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Mary on Tour

March 20, 2014 Artist Responses Comments Off on Mary on Tour

Those of you who have followed the development of my collaborative, creative response to the bygones spoon collection with weaver Ismini Samanidou, may be interested to know that the resulting piece has been exhibited at venues nationally and internationally.

Table Runner was exhibited in Utensil at the National Craft Gallery of Ireland, New Directions in Contemporary Craft at Mottisfont Abbey, National Trust and Pairings at Contemporary Applied Arts, London.

The collaboration was also featured in Samanidou’s solo show, Topography: recording place, mapping surface, touring from the Crafts Study Centre in Farnham to the Centre for Craft, Creativity and Design in North Carolina and the Weber Center, Utah, USA.

Table Runner (overview) – hand built ceramic and digitally woven cloth, 1500mm x 350mm

detail, three spoons, three voices

acknowledging value in the damage and wear of everyday use


the contemporary emerging from the historic

paying homage to the past, ceramic spoon placed within the woven shadow of it’s predecessor

Table Runner 2

November 5, 2010 Artist Responses, The Letters Comments Off on Table Runner 2

This project has been my main focus recently as my collaboration with weaver Ismini Samanidou intensifies!  Recent developments include some further refinements to the clay palette based on the initial woven samples made by Ismini on the jacquard loom.  I particularly liked the section woven from digital images of some of the spoons in the collection and have been working the clay to try and capture these characteristics.

Bygones spoon, worn and distorted through endless stirring

Bygones spoon with the initials of an unknown family

Cloth samples being woven on the jacquard loom

Detail of Bygones spoon woven into cloth

Translating the woven cloth back into clay

Exploring overlays of stained clay

clay colour sample responding to woven cloth

We have also been playing with ways in which text from the archive letters may be brought in to the composition.  In one of the letters there is a handwritten inventory of spoons sent by Mary to the collection.  We have been playing around with somehow combining this alongside images of spoons from the collection into the cloth.

Digitally overlaying the spoon inventory over the spoon

spoon inventory on computer screen as part of the designing and weaving process

woven spoon inventory

It’s all looking very promising but there are still a number of refinements to be made.  We are still trying to achieve greater subtlety and richness.  The cloth samples to date are still a bit too graphic visually. We want to work on that and move toward a more abstract outcome, at least in parts.  Physically the cloth is a little too thin and mean so we want to explore further combinations of yarns to yield a thicker fabric with a richer texture.  We also want to warm up the colour palette a touch and perhaps introduce some creams, golds to reflect the colour palette of the range of metal spoons such as pewter and brass.  So still plenty to do but all very exciting!  Sharon

Table Runner

I have an idea to somehow put Mary’s spoons, hidden away for years in a drawer at Queens Park, back on the table. Inspired by the table runner that Mary sent out to the collection at Timaru in New Zealand I have been collaborating with weaver Ismini Samanidou on a table runner which uses a combination of  images of the spoons in the archive and clay spoons I have made in response.  We are still playing and sample making, exploring very subtle weaves and more dramatic combinations, trying to reference the worn surfaces and edges of the spoons, perhaps incorporating some text from the letters, maybe the spoon inventory.  Through all of this we are discovering the similarities and differences between cloth and clay and learning ways in which the two can be brought together.  It is proving to be a really stimulating project.

thumbnail sketches of early ideas

Spoons from the collection woven into cloth

Subtle weave with ceramic spoons nestling

shadow of spoon woven into cloth

Ceramic spoons over woven text

At this early stage we are playing with varying combinations of cloth and clay – clay spoons sitting on cloth surfaces, cloth spoons rolled into clay dishes, images of clay spoons and surfaces woven back into the cloth.  I like the notion of a seamless transition between the old and the new, the cloth and the clay, the analogue and the digital, the hand and the machine, and would like this to be reflected as the work develops.  Sharon

Modeling the idea on the table in cloth and clay

Silhouette 3

I thought I’d show you some colour samples fresh from the kiln that I’m testing out for the silhouette dish.  I’m trying various combinations of black and white with reference to the original, paper cut silhouette.

