

 

 

The Japanese tea ceremony epitomizes a quiet aesthetic sensibility called wabi sabi 侘 寂

(Touching Stone, 2015)

 

I too am captivated by this simple form, which has transcended from existing purely as a functional device to a prized cultural chalice; embodying ‘unpretentious beauty, purity, dignity, and humility’. (ibid)
As part of my studio based enquiry I initially set about to produce a range of functional ceramics. However, in light of discovering the love for these little objects, I have decided to focus my enquiry specifically on the making method of tea bowls.

As demonstrated below tea bowls exist in a variety of forms. In fact any small vessel (usually mounted on a small foot ring) can be given the classification of tea bowl. 

(Flyeschool, 2011)

Mostly wheel thrown or handbuilt, tea bowls exist upon the human hand. Can a plaster formed, slip cast tea bowl embody the aforementioned qualities of unpretentious beauty, purity and dignity? Do these qualities depend on an explicit handmade interaction?

This Pinterest link captures the vast array of objects bestowed with the classified of tea bowl.