VoodooDollGirl – MIA
Ok, so I have been neglecting the blog over the last few months. But it is for good reason.
Back in September, all of my work since my PhD to forge a more creative career path came to fruition with a job opportunity with the British Ceramics Biennial. My new role as CLAY School Programme Manager seemed custom built for me – incorporating my previous experience of teaching, the creative arts, community engagement, an emphasis on heritage, and a promotion of creative practice.
I was warned when I took the job that it would be a hectic first few months – a baptism of fire as many of my new colleagues have termed it. The role started just three weeks before the launch of the 2017 Biennial, which has ensured that I have been kept very busy!
In my first week it became clear that this wasn’t an ordinary education management role. During the install of the exhibition space, boiler suit overalls are a uniform as the small team transform the expansive abandoned China Hall at the Spode Factory site into a contemporary exhibition space. You can’t be precious in this role, you will be getting your hands dirty and doing whatever needs doing to get the job done – including a whole afternoon of sweeping the floors.
But the hard work did not end launch night on Friday 26th September. It was just getting started. The focus of my new job is to get every schoolchild in Stoke-on-Trent to get clay under their fingernails by 2021 (if that date seems familiar it is because it is the City of Culture year, which we all have our fingers crossed Stoke-on-Trent will win). As such, we have been fully booked with school groups throughout the six weeks of the festival, and it was my role to see that they had the best experience possible.
But then with such a fabulous exhibition on offer, this was not a difficult task. From the melancholic ambience of Neil Brownsword’s UK/Korea Exchange, to the moving pots of Eva Masterman and Alex Simpson’s tunnel of crumbling clay pieces, to the explosive books of Keith Harrison’s Knowledge is power – there was plenty to keep young minds fascinated from start to finish.
However, by far the biggest success, from an educational perspective, and most popular space for young people, was the Clay Pit. This was a place where people, young and old, could come and experience clay in all its states. There was no right or wrong. No specific techniques that we were seeking to teach. It was as simple as allowing individuals to explore the medium in whatever way they wanted. And the results of this were astounding. Never did we have the same thing made twice; each week someone came up with a new way of working that we hadn’t seen before.
As you can imagine, with such an offer of artwork and opportunity for creative play the BCB was an in demand destination for local school visits and those from further afield. So for the six weeks of the festival we were fully booked with different groups, of all ages, and I, as a consequence, have been kept extremely busy. But as we closed the doors of the festival for the last time on Sunday there is a hint of sadness that it all has to come to an end. The good news, however, is that my role will continue on with the recent launch of the CLAY School and that I will now have some time back to start planning some new and exciting things for the blog in the New Year – so keep watching this space!