Dark grey slip with white over

I need to take more care when applying the resist to mask out the head as the resulting edge isn’t crisp enough.  I need that edge to make the same visual impact as the paper cut edge of the original.

I am considering using a touch of glaze, perhaps just on the head, perhaps just as an incidental splash, to draw out some further contrasts and animate the surface with reflected light.  However, on this test the glaze has drawn out the black pigment in the grey slip too heavily and shifted the focus from the head to the glaze splash, so I can see I need to be careful how I handle this.

Red clay, grey slip with white over and a splash of glaze

I normally work with a white clay base as it shows colour well but I have also recently been working more with red terracotta.  I like the bold colour contrast of the red clay with the black slip and this particular combination gives a cleaner edge around the profile when the black is rubbed away.

Red clay with black slip

However, I have found that the red clay warps much more than the white through the drying and firing process (no matter how careful I am!) so I have tried using a red slip on the white clay.  Whilst this solves the warping problem the colour combination isn’t quite as dramatic.  So blending red clay with white, or buying a grogged red clay might be the next step if I choose this palette.  I also turned Mary round so she’s looking back at us, or with an idea that there could be two, one facing the other!

White clay, red slip, black slip over

The tests have also shown me that I’ve lost the detail of the netting around the brim of her hat and I need to think about whether this is important and if it is how I can bring it back.  Either some other form of mark making in the clay or other forms of finishing post firing such as glaze, enamel or transfer.  I was already planning some transfer lettering for the inscription, so this may be an option if I think it’s necessary.

Decisions about the work are made through the sample making process and all the samples are made with a question in mind, testing out the theories (as theory is often very different in practice!), considering the options, feeling confident that the right choices are being made.  As I move towards resolution, I need to feel sure that the final piece is the best it can be.

Perhaps if you are reading this you might care to comment on some of these deliberations.  As the idea is still in progress you have an opportunity to affect the outcome.  All tutorial advice will be carefully considered!  Sharon

Silhouette 2

June 17, 2010 Artist Responses 1 Comment

The creative process can be a funny business! I had all sorts of plans for things to make, none of them based on the silhouette of Mary, but I just couldn’t seem to get it out of my head!  When that happens it’s best just to go with it, so I’ve been developing this idea for a commemorative dish for her. I really wanted to keep the simplicity of the silhouette and use it as a focal feature, the border of the dish acting as a frame for the image.  I think it’s promising.  I now need to develop the palette as I have a few options in mind, mostly building on the black and white contrast of the original cut out.


cloth silhouette of Mary Greg

Removing the cloth template

Impression in clay

Finished dish awaiting colour

Day One, Week One

April 27, 2010 Artist Responses 1 Comment

I’m fortunate to be able to spend a bit more time in the workshop over the next few weeks thanks to some funding from the Craft Research Centre at Manchester Metropolitan University to release me from some of my teaching.  This should enable me to move my ideas on and develop my creative responses to the project.  So I thought I’d show you what I have been working on today (once I tidied up a bit and cleared the spiders out of the sink!).  Watch out for more over the coming weeks.  Sharon

Day always starts with removing a spider from the sink!

making tests for 'Witness Marks'

Trying out oval bowls for value measuring spoons

Modelling another version of 'Mary's Chatelaine'

Missing Objects

April 15, 2010 Artist Responses, Hidden Stories, The Letters Comments Off on Missing Objects

Whilst reading the letters I came across an interesting discourse between Mary and Batho about some objects that she sent to Manchester that went astray (17th August 1925)

“Dear Mrs Greg….There are a few objects missing, as follows:- Two ivory figures: Cat and Dog, Two wooden figures: Dog and Donkey, Two ivory Ducks, Two Valentines…..I have gone carefully through the packing and fail to find them….I will have another search made of the packing material.”

There is no further mention of them ever being found.  I feel compelled to return these objects to their rightful place in the collection and have been working on a few ideas.  I thought I might take the trays of Noah’s Ark animals as a starting point and have used these as the basis for interpretation through drawing and clay.

Noah's Ark tray. Loved the spotty dog the blue boar and the zebra with the missing head!

