I have had a diverse approach to making for this project, and the exhibition presents an exploration of my interest in the materials and objects which the opportunity gave me access to. In this episode I will try to reflect on how some of these aspects came together: historical research, material properties, and my process in the studio.



As soon as I saw Bartmann, an object in the Heritage Collection, I became intrigued. During the residency I worked with some really dedicated Lightbox volunteers, who were able to give me a lot of detail about the history of the objects. Apparently Bartmann is also known as a ‘Bellarmine Jug’, a type of stoneware vessel named after Cardinal Bellarmine (1542-1621). The jug was a bit of a joke on the catholic cardinal, who tried to ban alcohol, designed as it was by protestant Germans who filled them with wines and ales.



I made three works based on Bartmann; one of them is called Goodbye Bartmann, It’s Been a Blast! It is going into the permanent collection at The Lightbox, and will hopefully sit near the fragment which inspired it. It is made out of crank clay, which I carved patterns into. The front patterns are Bartmann-ish, but for the back I was thinking about the work of Ana Mendieta. The surface of the fired crank clay is rather like sand, or sandy soil, reminding me of Mendieta’s explorations of bodily imprints on the earth.

Another Bartmann inspired work is Wiseman Bart. He does look very wise to me, with something of the holy man in his terracotta clay features, which are glazed white and painted with oxides. The whole sculpture was then dipped in a transparent glaze, to give it a really shiny surface.




Another work, On the Way to Woking Palace, was inspired by a ceramic fragment of a toy horse, also in the Heritage Collection. I wondered what the whole would have been like, and decided to complete the toy. At this point in the residency I was walking quite a lot around the Basingstoke Canal, which runs behind The Lightbox. It was autumn, and fallen leaves floated on the surface of the water, showing different colours. Oranges, orangey browns, and yellows, were framed by beautiful green foliage, which inspired the design of my ceramic sculpture. I was thinking about ferns, the coiled kind one finds near water, walking around the woods, and their coiled leaves became the horse’s legs.




I have a real dilemma about ceramics. Making them is adding to the world, which is something I try to avoid. I use pre-existing materials as much as possible: oyster shells, fishing nets, and other collectible debris. I wanted to present this conflict between repurposed and created elements in a sculpture, and started to add found substances to my fired sculptures. Two works in I Dream a Palace followed this process.

The first, Tongue Tied, is made of porcelain. I had found some pieces of green glass near the Thames which, pressed into the ceramic, became a pair of eyes. After it was fired, with a green glaze, the eyes looked like they were weeping. I added some pink fishing net debris to this new object but felt it needed another textile. In the studio I came across an embroidered piece, similarly pink, and the two pink textiles seemed almost serendipitously to match with the green of the ceramic glaze. Its title refers to colonial histories, atrocities which remain unspoken because the people who have experienced them are unable to articulate them.

The second work which presents a material conflict is Nipple Caught. Again I used porcelain clay; a nipple of brick I placed in the centre has turned black inside the white ceramic. It has been fired three times: first a bisque, then a glaze, and finally with lustre. I wanted to add fishing nets again, onto which I’ve sewn a found pattern of cream and red silk. The work is based on a story I heard once about the atrocities around the time of the British Raj, of how women were violated. Their breasts were cut off and played with, in games of catch. On the surface, when one looks at these works, their subjects are not by any means immediately obvious, but the titles are an indication of the stories they tell.




In hanging I Dream a Palace, the idea was that objects in the collection would have a conversation with the works I had created from them. The toy horse fragment speaks with On The Way To Woking Palace. The two are talking to each other, perhaps sizing each other up, and wondering what each other’s stories are. The Bartmann fragment looks across the gallery and talks with my crowd of Bartmann sculptures. Other voices are coming from the community works, and from the materials themselves. Found, combined, collected, provided, loaned; the exhibition represents a bringing together, an exploration of time and place.