Clayground/Project Phakama Bursary Award News

In May 2012, Clayground Collective teamed up with International Youth Performance organisation, Project Phakama, to hold an auction to raise funds for a bursary for a Phakama student to study ceramics. Thank you to all those who contributed items and stories to enable a student to study ceramics who otherwise would not have had the chance to do so.

The award was made to Cedoux Kadima, a committed visual artist who had not tried ceramics before.  Cedoux has made impressive progress through the year and has now embarked on an Art Foundation course at Morley College.


Auctioneer Régis Gnaly (Centre) and Phakama Colleagues at the auction in Morley College Ceramic Studio

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Cedoux Kadima is awarded his Bursary certificate from ceramics tutor and Clayground Co-Director, Duncan Hooson








Cedoux learned basic ceramic skills and made pierced and repeat forms.  His first pieces were exhibited in a group exhibition in Morley Gallery (Left below) and he went on to refine his techniques to complete his end of year piece, Green Holly, (below right).  Cedoux’s inspiration was how things grow and change, sometimes having a direct influence on people’s lives and sometimes not.  This piece expresses Cedoux’s personal experience and his concept of living creatively.

Cedoux Kadima's pieces, Morley Gallery exhibition

Cedoux Kadima’s pieces, Morley Gallery exhibition

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Green Holly









We aim to raise funds for another bursary at some point and will let people know when this is in prospect.

Clay Cargo 2013: London to Stoke via Birmingham – Embark here!

Clay Cargo 2013: London to Stoke via Birmingham took place from July-October 2013. The first of three journeys over the next couple of years, Clay Cargo will culminate in completion of artworks incorporating the world’s clays in 2015 (location to be decided).

We have made a visual presentation to give a glimpse of activities in London, Birmingham and Stoke.  You can embark on the journey by clicking here or click on the PROJECTS page and scroll down to the Clay Cargo image.

The presentation has lots of layers, so keep scrolling and keep digging.  We hope you enjoy the journey.


Clay Cargo 2013: London to Stoke via Birmingham

We have had a busy summer and autumn inviting people in London, Birmingham and Stoke on Trent to get stuck into clay.  Very soon you will be able to see what we’ve been up to.  In the next couple of weeks we’ll be presenting images and further information online about the sessions we’ve been organising on canal boats and in public spaces in three cities from July – October.  Watch this space.

November Thames foreshore walk dates announced



We are delighted to announce dates and times for the next Thames foreshore walks led by archaeologist, Mike Webber.

Clayground’s current project, Clay Cargo 2013: London to Stoke, renews links between ceramics and the waterways today.  Mike will call on his encyclopaedic knowledge of London and the river to illuminate the city’s trading history through ceramic fragments turned up by the tide.  If you’ve ever wondered about the origins and development of our great city, join us for a few hours foraging for clues on the beach.

The walk is for a maximum of 30 people and booking is absolutely essential.  Places are allocated on a first come, first served basis.  The cost is £20 per person payable on the day.  Children over 8 are welcome (£15).  Proceeds above costs contribute to Clayground’s participatory art projects.

The walk will last approximately 2.5 hours.  Prompt arrival is essential as the tide does not wait.  Contact us to book by clicking here.  You will be sent further details of the meeting point.


Clay Cargo 2013: London to Stoke is part of the British Ceramics Biennial, created in partnership with the Canal & River Trust.  Clayground is leading Pits and Pots, a giant clay sculpture-making workshop during the Burslem Weekender 12 and 13 October, hosted beside the canal at the Middleport Pottery.  Why not visit Stoke and this gem of a Victorian working pottery taking in the Clay Cargo 2013 installation and other exhibits at the original Spode Factory site?  All events are free.

Clay Cargo 2013: London to Stoke – Dates and locations

Clayground is hosting Clay Cargo 2013 in three cities over the next three months: London in August, Birmingham in September and Stoke-on-Trent in October. We invite you to take part on the dates below. The activities are free and no booking is required.

Clay Cargo is part of Clayground’s initiative to revive clay and hand-making skills in the UK by inviting people in Britain and around the world to dig clay and relay this to London for incorporation into participatory public artworks in 2015.  Along the way, we are encouraging people to investigate clay’s role in everyday life.

