Just stopping for lunch but by 3pm today I shall have done 29 grains. This morning I had five people (two friends, somebody I know who asked to take photographs, man who lives in the flats above and another man) visitting and a couple watching through the large windows. Yesterday there were quite a few people watching from outside. I don’t really see their faces but can feel them and notice something like a shadow out our the corner of my eyes. It’s interesting that some people don’t come in but look in.

Carol was my assistant this morning, she coped well with the cold. Can’t believe forecast is still talking about cold spells till and through Easter.

Tomorrow I’ll have two hundred more flyers printed, there are not many left in the space and I want to make sure there will be enough available for the finishing event. Quite a few people have already said they would come to this. I also set up another events page on Facebook.

I’ve also started getting a concrete name list for children that take part in the workshops next week.


Article in the Telegraph:

Champion’s land of soap and glory

Published on Friday 15 March 2013 09:00

ARTIST Silvia Champion is creating an installation inside the grain warehouse at Victoria Quays.

Visitors can watch her at work carving blocks of soap into shapes to form a pile of grain to evoke the industrial heritage of the building.

“I am curious about the history and the architectural shapes of a place,” she says.” I am interested in making visible what is already there to allow people to experience something of how it was.”

In 2011 she was involved in an artistic residency in Castle Market and created papier-mache shapes reflecting the castle originally on the site.

“There is so much potential in Sheffield buildings – perhaps it takes a foreigner to see that,” says the artist and mother of two from Austria who has lived in Sheffield for the past 10 years.

“The project which has Arts Council funding was originally planned for a former public baths but that didn’t happen and I was looking for a space when I met Deborah Egan from the Port of Sheffield and she showed me the grain warehouse and I fell in love with it.”

The baths had a more direct connection with soap and had secured sponsorship from Lush, the handmade cosmetics company, who agreed to provide two tonnes of soap bars . “They supported me through the difficult times like when the first venue let me down last minute,” says Champion.

The artist began to look into how she could fit her original idea into the grain warehouse.

“I spent hours at the local studies library looking at the history – another piece of Sheffield I learned about. Coal and dried fruit was transported on the canal. It opened in the early 1800s and in 1889 it was extended and then in 1925 it was bought by the mineowners to move their own coal. The last load was transported in 1970.

Transfomation is at the heart of the piece, she says. Grain was transformed into beer and flour, coat became tar. “I am transforming a grain warehouse into an art space and coal tar soap bars into grain.”

“The coal tar smell connects past and present,” she continues.” Coal and grain were brought into the canal basin on keels. The smell of coal tar was ever present in the building. The keels were lifted out and tarred to reseal them. Later the building was turned into a grain warehouse. The laboriously repetitive task of carving soap bars mirrors the manual labour on the site in the 1800s and 1900s.”

The artist went down to Lush headquarters in Poole to see how the soap is made. “They made the soap to order, a specific colour and mould, from the one product in their range which uses coal tar,” she says

And then two tonnes of soap on six pallets were delivered at the beginning of March ready for the Grain project to begin. In the first week she built up to carving 14 pieces each day and hoped to increase that to 20 in the second week in order to reach her final target of 460.

They will form a pile of grain which will be illuminated by a pool of light as the artist is herself as she works..

Another part of the installation is an animated film she has made, drawing the keels (or barges) that came into the grain warehouse which were then put against images of water flowing throw which produced a ghostly effect.

Silvia Champion will be in situ on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 10am to 3pm and on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 1pm and 3pm to 5pm until March 27 when there will be a closing event between 6pm and 9pm.


I carved 24 grains today and had six visitors (a friend, a young woman, two men, a couple). As I’m not looking up when visitors come I don’t know who visitors are or how they react. Chris Graham was my assisstant today and there was a good energy in the space. Fran documented in the morning focusing on my hand movements and close ups of shavings and soap brick walls.

Chris was watching my movements, the shavings falling and observed the rhythm of the piece. He was talking about connetions with attitude of cleanlyness and purity of churches, workhouses, women labouring – people watching, silence and piecefullness, comparing carving trolley to an alter and how he finds the work really engagening so he could be silent for the duration of the five hours (excl. lunch break). For those who know Chris will understand that this means something :-))

Now the money has come through from ACE I ordered wooden carving tools, disposable aprons and latex and powder free gloves for the workshops next week. I’ll make some carving tools myself out of wooden lolly pop sticks but to offer some variation I ordered some additional tools over ebay. Can’t believe the workshops are next week already, getting excited about them too now.

