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!

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.