Clay Cargo is organised in partnership with the Briitsh Ceramics Biennial and Canal & River Trust.  Clay and canals are intimately intertwined.  Clay Cargo takes inspiration from Josiah Wedgwood, pioneer ceramic industrialist and one of the canal system’s first investors.  It renews connections between the waterways and ceramics today by linking Central Saint Martins Art College, beside the Regent Canal in London, to the centre of the UK ceramics industry in Stoke on the Trent and Mersey Canal.  En route, we will stop off in Birmingham where Wedgwood was a regular visitor as a member of The Lunar Society.

Duncan Hooson is throwing 100 ‘saggars’ or cylindrical containers, once used to protect fine china during the firing process.  These will carry works of imagination as cargo to Stoke. Made by many hands along the way in community workshops on a series of boats (special bookings only) and land-based sessions (public), these works will be displayed as part of an exhibition commissioned by the British Ceramics Biennial to be installed in the Spode Factory. (Loading saggars, from Stoke in Old Photographs/Tim Corum, Ian Lawley.)

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Please join us at one or all of the free land-based clay workshops on the following dates. No booking required.

August 3rd, 11.00-2.30. Create a London garden, city and canalscape in clay at Global Generation’s Skip Garden, Kings Cross, Handyside St, at the junction of York Way & Copenhagen Street, London N1 0AX.  Café open 10.00-4.00. Activities suitable for all ages and site accessible to wheelchairs and buggies.

The Skip Garden is a movable, organic garden in the city, re-located as areas of the Kings Cross development site are built. Young people, residents and business employees have worked together to make this a garden of a thousand hands. Clayground is working with Global Generation’s Big Bang summer school, exploring clay’s place in the story of the Universe. (Images below, Global Generation activities 2012)

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Saturday 3 August 11.00-2.00  Visit the Clay Cargo boat at a mooring on the south side of the Regent Canal near to Granary Square and the Filling Station. Please note the boat is not fully accessible. Accompanied children welcome from eight upwards. Main activities at the Skip Garden on Saturday.  Boat send-off approximately 3.30-4.00.

While you are in Kings Cross, visit Pangolin London, Kings Place, 90 York Way, N1 9AG. The gallery’s current exhibition Sculptural Ceramics brings together works from established and emerging ceramic artists.  This September Clay Cargo and Central’s Ceramic Design will feature in the gallery’s five external sculpture windows which are to provide a showcase for ceramics throughout the forthcoming year.

September 7/8, 12.00-5.30 both days, Clayground will be hosted by Ikon Gallery, Birmingham.  Join us in a free workshop to create a giant Birmingham city and canalscape as we stop off en-route from London to the British Ceramics Biennial in Stoke-on-Trent.  In Birmingham, we are also hosting workshops with students from Birmingham Ormiston Academy, and young people with visual impairment supported by LOOK.

Members of Crisis Skylight, Birmingham’s art programme, will have a Clay Cargo canal trip and workshop on Ikon’s Slow Boat.


October 12/13, a weekend of clay making and an outdoor kiln firing at Middleport Pottery, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent.  Times and details to be confirmed. (Image below: Artist Martin Brockman fires a kiln beside the Regent Canal 2012; Middleport pottery restoration)

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28 September to 10 November The installation at the Spode factory will be open to the public as part of many activities across Stoke during the British Ceramics Biennial.

We hope to see you at one of our land-based sessions over the next three months or, if you’re further afield, keep in touch via updates on the website or twitter.

If you haven’t already done so and would like to encourage our collective effort by naming a saggar for £10-£100 please contact us to make your mark on Clay Cargo 2013 in this way and we’ll let you know how to proceed.  (Image: Duncan with the first 22 of 100 saggars to be thrown.)

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Clay Cargo 2013 is devised in partnership with British Ceramics Biennial and Canal & River Trust. It is funded by individuals, the National Lottery through Arts Council England, Central Saint Martins and Ikon Gallery. Potclays has donated clays. Global Generation, Camden Libraries, Central Saint Martins Widening Participation and Ceramic Design Departments, King’s Cross, Pangolin London, Fordham Gallery, individuals and community organisations in three cities are helping to make the project happen. Paul Hamlyn Foundation supported the development phase.