Still really enjoy being in the space.

Last Saturday 16th I carved an additional hour as Port of Sheffield launched one of their audio canal walks from the Grain Warehouse. That meant six more carved grains and a few more people who experienced the project.

It would be fantastic if the Grain Warehouse could become an art space for longer.


Today was a rather cold and damp day at the Grain Warehouse. Only one visitor came but I did get thirty one grains done (got there early this morning). My piles of shavings are growing noticeably now and come up quite high on my carving trolley. Brian commented on Tuesday that I will look like a bride soon with a wide white dress of white soap shavings.

Penny asked me the other day what it is about buildings that fascinated me, what it is that makes me tick? I’ve thought about that a bit more and I think there are two things that attract me in particular. One is doing a project in a non gallery space offers the opportunity to form a number of relationships with a great variety of people and busninesses; often people one might normally not meet. I enjoy the challenge of looking after these relationships and learning through them and get a feeling of exchange. I’m not saying relationships only happen when working in a non gallery space but I feel more so as the artist has to sort out lots of things themselves in order to make the project happen. Having said that it can be frustrating sometimes and hard work, but very rewarding in the end.

The ‘learning’ also comes out in my second point I want to make. By doing a project in those spaces and researching the the former life of a building, a site I’m learning about its social history and that interests me.

I really liked the work of artist Katie Davis, who talked in Gravity lecture/Sheffield Hallam recently. Her work is video based and each piece is about a different situation (often to do with borders) in a differnt place eg. border between two countries, situation when someone accepts Britsh Citiznship to name just two. She researches these sites/situation and films there. Each time she widens her horizon. Fantastic!

In addtion, I attract people who might not go to galleries as well as people from the arts scene. That mix of people I like too.

Judy, who was my assistant in the afternoon today commented that she couldn’t really get a sense of the project when reading my flyer. I had to design the flyer before I started the work so put the very attractive space on with the grain hoppers and I think some people might have thought I made the hoppers. Do we need to get a sense of the work when we read the flyer? Maybe we do. Sometimes flyers are just a piece of paper with the info on. Also, some people were surprisded that I’m carving life in the space; they thought I do it in the studio and take them there. Does that have to be obvious too when sending out info? I quite like a bit of a surprise.

Have got some images to put on but need to do that tomorrow.


On the way to the Grain Warehouse this moring I picked up the Sheffield Telegraph and there was the article about GRAIN. It’s very positive what Ian Soutar has written there.

This morning I had four visitors and I’ve got two more hours to go after lunch. Have done twelve grains so far and will manage another twelve.

My friend Helen who visited yesterday afternoon wrote:

I had such an amazing time today coming to see you with Poppy…I took some photos of our journey in from Attercliffe. Pete has put them on a disc for me so I can give them to you. I feel I should have also taken a vid of you carving as at the end I did a vid you to get the noise of the steel works. It was quite stunning the contrast between the noise and pollution of the industrial area and the serene atmosphere in your space and the wonderful smell. I loved the smooth rounded textures of the grains and the whole thing has left me with strong images creating powerful memories. Knowing you as I do I also thought the work was very “you” as I always think you have a wonderful calming aura. I’m very glad you didn’t end upstairs in the pub as I thought the Grain Warehouse was the perfect setting. Maybe some things are just meant to be…

As well as the peace I really enjoyed the physicality of your work. You must be acheing+++…but I see so many people from manual jobs and this is a massive part of working in industry! I’m really interested in how being in silence has affected you having watched a great programme called the Big Silence…there must be a spiritual element to the process for you.

I personally would prefer no assistant and the peace and quiet of observing you in the peaceful room and you could just have written information and a chat forum online…perhaps similar to some of the exhibitions. A tricky one as I suspect some people prefer having the assistant to talk to.

Hope some people turned up tonight. We would all like to come to your closing do if it is ok to bring the children. If not I’ll come on my own.

Thank you for a wonderful and memorable day that I will never forget.

Thank you Helen. I appreciate your thoughtfulness!!