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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Song for a Site

It.

Is.

Cold.

Leaves rustle.

Traffic purrs.

Birds tweet.

Lost becomes litter.

I look in,

My reflection looks out.

Fractured trees dance on the breeze.

A methodical pace changes pitch.

A cough echoes.

Grey light permeates.

Laughter bounces like the break of a pool game.

It.

Is.

Cold.

A reflection for action – my mind before making

It’s raining. My rucksack is packed with all the necessary equipment. I do a mental check in my head: plaster, water, mixing bowl, trowel, heavy duty carrier bag, smaller carrier bags, towel for cleaning hands. Content with this list I start to confirm the making process.

  1. Arrive on site and locate suitable clay and objects
  2. Dig the clay with the trowel, place into a carrier bag.
  3. Use objects found on site and repeatedly press onto the clay bed.
  4. Combine the water and plaster in the bowl and mix until the consistency of custard is reached; I don’t want any plaster to leak out or settle prematurely.
  5. Pour the plaster into the cavity.
  6. Wait for the plaster to harden.
  7. Carefully remove, tidy, pack away.

With each step closer to the site a childlike excitement is bubbling more furiously until I find myself almost skipping; just to avoid the puddles of course.

Thankful that the site sits under the dual carriageway I think about how glad I will be to shelter from the rain. The site has been empty on my previous reconnaissance’s, but they were all on mild or sunny days. Who else might be seeking shelter today? A dog walker, a homeless person, a group of homeless people, a junkie, a group of junkies, a murderer? Suddenly my mind speeds forward to a scenario where I’m mixed up in an aggressive altercation, being flung down the muddy bank and swept away by the flowing river, watching as a shadowy figure finds meagre possessions in my rucksack.

Not content with this outcome my mind sets up another scenario where I successfully avoid being flung into the river by the shadowy stranger, but end up proclaiming ‘self defence!’ while Police pull a limp shadowy body from the river nearby.

This train of thought sets up a further chain of anxiety’s.

  1. Will the site be vacant?
  2. Is the river too high?
  3. Will there be enough exciting objects on site?
  4. Will there be any objects on site?
  5. Have I brought enough plaster?
  6. Will the casts be usable?
  7. Will the casts look appealing?
  8. Will I need the toilet?
  9. Will people stop and talk to me?
  10. Will people think I’m doing something illegal?
  11. Am I doing something illegal?

An enthralling blend of excitement and anxiety surge away, but there is nothing left to do but just arrive, decide and do. It is with relief that from the flyover I can see the site is vacant, the tide is out and a glistening surface of sloppy clay has been beautifully chiselled by the river.

 

Eating Vs Dining

The famous Victorian, Mrs Beeton once said ‘creatures of inferior races eat and drink; man only dines’. Though wildly politically incorrect in a contemporary setting, there is some truth to this statement; Id prefer to say that all creatures great and small do eat, but the human race alone has the potential to dine.

This got me to thinking about what is dining really, how is it signified and separated from eating? What rituals, values and particularly objects must be present for a dining experience to have occurred?

I started to compile a list.

Eating:

  • Food
  • Chewed
  • Swallowed
  • Nourish
  • Solo action (for most)
  • Anywhere

Dining:

  • Occasion
  • Enjoyment
  • Plates/bowls/cutlery/setting/napkin
  • Candle light
  • Courses- starter/main/dessert
  • Alcohol
  • Evening
  • Social
  • Music
  • Dim lighting
  • Table
  • And suggested by Mrs Beeton, ‘order’ and ‘graces’.

When I think of dining I imagine subdued lighting and candles. This seems to epitomise the idea of dinner as an occasion, rather than simply providing nourishment. Imagine the scene below with bright light and no candles…somewhere to eat, or somewhere to dine?

hipstamaticphoto-498425508-882777

So if I define dinner as eating at a table with candlelight, how many people in the UK dine? How many don’t dine? As a youth we always ate at the table, apart from Saturday evenings where we ate from our laps or from the nest of tables. I recall my mum’s decadent silver plate candelabra being used only once and never for a family meal.

The following articles provide info about the rise of TV dinners in the UK and the demise of the family unit where a lack of eating together occurs.

According to a poll in 2013, 60% of families rely on ready meals and 49% of families eat their evening meal at the dinner table everyday. With these statistics in mind, perhaps the modern day dining table looks like this:

IKEA KLIPSK bed tray Foldable legs make the bed tray easy to store without taking up extra space.IKEA KLIPSK bed tray Foldable legs make the bed tray easy to store without taking up extra space.

Imagine that tray with a candlestick…is that dining?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21443166

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2487647/Unstoppable-rise-TV-dinner-Less-half-UKs-families-regularly-sit-table-eat.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/mother-tongue/9882717/British-familes-dont-eat-together-and-if-they-do-its-often-in-front-of-the-TV.html

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

Eltonware

Visiting Clevedon Court this week provided the opportunity to experience some Eltonware, made by one of the Courts previous residents.


I was interested in how Elton had produced some of the relief motifs on his works. Some were clearly made separately and attached, but others appeared to be extensions of the surface.

These flower motifs appear to be made from coloured slips, which when layered up can create peaks and troughs.
This approach could be useful when thinking about adding colour to my work. At present, the idea of adding colour into the body of the clay feels much more holistic and truthful. The vast range of potential colours used to glaze bisque pieces seems quite overwhelming.  Elton’s flowers are quite precise and this may impact the refining of the (s)platter idea process.

Eltonware always evokes imagery of shining lustres and crackled surfaces – and the display didn’t disappoint. However, what I found most interesting was the organic shapes Elton removed from his pieces.

These two pots are quite different from the rest of the collection, appearing as if they could have been made only recently.

Considering the organic shape as a negative space is something that struck with me. I am unsure how this might impact my practice, but this idea is one to keep in mind.

Developing the Ceramic Tablecloth

Hella Jongerius, a Dutch designer, has united ceramic tableware and tablecloths in a piece where she knitted the two together (pictured in the following video 0.48 secs or here).

 

This gives me great encouragement for combining my own tablecloth and ceramics. When clearing out my studio space I assembled my vacuumed formed cast of preexisting molds together. The results permitted an insight as to how a whole table of objects may appear.

This reminds me of Ryan Ganders work Tell My Mother not to Worry , 2012 where made his daughters den of sheets into a permanent marble sculpture (as this Google image search aptly depicts).

ryan gander

Using fabric (in place of a tablecloth/napkin) depicts how we can make assumptions about the original object even when hidden or enveloped. As the napkin remains the one common element with all aspects of dining, creating bowls, plates etc from ceramic napkins could be a potential avenue for this project.

Update: 1st June 2016

A research trip to a Cash and Carry provided the opportunity to look at a wide variety of disposable food containers. Despite rejecting the process of slip casting these containers in Making the Disposable Indisposable, I am interested in attempting to capture the form in clay somehow.

 

By slumping clay slabs over these containers, their forms could be make into ceramics. Paper or card containers would burn off in the kiln, removing the necessity to remove the container before firing. This has been problematic in the past and several of my forms have lost their shape. The other issue is that the clay form may sag once the paper formed has burned away, distorting the shape further. However, this is process worthy of attempting.