Sense of place:

A central theme in my work is the focus on place; on the landscape, the environment, the economy and culture and from this – the connections between people, locally available materials and function (for example, tools / buildings / fuel etc.). All human activity has an impact, and yet over the centuries, it seems as if there were occasionally systems that established some kind of balance between the natural world and our actions. Take the countryside of the British Isles for example, where until the development of more industrial approaches to farming following the second world war, the fields were characterised by species diversity – of plants, invertebrates, birds etc. I’m not suggesting this was a panacea – something usually has to give. Some kind of balance also seems to have been established in the management of woodlands for coppicing, creating fuel for firewood and early industrial activity. The coppiced woods created opportunities for a wide range of flowering plants such as bluebells and wood anemones and particular butterfly and bird species – whilst also creating a carbon neutral source of fuel.

Whilst it may seem almost impossible to re-create these systems to serve a world with a growing population of 7 billion people, it does inspire me – and the whole concept of sustainability deeply underlies my work. How could these more balanced systems inform our future actions and innovation? It also means that as I explore landscapes, with ceramic materials in mind, I know that I need to think carefully about the relationships that I will have with both people and place, if I am to stay true to my own values and commitments.


Letter key for Palimpsest – Soil Hill, photograph in MA show:

A:     Ovendon Moor – Rough Rock Sandstone (Carboniferous era, c. 313 to 314 million years BP) covered by peat deposits (formed since last ice-age) and heather moorland

B:     Original Penine Lower Coal Measures Formation mudstone (Carboniferous era, c. 312-313) and Middle Band Sandstone (Carboniferous era, c.312-313 million years BP) layers much of which was removed by clay extraction, now “landscaped” and covered with surface soil and unimproved grassland

C:     Hebble Brook, stream cut valley (post-glacial) with semi-natural ancient woodland above Ogden Reservoir

D:     Possible route of Roman road through Causeway Foot. This road from Halifax to Denholm, now the A629, passes through Causeway Foot and is recorded on earliest OS map of 1851. The Roman Road M720a running from Ilkley to Manchester crosses this road just north of Ogden (it is not marked on the current OS map but is clearly marked on the 1st Edition OS map from 1847-9).

E:      Penine Lower Coal Measures Formation mudstone (Carboniferous era, c. 312-313 million years BP) covered by surface soil, and the pattern of enclosed fields and improved grassland established in the early 19th Century

F:     Curving linear feature – perhaps demarking the Parish boundary which follows this line on the 1847-9 OS map, or part of the more recent landscaping work. Originally interpreted as a leet carrying water to the pottery

G:     Domestic and industrial developments (19th Century) along Coal Lane adjacent to Soil Hill Pottery works (originally Swilling End Pottery – now in conversion to residential. Soil Hill is referred to as Swilling Hill on the early edition OS maps.

H:     Coniferous plantation at Mount Pleasant (20th Century)

I:       Telegraph poles (Mid 20th Century)

J:      Wind farm (21st Century) above deciduous broadleaf woodland running alongside south bank of Ogden Clough down to Ogden Water. The wind farm in this picture has been removed (2016) and a new wind farm of a smaller number of much larger windmills / turbines is being erected (October 2016)

K:     Landfill site – now closed (21st Century).

Note: BP is Before Present.

Landscapes and clay:

Over the last year, my exploration of landscape – specifically linked to places of extraction (of clay, rocks and minerals linked to ceramic manufacture) and / or  production (i.e. the sites of potteries / workshops etc.), has led me back to the concept of palimpsest. The essence of this idea, can be summarized as a surface scraped clean – to be used again, originally relating to the historic re-use of vellum (an ancient material for the production of books), which in the Medieval period was in short supply.

The concept has been translated to a way of viewing landscape by W.G. Hoskins, in his seminal work The Making of the English Landscape (1970) in which he illustrated how palimpsest could be used to describe the landscape itself, as a series of cumulative layers, holding evidence of human activity and a patchwork of clues that could be used to understand changes in human society and economy, and our relationship with the natural environment. My intention was to place this concept centrally in the last creative part of the MA.

Photographs for the MA will go on show for assessment on the 26th January in the basement gallery at Corsham Court. It is not a public show – as our MA Show is booked in to tie in with other MA shows at the School of Art and Design at Sion Hill on the 23rd September. They will also go on show as part of my first public exhibition in the Autumn at Dean Clough, Halifax, which has just been confirmed….(more to follow). The photograph of Titterstone Clee Hill, shown below follows the line of enquiry introduced above. Layers and features are highlighted, but the exact nature, background, detail of these – is another story….

Ref: W, G. Hoskins (1970) The Making of the English Landscape. Penguin.

Version 2
Towards the summit plateau of Titterstone Clee Hill, Shropshire – 2015