In January 2021, Covid restrictions meant that Gill and Joy were to start their dialogue through zoom meetings. The first conversation uncovered their very similar histories as creative practitioners with portfolio careers – both had periods of work in industry, had been employed in higher education, and had experience as individual creative practitioners making functional items for exhibition and sale. They jointly related to ideas that carried an importance in craftsmanship with a resonance to material qualities. They each expressed a wish to challenge their practice and go beyond normal ways of working, so that their skills and understanding would grow from the experience of working with another maker.
Expectations of trust, and commitment to the project were important factors to establish. Gill and Joy felt that the work needed to grow and evolve organically, with a wish to experiment and extend capabilities being more important than a rush towards resolved outcomes. A schedule of zoom meetings every two weeks felt right to keep a flow of interest in the project and follow progress.
A ‘call and response’ method is a well-documented way of starting collaborative projects and allows for makers who live/work at some distance to make a connection through sent items. Gill and Joy followed this practice in their own way by requesting items under a theme that might act as creative triggers. For Gill, a selection of Joy’s stitched flowers and printed samples made from recycled tea-bags. For Joy a collection of shiny, luminescent items including a small porcelain vase made by Gill.
Gill : ‘Although my intention had been to work in clay, my initial reaction to seeing Joy’s stitched and printed tea-bags was to photograph them and start creating digital designs in ‘Photoshop’, using layers of imagery and repeat patterns ( see images below). This is a way of working that felt very safe to me and so I fell into it almost without thinking. I enjoyed the natural, earthy colouring of the elements which I felt related to the local clay I had been using recently. I then thought about how the designs could be worked onto pots, either hand drawing in coloured slips/glazes or using printed transfers. Joy could also use the designs to print onto textiles and so create items that became related across ceramics and textiles.
On reflection I realised that instead of exploring possibilities for new relationships, I had immediately fallen into old ways of seeing finished outcomes. I would need to break the habit of this way of working and dig deeper to find a more experimental approach to ideas, materials and processes.’
Stitched and recycled tea-bags sent to Gill by Joy and an example of the ‘Photoshop’ prints created by Gill
Joy : ‘I have a passion for iridescent objects that change colour with light and reflections, so I had asked Gill to include objects with this property. I received my box of goodies – a small piece of Gill’s ceramics, a spotted gift bag, tiny shell, piece of sea glass, packet of shiny critter stickers and a fractal gift card
My initial response was to be drawn to the qualities of the reflective light and kaleidoscopic colours, then the contrast between natural and manmade objects and the way Gill has played with balance in her ceramic piece. I jotted down some words that link my process to the objects lying in front of me; ripples in sand, Fibonacci sequence, circles and dots, fractals, balance and imbalance, natural and manmade, light and shadow. I felt my first response would be to echo the form of Gill’s ceramic vase in fabric and stitch, splitting it into two halves. This was a way in but it didn’t feel authentic, more of a safe, tentative step within my comfort zone but it was a starting point.’
The collection of iridescent objects sent to Joy by Gill, and Joy’s initial response to Gill’s ceramic piece