RESIDENCY JOURNAL: Frances Priest

Entry #1 Manor Oaks Residency (February 2011)

Frances spent her first week in residence between 14th and 18th February.

"On my first visit to Sheffield Manor Lodge in early January I was immediately drawn to the Tudor Turret House and in particular the banqueting room with its ornately decorated plaster work ceiling. A guided tour by Tudor expert Peter Machin provided me with stories full of descriptions of glorious sweet banquets and the intriguing tale of Bess of Hardwick and Mary Queen of Scots working together to design the plaster work ceiling.

My second visit in mid February allowed for further explorations of the site, revealing a rich history of craft, making and hand skills, from John Fox’s pottery and its successful production of Manor-Ware, to census records that show Scissor Smiths, Pen Blade Forgers, Cutlers and Cutlery Handle Makers all having worked and lived across the site. I also found time to look further afield, visiting Museums Sheffield's store to look through drawers of beautiful cutlery and meeting with staff at Freeman College to look around their metal workshops.

An approach to my residency has begun to emerge with a focus on creating a link between the banqueting room of the Turret House and what I perceive to be its current and significantly more democratic equivalent: the Manor Lodge Farm-Shop and Café.

For my residency I would like to work with local Manor residents to explore the decorative features of the Turret House, from it 16th Century plaster work to Victorian stained glass windows, developing motifs and surface pattern designs that reflect the layered history of the site. These designs will be used to make a contemporary table setting for the banqueting room incorporating ceramic handled cutlery.

My next visit is planned for the end of March with a round of workshops to get the pattern designs under way and to make another visit to Freeman College to meet with students who may be able to work on making the cutlery. I am excited about returning to Sheffield and continuing a process which I hope will make connections between Sheffield Manor Lodge's history and its blossoming future".

Entry #2 Manor Oaks Residency 2011

Frances Priest 2nd blog entry from March 2011:

"In between all the seasonal, royal and national holidays that seem to be tempting us away from work and into the glorious sunshine, I am making preparations for another trip to Sheffield and THE most important date in everyone’s diary: the official opening of Manor Oaks Studios on Friday 6th May.

I am looking forward to joining in the celebrations and using the opportunity to share some of the work I have been developing during my residency at Manor Oaks Studios and Manor Lodge.

A week in late March saw me working through a process of design development with a number of local groups and individuals toward realising my plan to make a table setting for the Tudor Turret House banqueting room. The Manor Lodge over 50’s Lunch Club got the ball rolling, after a hearty Shepherd’s Pie lunch, with an afternoon spent constructing printing blocks inspired by photographs of the Tudor Turret House plaster work ceiling and Victorian stained glass windows.

The following day I visited Enable Day Care Centre where an enthusiastic group took the design process a stage further, using the printing blocks to make a series of pattern samples and a magnificent printed banner. On Wednesday I met with a group of young people from Endeavour, based at Wybourn Youth Trust, who gamely climbed the narrow stairs of the Turret House to attempt some unusual observational drawing activities in the Banqueting Room. I also spent a fascinating afternoon at Anchor Court Sheltered Housing Association chatting and reminiscing with day visitors about Manor Lodge, hearing tales of secret tunnels between The Manor and Sheffield Castle, recalling school trips to Manor Lodge and wondering whether anyone remembered Maggie Webster, the last person to live in the Tudor Turret House.

I also found time to meet with Tony, the newly appointed Manor Lodge Farm Shop Café chef to discuss cakes and biscuits and made a second visit to the Freeman College Whittle Tang Cutlery workshop where a plan is emerging to make a series of cake slices for the table setting.

May 6th will be another chance to move the design process on a step by inviting guests to participate in making a collaborative collage that will cover the walls and floor of the Ceramic Starter Studio at Manor Oaks. My hope is that the drawing will grow throughout the afternoon as individuals add their little bit to a surface pattern made up of decorative motifs developed during the March workshops.

