What others say

Clayground Collective was winner, in 2013, of a national Craft Skills Award for “Commitment towards excellence in craft skills, success, ambition and exemplary and imaginative approaches to passing on clay skills.”  The award was made by HRH Prince of Wales.

Workshop participants, evaluators, partners, supporters, students and artists describe their experience of working with us:

Teresa Fox-Wells, Visitor Centre Manager, Middleport Pottery, Stoke, said of our participatory sculpture, Pits and Pots, the career choice of Stoke’s young people until the 1980s:

“The weekend raised our profile as a future venue for creative activities not just as a “museum”.”  The project was very successful in its highly relevant visual narrative and creative aesthetic with its focus on Pits and Pots.  So much so that Middleport managers requested the clay was not reclaimed as previously planned and sections saved for display after the event for future visitors to appreciate.”

“Our volunteers really enjoyed it and I think had a sense of pride to be working alongside “proper artists”! I think that Duncan’s “local lad done good” story was inspirational to the younger volunteers, in this area art is somewhat frowned upon as a career option so actually knowing that it IS possible to make a career from your artistic talents and hard work is a really positive message for young people.”

Middleport is now the location for BBC2’s Great Pottery Throw Down.

Potclays, a family clay suppliers in Stoke, have supported Clay Cargo over three years.  Directors James and Becky Otter said:

“We’re delighted to have been involved with Clay Cargo which has clearly had such a positive effect on the communities visited throughout its journey. It has been fascinating for us to realise that it is possible (in the hands of a talented craftsman such as Duncan!) to successfully throw each and every one of the one hundred clay bodies that we donated to the project. Seeing our product play such an important role has given us a great sense of pride in our company and the ceramic heritage we are a part of. We would like to thank Julia and Duncan for this opportunity and we very much look forward to collaborating on future projects.”

People visiting the exhibition at the 2015 British Ceramics Biennial and seeing the Clay Cargo installation said:

“A really fascinating and intriguing exhibit and a wonderful project – long may it continue!”

“Absolutely amazing. This display MAKES the Biennial!”

Barney Hare-Duke, Director British Ceramics Biennial, partner in Clay Cargo, said:

The Clay Cargo installation at the BCB 2015  made a major contribution to the festival exhibitions on the former Spode factory site. The monumental and  dramatic display gave audiences a stimulating, comprehensive insight into the three year project. The associated workshop activity with hands on making and poetry reading, provided further animation to the installation and most importantly articulated the connection between canals and ceramic manufacturing heritage and contemporary arts and clay practice.

Tim Eastop, Executive Producer, Arts on the Waterways Programme, Canal & River Trust (C&RT), partner in Clay Cargo, said:

“The Canal & River Trust has been proud and delighted to be a partner in the Clay Cargo adventure. The Trust has learnt so much from the project and the brilliant installation at the British Ceramic Biennial this year.  This has been a real exemplar for the Trust, providing rich evidence of the importance of making and the  contemporary arts for the waterways past and present. The exhibition at the BCB at the Spode Factory in Stoke, and the overall Clay Cargo project, has made a vital contribution to our national vision to enrich lives and transform places.”

Bridget McKenzie, evaluator, C&RT, said:

“Brilliantly clear and explanatory.  Fascinating links between canals, clay, pots, industry etc.  Great synthesis of learning and poetry.”

Simon Taylor, Head of Learning, Ikon Gallery, said of our work at Birmingham City Library:

“The display on the terrace looked fantastic and gave coherence to the theme and helped control the flow of a drop-in session that could easily become a free for all!…my overriding memory is the intense concentration on the part of all the children and parents involved…we really appreciated Duncan’s cool, calm approach and experience in the face of ever growing number of participants. I would definitely recommend the education work of Clayground to others”

Alan Preece, Senior Warden, Saltwells Nature Reserve, Dudley, said of the workshop day held for the public at the Reserve:

“I had not formed an image in my head of what would result from the day, so it was a big surprise both in terms of activities and final installation…I didn’t really get to see the installation underway other than the odd cup or saucer [made by participants]. So when I managed to get down in to the bottom of the claypit at the end of the event and look at it, I was gobsmacked! It was amazing and beautiful. The grey cups and saucers floating amongst the brightly coloured wildflowers on a beautiful summer’s afternoon. It was incongruous but looked like it always should have been like that…it made me think of it like the ghosts of past clay and industry making peace with the present iteration of the land… I keep raving about the day and showing my photos on my phone of the installation to anyone who will look! If I can help any further or there are any future possibilities of joint working please let me know.”

We worked in Birmingham with Ikon and LOOK, a support group for visually impaired young people and their families.  Vicky Smith, LOOK Coordinator, said:

“LOOK became involved with the project at the request of one of its young members who, as a young man with no sight at all, was particularly keen to explore the tactile arts. When we first became aware of the idea we did not fully realise what a rich and varied experience it was to be for our young members. Not only were our young people able to experience a new art form, they were also able to make a tangible contribution to an art exhibition, in the form of their clay sculptures and in the audio piece they created which will also become part of the art work.”

Our work is made possible by the many students who volunteer to gain experience of particpatory working with us.  Allison Dais, Fine Art Foundation student, Staffordshire University, Stoke, volunteered on Pits and Pots at Middleport Pottery, where we also commissioned a kiln to be built by artist, Martin Brockman.  She commented:

“I enjoyed the experience because everyone there was very professional, yet they had a warm friendly relaxed attitude also. Being new to ceramics and University life and volunteering somewhere, where I didn’t know anyone or where I was supposed to be or what to do. It was quite daunting and I was really nervous. Everyone was so lovely I soon felt less self-conscious and began to absorb what was going on.  It gave me a feel for ceramics, I was fascinated by the kiln building and using it as a theatrical art form. Health and safety, logistics of dealing with public coming and going. Setting up installations… being professional and approachable.  As to future studies or work it has definitely given me more confidence, I will use some of what I have learnt when my year group has to set up an exhibition on our own. The confidence gained from the event has enabled me to push through projects we have been given, even though I haven’t a clue what I am doing and keep trying things out, until something works. So my marks so far have been quite good. Not top marks, but higher than average.  I can only say how positive the experience was. I really appreciate you letting me hang around for so long (during kiln firing), I was transfixed by the process.”