This time last year was for me the start of a journey investigating how to interpret the elements thorough our combination of mud and thread and my focus began with water and water vessels and how historically leather, wood and clay have been used to make containers – pilgrims flasks, costerels and for wine, amphoras – all such evocative words. Functional, practical and beautifully crafted, now these vessels often used for portering water and wine have been replaced with plastic: disposable and polluting.
Reusing and recycling waste scraps of fabric, I set about remaking the bags of these vessels and Gill produced a series of necks, reminiscent of ancient Grecian urns but with a contemporary twist. We talked about how the properties can be linked together and tried a mix of pierced holes that I could stitch through to attach, and rims that could be pushed through and held by interference fit ( like a tight collar closing around the clay).
Alongside these, we worked together with stitched tea bags and foraged clay – the process of coiling empty tea bags with stitch, echoes with coiling pots and once again I was reminded of the commonalities between our two disciplines. The resulting combination is unusual and quirky sculptural outcomes.
These pieces are comparatively large to the smaller interwoven pebbles and hag stones we have been working on and we were both curious as to the relevance of size and relationship between them. Following a discussion with Will Cooper he reminded us how important it is to relate to human form. This took me back to my Art Foundation, and being introduced to anthropometric space and our relationship with objects by Bruce McLean. This resonated at the time and it was pertinent to be reminded of its importance.
Of course one of the tests of a collaboration is to seek feedback from outside and so we have submitted work and been successful in two Open Calls at ACE Arts Gallery in Somerton and the Black Swan Gallery in Frome. Seeing how our work sits alongside other works helps to see the pieces in a context.
During the last few months we felt the need to make something larger, perhaps more substantial, before our time came to an end. Instigated by Joy making larger coiled teabag forms, I experimented with how I could create a sculptural response in clay, thinking again about the notion of ‘emergence’. The first two were sculptural forms ( see the image above) open at the bottom and with modeled ‘growths’ protruding out of the clay and textile structures in different ways.
There was a good deal of problem solving to be tackled in making these in order to combine the sections of different materials and to enable the structures to stand at a good height. Letting go of any preconceptions and restrictions and using other materials to help where necessary allowed things to move forward in creating finished outcomes – eg. making a wire mesh former that was hidden underneath, and using glue to keep things in place both helped in the practicalities of making the sculptural forms.
Two further tea bag cones became vessel shapes, with the addition of thrown pot shaped bases. In a way I have come back to forms that are more familiar to me, although I do not usually throw pots this large and it was a good experience for me to do so. Joy made some of her tea-bag elements self supporting which helped the overall structures to stand tall with less need for support. These contrasted with others where the textile element was allowed to have a controlled sagging, giving a feeling of movement or unpredictability. A final touch was to understand that the clay spouts worked better visually if the tea bag textiles lay over the clay at this point of joining. This type of detail was something we have experimented with and were now, in these pieces, bringing to a conclusion.
It was good to see several pieces together as a group so that contrasts between forms could provide interest for any viewer. I think all of these forms have a satisfying elegance and presence about them that sets off the materials of reclaimed teabags and foraged clay to good effect.