All that Life Contains Contained
If we learn through engagement with materials, and I am working with clay then it felt logical that the clay should not come in a tidy package from a shop but was like the stick, chosen, found, manipulated to fit the purpose.
Research has led to the location of the former Albion Brick Works and clay pits in the west of Lincoln, below the cliff edge, close to my home. Destroyed in 1911 and backfilled, the Albion works was an industrial scale brick works created in 1860. The land, a hundred years on is reclaimed by woodland and scrubland, the spring weather breaking through, making what would feel like a sinister and hostile place seem fertile and full of possibility. The nettles and brambles have yet to take hold and create an impenetrable guard, but even so to journey into the woodland requires much bending and ducking under of trees, they’re their own masters forming wonderful shapes, only a hundred years but nature will take anything in a fraction of that time and the space feels right and reclaimed. Yet make shift rope swings hang in trees over the vast, steep drop from the cliff edge, and too many fly tipped tyres to count and the evidence of industrial works in the remains of metal buckets and rubble, kick at your feet.
The moss proliferates and carpets the floor but dark corners of black plastic bin bags peek through the growth like nasty reminders and deep trenches have been cut in to the earth and filled with stagnant, algae green water.
The earth gives up the clay easily. Albion.
The process of digging the clay then washing and sifting the impurities to produce a clean, workable material, expands the exchange with the clay, mirroring the exchange with the sticks in my other projects. The work also then encompasses an exchange with place – nature, personal history and geography – which all inherently informs the work. What the work ‘is’ is flexible and uncertain, being either the creation of artefacts, or the creation of a topography through documentation, or both.
I hope to create work with the processed clay, perhaps referencing the past historical location in brick shapes, perhaps a continuation of my work with vessel forms, documenting the process and artefact, then re-processing the clay and re-making anew. Each cycle will shorten the platelets in the clay and in technical terms will change the texture of the clay and its workability until a point at which it becomes unusable as a material and would be buried, returned to the earth.