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Mike Webber is a leading archaeologist of the Thames with encyclopaedic knowledge of London and its river.  He will lead walks to illuminate London’s history through ceramic fragments found on the foreshore on the following dates:

Saturday 10 August, at 9.00 am NOW SOLD OUT

Tuesday 20 August at 6.45pm  NOW SOLD OUT


Thames walks this year coincide with Clay Cargo, Clayground’s commission from the British Ceramics Biennial, renewing links between ceramics and the waterways with making activities in London, Birmingham and Stoke on Trent.

During previous walks, we found plentiful evidence of London’s trading history and cargoes coming and going: salt-glazed beer bottles from Hanseatic League cities; the finial of a money box from the Tudor theatre trade; and fragments of fine Wedgwood teapots, doubtless transported via canal from Stoke.

If you’ve ever wondered about the origins, development and trading links of our great city, join us in August and gain insights during time on the beach. Each walk is for a maximum of 30 people and booking is absolutely essential.

Directions to the meeting point will be given on booking.  The cost is £20 per person with discount for a limited number on each walk of children over 9. Proceeds will contribute to Clay Cargo workshops and costs.

The walk will last approximately 2.5 hours.  Prompt arrival is essential as time on the shore is determined by the tide.  Suitable clothing, stout footwear and a strong bag are essential too.  Contact Clayground to book and receive further details of the meeting point.

Details of other Clay Cargo activities will be posted soon.  Be sure to sign up for blog posts if you wish to receive advance notice of these.



Champion clay digger and bearer, Terry Noel, and Melodians Steel Orchestra at the Venice Biennale

Terry Noel is Clayground’s champion bearer of clay to London, bringing clay from wherever he and his steel orchestra play around the world including Azerbaijan, Austria, Norway, Trinidad and Turkey.  Terry leads the Melodians, a steel orchestra equally dedicated to playing for community groups in Wandsworth as it is for British Consulates from Baku to Vienna.  The Melodians’ latest international appearance is part of artist Jeremy Deller’s British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.  The Melodians recorded interpretations of  Vaughan Williams’ Symphony in D Minor, UK acid house track ‘Voodoo Ray’ by A Guy Called Gerald and David Bowie’s ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ as soundtrack to Deller’s ‘English Magic’, a fierce critique and celebration of contemporary Britain.  Watch it here. 

Here is Terry collecting clay in Arima, Trinidad, with his colleague, Cristo Adonis; being presented with Austrian clay by Embassy staff member, Sian Stickings, and moving those big pans around for rehearsal in Wandsworth.

Terry Noel and Cristo Adonis collect clay in Trinidad  DSCF1771  IMG_2925

Congratulations to Terry and the Melodians.  Clayground is proud of our association with you.

Clayground News

We are thrilled to announce Clayground Collective is winner of an inaugural national Craft Skills Award in the category Engaging New and Diverse Audiences.  The citation says the award recognises: “commitment towards excellence, success, ambition, and exemplary and imaginative approaches in passing on craft skills”.  We are delighted to have Clayground’s work recognised in this way and appreciate the great number of people with amazing skills and expertise who have enabled us to  devise imaginative ways to get people stuck into clay, whatever their perspective.

The Awards were presented by HRH Prince of Wales on May 2nd to:

  • Celebrate the great work that is already being done in craft to support future makers’ development.
  • Encourage others to get involved and support the next generation of makers by passing on their skills.
  • Raise the public profile of craft, and its status, and encourage people to consider it as a career choice.

The winners cover a huge range of skills from boatbuilding and embroidery, to silver and blacksmithing, calligraphy to parchment making.  Watch a great film about how some of these skills are being passed on.  Keep your eyes open for next year’s Awards and nominate someone who is passing on their skills to others, young or not so young.  It might be you!

The Awards are organised by Creative and Cultural Skills, the licensed sector skills council for the UK.  Here’s a photo of the award presentation, L to R: Duncan Hooson, Julia Rowntree, HRH Prince of Wales, Kirstie Allsop.

Craft Skills Awards 5 (Duncan Hooson and Julia Rowntree Clayground Collective)


LIFE ON MARS? Clay reveals its evidence

Clayground adviser, mineralogy researcher Javier Cuadros, gives us the latest news of his research into clays on Mars, the background arguments to where the Curiosity rover has landed and where it is searching for evidence of life.