Spotty dog

Sketchbook pages

Early clay test - Cat and Dog

Two ducks

A cat and a dog?

Two Valentines

Not sure yet whether the idea will develop into a dish or tray to reference the box, or something else entirely.  I’m still playing!  Sharon

Mary Greg’s Threads

February 1, 2010 Artist Responses Comments Off on Mary Greg’s Threads
Sharon arranges her work on base of cabinet.

Sharon arranges her work on base of cabinet.

Along with the Samuel Crompton threads we have displayed a small selection of Mary Greg’s bygones collection.

This is a photo of Sharon arranging some of the work she has started to develop  in response to the objects.

Value Measures

January 9, 2010 Artist Responses 2 Comments

Thought I’d update you with progress on the value measures I have been making.  I’ve modeled a few variations now, which are drying ready for the application of colour.  You might recognise some elements from the Bygone spoon collection – twisted stems, worn edges, broken….  I’ve tried some different forms and sizes, exploring scale and proportion, and I’ve played with a couple of type faces at varying font sizes.

Assorted Value Measures

Assorted Value Measures

I think the idea is worth pursuing though there are a number of refinements to be made.  I’m not happy with the shape of the bowl, generally too round (thought it works with some handle styles), I’m going to explore a more ovoid bowl form or perhaps pear shape like the apostle spoons.  Also the measuring line.  It’s ok indented (made by pressing an edge into the clay), but I want to see what it’s like raised.  I know this seems like, and is, a small detail but I am thinking ahead to the glazing of the spoon.  I want to pour glaze up to the measuring line (the glaze will subtlely change the intensity of the underlying colour and draw the eye to the measure mark) and I am thinking that a raised line will provide a better end point for the glaze.  Practically, it should be easier to wipe any excess glaze from a raised line.  An indented mark would probably fill with glaze, building up excess which could potentially run during subsequent firing.  In anticipating and responding to these potential problems I am hoping to avoid later time consuming and costly disappointments.  I’ve also been making some measuring cups based on some old metal scoops I have.  Not sure about the handles yet though!

Value Measuring Cup

Value Measuring Cup



I suppose this is how an idea develops, considering and refining, reacting to problems and improving.  Of course few people would probably notice these things, other makers perhaps (once developed, a keen eye rarely misses). But I just need to feel that whatever I put out there is as good as I can make it.  As a sole maker you must be your own quality control no-one else has the same vested interest in your work!  Sharon


September 27, 2009 Artist Responses 3 Comments
Poured spoon, layered inks, charcoal pencil

Poured spoon, layered inks, charcoal pencil

I keep coming back to Mary’s spoons.  I have been drawing them in different ways, observing forms, details, characteristics and noticing things as a consequence.  The fig-shaped bowls of the Apostle spoons, different shaped finials and spoon ends, stamped initials, twisted stems, worn edges, shadows left in boxes.  Difficult to capture the essence of these through drawing!

Observation drawings of trefid spoons

Observation drawings of trefid spoons

Apostle spoons and first ink pourings

Apostle spoons and first ink pourings

Sketchbook drawings exploring spoon and spoon box

Sketchbook drawings exploring spoon and spoon box

The worn spoon edges were particularly tricky.  Pencil just wasn’t quite right so I began to explore other media.  The edge looked like the edge that is made by a liquid – full of tension yet fragile and vulnerable (have a good look at a puddle or a drip of tea!).  How to represent that in a drawing?  I liked the notion of drawing with a liquid.  I have always enjoyed the marks created as a liquid dries.  I began to make puddles of ink, tipping these away to form the shaft of the spoon, discovering that the density and movement of the colour could be controlled through careful angling and supporting when drying.  Layering thin stains of colour created further subtleties and nuances and working over the pourings when dry provided additional detail.  I am beginning to see ways in which these qualities might be translated into clay through slips and glaze, pouring and layering, marking and stamping.  Making the drawings, drives the testing, the testing feeds the making….   Sharon

Spoon pourings, layered ink, resist, charcoal pencil

Spoon pourings, layered ink, resist, charcoal pencil