Project record

Co-Directors, Duncan Hooson and Julia Rowntree have worked together since 2001. Clayground was formally constituted as a company limited by guarantee in 2007.

The company was set up to address a sharp decline in clay skills in schools and multiple closure of Higher Education ceramics departments. As the passing on of these skills goes in schools, the importance of working in the civic realm and with different institutions becomes more pressing. The decline of hand skills also coincides with an urgent need to renegotiate our relationship with the material world in response to environmental pressures. As independent artists we take a practice-based approach to exploring these questions, bringing people together to explore their individual and collective creativity. We combine participatory public works, education and research in a series of projects to inspire people and influence policy.

Our research strand Thinking Hands? investigates the role of hand skills in seeing, thinking and learning. We offer our findings as advocacy for clay and hand skills’ development in formal and community learning contexts.  Our discussions with professionals about What on Earth is Clay? highlights how an early experience of the material can open a pathway into all kinds of future opportunities. We are currently writing a book for educators in and out of school (supported by Paul Hamlyn Foundation).

We have led activities in 13 UK cities, in museums, education institutions, aboard boats and beside canals, and connected to clay appreciators across the world. Over Clayground’s fifteen years, we have engaged with around 100,000 people during workshops, public projects and through being a part of the British Ceramics Biennial.

Two recent projects include:

Project Clay (2007-15) in which volunteers dug clay around the world and relayed this to London for incorporation into a public artwork as part of Clay Cargo. Over 7 years, clay was gathered and transported from around 70 locations from Azerbaijan to Zambia.

Clay Cargo 2013-2015, inspired by Josiah Wedgwood ceramic industrialist and canal pioneer, was devised in partnership with British Ceramics Biennial and Canal & River Trust. Arts Council England supported different projects over the three years as did many other partners.  Clay Cargo renewed links between ceramics and the canal system in the UK with workshops, events and exhibitions aboard boats and canalside locations in London, Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent.

Download Project Record document here: CLAYGROUND COLLECTIVE PROJECT RECORD 2001-16