Saturday, 25 February 2017

mud to mud (Unearthing project / Walton-on-the-Naze)

I’ve started collecting London clay for Unearthing, a collaborative project with The People’s Bureau at Tate Modern and Stave Hill Ecological Park – see also previous posts.

A few months back we collected clay from the river bed near London Bridge. On this occaskion I collected some in a purer form on the beach at Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex. The Naze is a gorgeous and very unstable landscape, eroded by tidal waters which expose red crag and London clay, that is then reclaimed by the sea.

While collecting small lumps of clay strewn around the beach we came across bricks, yellow in colour, looking like traditional London brick. We also came across wall made from misshapen bricks, most probably rejects from a local brickery. The bricks were being washed out to sea, a 50+ million year old cycle was being looped - clay, shaped into bricks, fired, then becoming clay again... Ecology in action!

I walked back to the studio to process the clay and felt like a complete vandal when I started grating it in order to dry it. We soaked it, sieved it and dried it again, this time on a plaster bat to make plastic clay. 

Once the clay has been modelled, fired and pieces installed, I’ll simply have to walk back to the beach and throw the work in the water... I'm not one to get in the way of nature doing it's thing!

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

slippery foundations (Unearthing project / Nelson's Dock)

Unearthing, a project commissioned by Tate Exchange in partnership with The People’s Bureau and Stave Hill Ecological Park, involved a group of participants to walk from Stave Hill to the river. Our aim was to collect clay that would then be processed and modelled at Tate, then later pit-fired at the ecological park.

Instead of finding clay, we collected objects brought in and uncovered by recent tidal flows – metal objects used in ship building, bits of ceramic, slag from iron smelting on the river bank, general debris from London’s past colonial, trading and industrial history. A number of bricks, fired from the same clay we were looking for, were also found the river bed.

Objects were eventually used as inspiration and tools for modelling clay, later dug out from the park, that prompted also thoughts about their history, that of the city and the materials that built its foundations.

This was a focal point for discussions at Tate Modern, addressed within the context of regeneration and development at Elephant and Castle and London. 

More info on the project can be found on other posts on this blog as well as this and this link.