It is exciting to see how it is possible to create a process in which so many people are invited to lend a hand in helping to evolve a pattern design that will eventually be used for the surface for decorative ceramic tableware. This is a re-inventing of the decorative language that covers the ceiling, walls and windows of the Tudor Turret House banqueting room".

Entry #3 Manor Oaks Residency (June 2011)

Frances Priest, was in Sheffield during the week of the official opening of Manor Oaks Studios and the Future Nature Garden on Friday 6th May. This is her third blog entry:-

"It feels like I am at the mid way point of my residency at Manor Oaks as my focus shifts from creating and running workshops to reflecting on the results of these activities. Looking back over the varied responses people have made to the Tudor Turret House, from hand made printing blocks, through quick sketch drawings, to collaged surfaces, I realise that I have a rich and exciting body of source material from which to develop pattern designs.

It has been interesting to see what aspects of the decorative plasterwork individuals have responded to and I am excited by how the decorative language used in the ceiling has been interpreted, creating some very new and unexpected responses. During my last visit to Sheffield I spent an enjoyable day with students and staff at Freeman college in the Whittle Tang Cuttlery workshop, stamping out, filing down and polishing 10 cake slice blades. The methodical and collective nature of the making process was a satisfying experience and seemed to reflect the collective nature of the design process I have been exploring, involving the input of many individuals to create a finished whole.

This approach was also put into action during the official Manor Oaks Studio opening event on 6th May, which was a great opportunity for me to share the progress of my residency so far. Thank you to everyone who took the time to talk to me about the work and join in with adding their mark to the drawing wall. This really helped to move the pattern designs a step forward. The cake slice designs are well underway and I am beginning to understand how they will relate to the rest of the table setting, considering what elements will make up the whole and whether it might be possible to transfer the pattern designs onto table linen too.

I will next be in Sheffield in mid July when I hope to share my designs with the Green Estate team and anyone else interested in the progress of the project.

Entry #4 Manor Oaks Residency 2011

This is Frances Priest's last blog before the official opening of her exhibition at the Turret House in Sheffield

New Manor Ware is nearing completion, just in time for the Green Estate's very own 'Field to Feast' Harvest Festival on the 24th September.

The table setting will be presented in the banqueting room of the Tudor Turret house beneath the plasterwork ceiling that inspired the pattern designs for the tableware. Befitting the original use of the banqueting room a sweet feast of ginger cake decorated with gold leaf will be served, baked by Green Estate's farm-cafe chef Tony Dunn. Visitors will be invited to cut a slice of ginger cake using the handmade cake slices that have been produced in collaboration with pupils from Freeman College in the traditional Whittle Tang Cutlery workshop.

The table setting features original drawings generated through a series of workshops with groups from Enable Day Care Centre, Endeavour Sheffield and Manor Lodge over 50’s Lunch Club. It will be interesting to see who can spot their own artwork amongst the layered pattern designs.

New Manor Ware will open to the public on Saturday 24th September from 11pm to 4pm. I very much hope you can come. For exhibition times, please visit our exhibitions page".

Entry #5 Manor Oaks Residency 2011

Frances Priest officially completed her residency on 24th September when she exhibited New Manor Ware, her new table ware range inspired by the beautiful 16thC decorative plaster ceiling preserved intact at the Turret House at Manor Lodge.

The work is now on permanent display in teh banqueting room at the Turret House, open to the public every Friday between 11am and 4pm.

New Manor Ware was exhibiting at the Gallery at Yorkshire Artspace from 2nd to 11th November, when we also showed how Frances' ideas and work developed over the 8 months of her residency including this video documentation of her final work and the opening event at the Turret House.

Frances will return to Sheffield in 2012 to work on a project with Green Estate to develop a simplified version of the design she originally made for New Manor Ware. This design will then be used by the Green Estate staff outreach team who will be working with people with learning disabilities to put into production a commercial range of tableware.

Mir Jansen, programme manager at Yorkshire Artspace.