Banner image taken from @seam_collective
The last couple of months have been taken up with opportunities to show ‘Mud and Thread’ work, and also Gill and Joy’s individual work. These have included the fifth ‘Fifty Bees’ exhibition (ACEarts, Somerton) for both artists; Joy taking a prize with her Kimono at the Stitch Festival at Islington Business Design Centre; and Gill creating work for the Wiltshire Open. The ‘Mud and Thread’ collaborative work was chosen to be part of a Seam Collective residency at The Brownsword Gallery, Bath University, 23rd March to 25th April. ( Joy is a member of Seam, a contemporary textile collective based in South West England.) Called ‘A Visible Thread’, the proposal for the residency set out the following:
‘A Visible Thread brings together new work by 13 artists, designers and researchers from seam collective who are exploring the possibilities of thread; each person using their unique perspective and textile discipline to follow a different thread, wherever it may lead them. The exhibition aims to encourage viewers to rethink their relationship to thread, be aware of its materiality, its possibilities and limitations, take part and play. Paul Klee said: “A line is a dot that went for a walk.” The exhibition argues that: “A thread is a line which has grown wings and flown.” A Visible Thread raises questions about sustainability. The exhibition and each individual artist are working towards circular design, as defined by Katie Treggiden as wasting less, repairing more and thinking like nature. As Gill has been using foraged clay and Joy has been using recycled tea bags, their work was a good fit for these ideas. ‘
Joy set up the work alongside other Seam members , with ‘Mud and Thread’ experimental work laid out on a table so that people could touch and move pieces about. A metal framework provided a more formal display of hanging and floor-sited vessels.
The premise of the residency was for the artists to spend time working in the gallery, interacting with any people coming in. There was an area with resources and people were encouraged to engage with textile making through play. This was a different type of opportunity for Joy and Gill, allowing them to explore communicating about their work, and see people’s reactions to it. This was one person’s feedback about the Mud and Thread work in particular:
The Seam Collective have written three blog posts about their experience of the residency here: https://seamcollective.org/category/a-visible-thread/
Will Cooper, (Curator of Contemporary Programmes and Special Projects at The Holburne Museum, Bath and curator for the Brownsword Gallery, Bath University) was generous in giving Joy and Gill some time for a personal crit. He is extremely experienced and knowledgeable about curating contemporary art, and this was a valuable part of the residency. They discussed the collaborative working practice and he gave some thoughts on additional ways of combined clay and textiles. He felt that they had already produced a lot of work in the time of working together. A suggestion was that they did not always have to highlight the collaboration, but could put themselves forward as a single artist would, and this would open up different opportunities. Galleries that he knew to be particularly interested in sustainable or natural content are Wysing Arts, Cambridge; The Make Gallery, Bruton and Groundwork Gallery, King’s Lynn.
Gill: I was timetabled to spend 2 days in the gallery, but this was reduced to one day because of Easter openings. I thought Joy’s set up of our work in the steel framework, that allowed for hanging as well as ground sited pieces, was really inspired. We are now able to exhibit more resolved pieces and not just experimental pieces. Will’s review was insightful and gave several interesting lines of thought – there is much more experimenting that we could do with using textiles to leave imprints on the clay; or using unfired clay as a material to enfold textiles. These are perhaps more intuitive ways of combining clay and textiles – sometimes using the qualities of clay as a material rather than always having to fire it into ceramics. I felt encouraged by his comments and it gave me more confidence to price the work and have it for sale in future.
The whole experience of being involved in a residency, which is a community or social event, reminds me that it is always good to make contacts and good to broaden one’s outlook as to what ‘making’ involves.
Joy: Working alongside Seam members was a great experience following lockdown and we felt lucky to have been given the opportunity to experiment with sharing, displaying and making work in the Edge and Andrew Brownsword Gallery. The square tube framing came into use and is a versatile way to display, being easy to pack down and store but commanding a space when assembled. I was pleased with how I could use it to suspend our vessels and delighted with the positive feedback it received.
We were sharing the space with Jack Lewdjaw who was experimenting with recreating 70s inspired concrete architectural blocks.
A constructive conversation with Will Cooper also gave clarity to some of our concepts and his feedback was valued and the interaction with visitors and talking through different processes brought other insights.
We had laid out our small pieces alongside Nina Gronw Lewis’ work as they resonated well with each other.
As Will Cooper had commented , we have covered a lot of ground and produced a wide cross section of work during our time working together and now we were able to see it all in one space. We could reflect on materiality, scale, textures and other approaches to explore. We were encouraged to seek exhibiting opportunities too.
Alongside this was the ‘Fifty Bees; the interconnectedness of all things’ exhibition at ACE Arts Gallery in Somerton. This was the last of 5 exhibitions inviting 50 artists to explore the habit of the UK’s native bees.
The work from all artists across the country was of a high standard and the collective information and knowledge about our bees was incredibly insightful. This has been another fantastic project to be involved in.
Following on from our collaboration, I feel my work has developed and stretched in a way that would not have happened if I had been working alone. The conversations we have and the regular contact, thoughts, suggestions and encouragement are so valuable.