RESIDENCY JOURNAL: Emilie Taylor

Entry #1 Emilie Taylor artist in residence 2013

Emilie Taylor will be our next artist in residence at Manor Oaks. She will commence her residency in September 2013 and will be working in The Manor neighboorhood in Sheffield as well as Chatsworth in Derbyshire. Her journal blogs will start soon.

Entry #2 Gool-aya-Goh

I have been at Guldagergaard, (Gool- aya-goh), for three days now. An old Danish farmhouse with studio space for 12 Ceramic Artists to live and work together, this is shaping up to be a beautiful experience. I am here to spend two months making new work, and to experiment with wood and soda firing using the many outdoor kilns here.

In future entries I hope to explain how this experience could have a long lasting impact on my work in Sheffield- beginning with my next project on the Manor- and to offer some of my thoughts, or images, of what happens as I play with mud and fire.

But for now I will leave you with what greeted me as I walked up the drive- a view of the Farmhouse where I am staying and the Barn housing the Studio's where we work.

Entry #3 Golden Brown

Guldagergaard means 'Golden Acre Farm' .

Some time ago, maybe more than a year, a friend gave me a copy of the poem "Woods beyond a Cornfield' by Stanley Cook (1922-1991). There is an evocative use of the colour gold throughout the poem, and my use of lustre on the 'Manor & Castle' series of pots had reminded him of this.

John Killick describes the poem as "[Cook's] longest poem and his most substantial achievement. The issues are complex: the landscape being described embodies the polarities of peace and violence. The cornfield is idyllic-pastoral; the wood has been witness to a gruesome murder. The poem moves constantly between opposites attempting reconciliation. It moves between memories of the past and knowledge of present realities".

I have waited to really read this poem, to think about why, for me, it connects with the Manor Lodge site and the Manor Estate. Where better to begin to think about this than Golden Acre Farm, the idyllic, pastoral setting I find myself in now.

Today I began to mix many test glazes for a cornfield yellow that is bright but also brooding.

Entry #4 Woodfiring

Up at 5am to help with a soda firing. I spent 6 hours preparing wood, stoking and clearing the embers. The kiln contained work by Danish Artists Sten Lykke Madsen and Pricilla Mouritzen, as well as my (much less precious) selection of tests.

Entry #5 Solstice and Soda Firing

My cornfield tests made it out of the first soda firing and I now have six pots ready for my own firing which will take place on 15th July. These pots are very similar to my previous work as I want to see how the soda will work with the clay body I use and the shape I have been working with, 'controls' if you like. Having finished them however I now feel free to experiment with the form and my drawings, begin to play more and see what impact the last three weeks spent in new surroundings will have on what I make!

Entry #6 Biennale 2013

Last weekend I attended the Copenhagen Biennale for Craft and Design 2013 A selected exhibition showcasing new Danish talent in ceramics, metalwork, wood, glass and textiles. Two of the ceramic artists I had met through Guldagergaard- Malene Hartman Rasmussen, a graduate of the Royal College in the UK, and Christina Shou Christensen (work pictured), had invited us. Christina is also currently exhibiting in Milan and New York. Christina took part in Project Network at Guldagergaard in 2011, with YAS very own Anne Laycock! She has now put me up in her flat on a couple of occasions, so I'll hopefully be returning the favour when she visits the UK in Autumn for a London show, and introducing her to Sheffield ceramists.

Entry #7 Nu er de Nok

Enough is Enough!

After 6 weeks of handbuilding, slipping and sgraffito-ing, it is time to down tools and fire my work. This is the first time I have worked to fill a kiln with my own work. Other artists here have put pieces in the firing, but it has been a really worthwhile exercise to plan work of different sizes, thinking about how I want to pack the kiln as I make. This is something I had not had time to do before coming to Guldagergaard, and will be really useful practise for future firings.

Entry #8 It Takes a Community to Fire a Kiln....

In her article 'The Picture In the Frame' Joy Schaverien highlights the importance of shared experiences within communities. She uses the gallery, the theatre and the church as examples of spaces where communities come together within a space to then share a collective focus, (the alter or the stage). This focus can become a scapegoat or a talisman for collective emotional energy. I often wonder how the loss of these spaces is affecting our communities.

