community maker

“Community Maker is a 3 year project, a partnership between British Ceramics Biennial and AirSpace Gallery. 
In 2015 – the project was all about aiming to create space for a community to get together, eat, meet and make – and explore together, how to develop the area. I am the lead artist of the project, and much of my thinking around the project stems from the very interesting dilemma of being an artist and a resident. I have worked in public and community contexts many times over the years, but this is the first time I have done so within my own neighbourhood. The interest for me stems from the context we, as a family, find ourselves in, as members of the £1 home scheme – we were tasked, as part of the deal, with being ‘active members of the community – and agreeing to be part of community life, using our skills and resources to support the community to develop.’ We, and 32 other households across 4 streets agreed to this when we took on our £1 houses in this area. I was really interested in exploring what role an artist might be able to take in this context, and the Community Maker project takes this as a starting point.”
Anna Francis, 2016

I have been working with the British Ceramics Biennial and Anna Francis on this project since 2015 and I am really pleased to have the opportunity to continue to create work with Anna and the Portland Street community.
During the sessions, we will be creating a range of ceramic ware which will be used in a feast during the British Ceramics Biennial festival. The Portland Street community will be invited to attend the celebration and will eat from the plates we create.
Our first session was a ‘taster session’, which explored various states of clay using BCB’s ‘Clay Pit’. Participants were invited to collect their materials and tools using the ‘Reggio Emilia’ approach. This invites participants to explore clay with no direct instruction. There were 4 states of clay; slip, wet clay, dry clay and ceramic. This gave the community a chance to re-discover clay and explore the material with no boundaries. This session was also an opportunity to sign people up for the Community Maker course.
The course started the following week with a plate-making activity. With many of the community getting involved, we created 19 plates using Spode press moulds and each participant learned a new skill. “I felt upset before the workshop, but I feel happy again” said Amelia, aged 8. Participants described the session as relaxed and fun. Chloe said “I feel this workshop has given me confidence to work with clay again and I am really excited to see the finished work”. One participant said “I love how fun it can be and I love making the ideas in my head a reality”.
Alongside our ‘main’ activity, each week we deliver a drop-in activity. The first week’s activity, led by Dena Bagi allowed the participants to use clay to collect textures from around the community green space, the results were fantastic and the children really enjoyed using clay in such a free way.
It is clear that working together, sharing skills and creating are extremely important aspects of community growth and I am really excited to see the results of such a fantastic collaborative project!



Plate-making images by Glen Stoker


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