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 previous posts.

A few months back I collected clay from the river bed near London Bridge. On this occasion I got some in its pure unadulterated state from the beach in Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex. The Naze is a beautiful and very unstable landscape, eroded by tidal waters, exposing red crag and London clay then reclaimed by the sea. Recent storms have also left the clay exposed on the beach, a not so uncommon sight in winter months. 

While foraging for small lumps of clay, I came across bricks, yellow in colour, looking like traditional London brick. I also came across a wall made from misshapen ones, rejects from a local brickery maybe. Some of these were being washed out to sea. This was ecology in action - clay, shaped into bricks, becoming clay again - a 50 million year old cycle.

I walked back home to process the clay. I felt like a complete vandal when I started grating it in order to dry it. I then soaked it, sieved it and dried it again on a plaster bat to make plastic clay, ready for modelling and firing. There’s only once thing for it! To clear my conscience, I’ll simply have to walk to the beach and throw my work in the water! I’m not getting in the way of nature doing it’s thing!

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