Woodfiring is often a collective and community activity... its a big space to fill alone and it takes a long time to reach the desired temperature, (kilns fire for anything from 24 hours to weeks at a time depending on the processes being used). So people share space, pack the kiln together, and fire in groups taking shifts so others can sleep. The kiln, as the alchemy takes place, becomes a shared focus- a hearth. There are times of intense work, stoking to reach top temperature, (in this case 1250C) but also periods of quieter time to reflect and consider strategies and processes together.

I fired my work using the woodfired soda kiln at Guldergagaard. This was the first time I had initiated and taken the lead in a woodfiring, but it was a community event and I was priviliged to have the help, support and knowledge of the other 9 arists resident at Guldergagaard throughout the 30 hour process.

I thought a lot about the new woodfired kiln back home on the Manor Estate and its potential role in an already established community. This will be something to consider as part of my residency.

Entry #9 You've Changed.

Opening the kiln is both exciting and nerve wracking.

Woodfiring is a less predictable process than electric firing- it is not completely within the artists control. Although it is possible to understand the path of the flame through the kiln, you can not be sure where the flame will hit the pots, what the ash will do exactly or, in this case, where the soda will fall. There is an element of preparing for the unexpected.

Opening the kiln door can require a balancing act between the expectations of the artist and whether they are willing to incorporate the work of the kiln into their view of the finished piece. Sometimes this might be marks and colours you never dreamed were possible, sometimes effects you wish had never happened- but the one is necessary to achieve the other.

Change is a difficult and uncomfortable process, it requires time and reaquaintance. In my, (limited but growing), experiecnce some of the biggest shocks can become the most treasured pieces in time.

Entry #10 Laced

Laced: adjective used to describe something, or someone, who is very put-together, has their game on tight, looks good, nice clothes, nice jewelry, nice car, has money, fancy, bling-bling…etc. (Urban Dictionary)

It was a privilege to be introduced to the collection of textiles at Chatsworth by Susie Stokoe, Head of Textiles at the House. Her enthusiasm for the history of constructed textiles I found particularly enthralling. The way weaving, tapestry and lace making were gifted, worn or displayed held enormous significance in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, representing power and status, and often demonstrating a direct link to royalty.

I have arranged to go back to the Textile studios/ rooms/ department in November to spend time studying and drawing a panel of Sixteenth Century lace. Very delicate and (now) fragile, structure and skilled craftsmanship have ensured it has held together for over five hundred years. The lace would have demonstrated the wealth and power, or social strength, of the woman who commissioned its making.

The aesthetic quality of the lace reminds me of porcelain, and further comparisons can be found when considering porcelains fragile and simultaneously strong material qualities. I will experiment with using porcelain to create pattern, and join this refined and expensive clay body with the buff stoneware of the land, an 'every day clay' that I more commonly use to create my pots.

Entry #11 Return to the Forgotten Golden Age

I have been spending time at Chatsworth, in the House, studying and drawing Verrio's painted ceiling 'Return to the Forgotten Golden Age'. The Golden Age represents one of the five Ages of Man described by the Greek Classical Poet Hessiod. (Following the Golden Age are the Silver Age, the Bronze Age, the Heroic Age and the Iron Age). The Roman Poet Ovid reduced the concept to four, (Gold, Silver, Bronze and Iron).

The Golden Age symbolises the birth of man- a mythical time of peace, harmony and abundance. In subsequent Ages humanity deteriorates, the Bronze Age being the dawn of violence and greed. Each succeeding Age becomes worse than the last and the Iron Age is our present.

Chatsworth and Manor are places with long and rich histories. In retrospect it is easy to become nostalgic and view the past as Golden, split off from the present. The gold lustre of the past and the iron oxide of the present sit side by side on my pots. In this ceiling I have found a focus, as well as the trigger for many questions about how we might hold the ideals of the past and the reality of the present together.

Entry #12 "A Perfect Storm of Crises"

In a recent NASA funded study, (published in the peer reviewed Elsevier Journal of Ecological Economics), natural and social scientists have developed a model that demonstrates how the 'perfect storm of crises' could unravel our global system, potentially in the next 20 years.