Liquid water was relatively abundant on Mars in the early stages of its history, as shown by numerous ancient clay outcrops. This suggests the possibility of life. The Curiosity rover is investigating habitability, which means investigating rocks where life could have existed or may exist even now. Curiosity moves very slowly on the Martian surface and can only cover a small area, so it will take time for it to hit on evidence of life if it is there or ever was.  It may never succeed in doing so.

In the meantime, we have an enormous dataset collected by the several satellites orbiting Mars and used this to investigate whether it might be possible to search underground for remains of life. First of all, we argued, life on Mars is as much or more probably to be found underground than on the surface. Why?

Here on Earth, the amount of biomass underground is the same as that on the surface. Think of it: there is a living world underground as big as the one you see on the surface of the continents and in the oceans, made up exclusively of microorganisms. We also know that some of these microorganisms are among the oldest forms of life on Earth. So it is possible that life on Mars could have also developed underground. And there is good reason: conditions at the surface have been very harsh. Mars has been very cold, dry and bombarded by high-speed particles from the Sun for a long period of time. Life on the surface in these conditions is impossible. Underground however, microorganisms may have found a protected environment.

We used satellite data to investigate deep impact craters that may have excavated rocks inhabited by microorganisms. One of the craters we found has features suggesting groundwater upwelling. That is, a meteorite impacted Mars excavating a huge crater and then underground water seeped into the crater, half way from its walls, as seen in the satellite photographs. The crater also contains clays and carbonates, indicating the water seeping out had the right type of chemistry to support life. We proposed that this and similar craters, although not abundant, are good candidates for future Mars expeditions focusing on habitability. There, the rovers could investigate sediments derived from underground waters. Because the sediments are clay-rich, they are good preservers of remains of life. Clay does not only provide an environment suitable for life to develop but also preserves dead organisms from complete degradation and disappearance.

Mclaughlin craterMcLaughlin crater on Mars. The arrows indicate possible channels generated by seeping water. The black lines show lobes interpreted as sediment deposited by the waters seeping into the crater and forming a lake. Keren Crater, below, formed later by another impact.

For anyone wishing further information, see the article by Joe Michalski, Javier Cuadros and colleagues published in Nature Geoscience: ‘Groundwater activity on Mars and implications for a deep biosphere.’ Nature Geoscience 6, 133-138. doi 10.1038/ngeo1706.


Thames foreshore fragments and visual references

At Clayground we like to think we are encouraging people to make future archaeology by getting involved in clay today.  We work with archaeologists to delve into London’s collections to illuminate the capital’s amazing history and inspire contemporary makers and ceramic appreciators.  Many ceramic items can be found in the collections of the Museum of London and local museums across the capital; some are in London’s archaeological archive and some are just lying around on the Thames foreshore.

With leading Thames archaeologist, Mike Webber, we conducted walks on November 17 and 18 to gather some of these traces of London history.  We will be conducting further walks next year at some point.  Please let us know if you would like your name to be added to the waiting list.

We certainly found some treasures in November.  Each fragment, its clay, the use and type of glaze, opened a window onto the social, technological and trading history of London.  We saw traces in clay of human fingers, some small enough to be those of a child, often employed for long hours in London’s potteries.  In another, the imprint of a potter’s fingernail could be made out.  We found clay pipes aplenty; fragments from Roman domestic pots (no glaze/ greyish clay); medieval pottery with sparse green glaze on the outside; no less than two tile pieces from Tudor heating stoves (lovely green glaze and terracotta clay); the finial from a Tudor money box (green too); fragments of decoration from Bellarmine ware (brownish  salt glaze called “orange peel”) and bits of creamy white Victorian dairy crocks.  The money box probably once containing the takings from theatres on the south bank ferried across the river to be banked in the City.  The clay pipes were doubtless dropped by men waiting on the piers for cargo to arrive or enjoying a well-earned beer at one of the many riverside taverns.  We found evidence of London life in other materials too: bones, metal, wood, 17th century shoe leather and abalone shell fragments, waste from a button-making factory.

Tile from a Tudor heating stove with figure from a coat of arms
Finial from Tudor money box

Here are visual references prepared by Mike to help you identify any sherds you may come across.  (sherds = pottery; shards = glass fragments).

Clayground Collective