I’ve been involved with the commissioning of some regional designer/makers for the upcoming exhibition at the Granary Gallery in Berwick, up on the Scottish border.
It’s been a fascinating project. The gallery wanted selected artist-makers to visit their famous Burrell Collection and come up with personal responses – in any medium they like – to one or more of the pieces in the collection.
The gallery asked me to to draw up a short-list of makers and then to manage the run-up to the opening day.
It’s been even more fascinating to see what responses these makers came up with.
As soon as I saw the the “washing day “ watercolour by Jacob Maris at the Burrell, of course, I was drawn to creating my own response too! Who wouldn’t be? It’s such a lovely picture, and it came as no surprise to learn that it is considered to be the most popular piece in the exhibition.
For me, it was mesmerising to observe the poetic dance conjured up by the wind billowing and rippling the draped lengths of fabric. It reminded me of something almost sacred, like the prayer cloths I’d seen along the Himalayas I saw on a trip to India.
So, I started to play around with some clay shapes In my studio.
I draped a sheet of plastic over a string line and held a hairdryer behind it. Amazingly, it began to produce puffed-out shapes in a way that imitated the painting, which led me to think it would be possible to create something from porcelain.
I began with quite a simple piece and became more and more adventurous with undulations and raised curves. I developed ways of supporting the clay into those different shapes and then – always the hard bit! – ways of removing the supports without breaking the brittle, dried clay.
I’m still refining the process, but I’m very very pleased with how it’s going… Porcelain so well adapts itself to the smooth flow of a piece of linen flapping in the breeze.
The exhibition opens on December… and features the artist-makers, Morag Eaton printmaker, Bridget Jones from Northumberland, Mandy Pattullo textile artist, and Bronwen Deane jewellery designer based in Newcastle.
Work will be for sale – including my own, as the gallery also want it (though they will display it in a separate part of the gallery).