They draw on examples of past civilisations, as this quote used by the Guardian describes: "The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent." The study cites unsustainable resource exploitaition and unequal wealth distribution as crucial factors in the collapse. Factors unavoidably pertinent to this residency, in these places, at this time.

In Verrio's painted ceiling we see the Iron Age tumbling into the abyss. At the top of the ceiling Astrea is returning to earth bringing the Golden Age, symbolised in cornucopias of harvest. Greenestates believe a connection with the land is important for the future of the estates they serve. I am constantly reminded of my connection with the earth by the clay in my hands. I have begun to spend time with the young people at Manor Park Youth Club playing with clay, and talking.

Entry #13 'An Honest Pot with a Fallen Crown'

This is what the young people of Park Youth Club designed and made, (and named to reflect the changing royal heritage of the Manor area). Across one side it reads 'Believe in Other People'. Around the sides are images of the young people recreating the poses of the gods and goddesses of the Chatsworth ceiling. A grand day out looking round the House in April provided the inspiration for our decoration, the crown provides the twist in the tale. A contemporary piece of English slipware for our local archive, the pot took about 3 months of dedicated coiling, smoothing, slip and graffito work. Discussions about playing in the clay pits at Skye Edge were able to take place while we worked, and we talked about the old pottery, and my job as an Artist.

The pot is going to be fired at the Manor Kiln on Sunday 13th July from 10am- the young people have made posters letting everyone know they can come and help. The kiln will contain my new work alongside theirs and work by local Ceramic Artists Anna Mercedes Wear and Penny Withers.

It is hoped my links with Park Youth Club will be ongoing, I will continue working with them this Summer as part of a project with Sheffield University and Ignite Imaginations, and hope to begin providing further workshops for the young people at Green Estate site. However I would like to take this opportunity to thank Tracey and Jackie, wh run the Youth Club, and the young people, for making me feel very welcome at such an incredible and inspiring place. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time there, and it has been a privilege to be included in something run with such passion and integrity.

Entry #14 Harvest

A crop or yield of one growing season.

A supply of anything gathered at maturity and stored:

a harvest of wheat.

The result or consequence of any act, process, or event

I was lucky enough to be invited to look at the Ruskin Collection at Sheffield Museums, with the Curator Louise Pullen, in May this year. I was particularly drawn to a traditional Harvest Jug made in the late 1800's. Slip decorated Harvest Jugs, (like the one pictured) have been made in England since the 1600's. Traditionally used to take beer to the workers after collecting the crops they were decorated with images that related to local stories and celebration at a time of plenty.

I will be installing my work at Harvest time and I have decided to make a collection of Harvest Jugs. Their golden glaze created using iron.

Entry #15 Hymn to Persephone

Persephone, (depicted in the ceiling of the Great Chamber), is often simply referred to as Godess of the Underworld. But as daughter of Demeter- Godess of Fertility and Harvest, (also featured)- she also symbolised abundance and virility. Persephone was taken by Hades, to the Underworld, as a young woman and held captive there.

In trying to leave the Underworld Persephone was tricked and, as a result doomed to spend the rest of her days between two worlds. The Mortal World and the Underworld. In the 6 months Persephone was reunited with her mother Demeter nurtured mortals with bountiful harvest, but in the 6 months her daughter was away Demeter's grief overtook her and the earth was baron. This is how we come to have the seasons, the Summer and the Winter. (See the Homeric Hymn to Demeter).

Volunteering at the Youth Group I was inspired by the young women, their beauty and their strength. I have felt between two worlds throughout this Residency, two worlds that I am about to try and capture in the illustration on the jugs. They are going to be a Hymn to Persephone, inspired by two estates linked by a Matriarchal history.

Entry #16 Harvest Moon Event-film

On 23rd September 2014, the day of the Harvest Moon, an invited group of theologians, planners, architects, artists, activists and curators met at Chatsworth to view the work made by Emilie Taylor in her recent Yorkshire Artspace residency. This group then walked to Manor Estate for a Harvest supper, music, talks and disucssion as teh sun went down....click here to view the film.