Sunday, 29 September 2013

The Walking Encyclopaedia

On Februrary 7th, 2014, AirSpace Gallery will be opening its physical and cyber doors to The Walking Encyclopaedia.

In conjunction with The Walking Artists Network, and timed to coincide with Tate's touring Artist Rooms, which brings a collection of works by Richard Long to The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Stoke as part of the 2013 tour, The Walking Encyclopaedia will present a solo show by artist Tim Knowles, and will attempt to bring together a compendium of the vast array of arts practices that concern, contain, and/or are inspired and informed by, the WALK.

Submissions are being invited from the thousands of cultural walkers in any form they wish - photograph, film, sound and written. We will aim to fill a portion of our gallery space with documentation and will include a reading room and a screening room. The month long exhibition will include a specially created walk as well as an Artist Soup Kitchen to discuss some of the themes engendered by the exhibition.

In the 1960's, the conceptuality of Richard Long and Hamish Fulton fuelled what is rapidly becoming the largest participatory segment of contemporary art practice. This exhibition is close to our hearts at AirSpace - our directorate are keen walkers - but beyond that, in broader terms, we fully buy in to the ideas of utilitarianism, activity available-to-all, outward looking and doing. We're excited to start a process of collation and presentation of the state of the walking art practice today.

A Walking Encyclopaedia is an attempt to collate and present as many different artistic responses to, and uses of the walk as possible. Timed to coincide with the Richard Long Exhibition at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery (part of the Tate’s Artist Rooms On Tour programme), The Walking Artists Network in partnership with AirSpace Gallery is inviting submissions from walking artists and artists who walk to send in documentation of their practice, historic or current, in all forms of media, in order that we can offer a significant overview of the contemporary state of the genre.
Our exhibition will then, become a physical repository for Walking Practices, and we envisage any of the following being submitted:
  • Video documentation of walks, and films about walks
  • Sound documentation of walks
  • Photographs and photographic documentation of walks
  • Artworks made on walks, about walks and as walks
  • Publications and zines about walks and walking practices (we will have a reading corner within the gallery).Over the month-long course of A Walking Encyclopaedia, and in conjunction with a major exhibition of works by artist Tim Knowles, AirSpace Gallery will be highlighting daily, through its gallery spaces, website and social media outlets, different walking practices and walking artists, submitted via this call. There will also be a Walk planned, and an Artist Soup Kitchen event, themed around walking practices.
Please contact with details of what you would like to submit for A Walking Encyclopaedia, by Friday, 13th December 2013.
AirSpace Gallery, 4 Broad Street, Stoke-on-Trent, ST1 4HL 

Exhibition runs from 7/2/14 to 8/3/14

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The Rose Garden - The Notice Board

As The Rose Garden nears completion ready for the grand unveiling as part of the British Ceramics Biennial, final but important touches are being made.

Sketch-up of our notice board

One of these is the installation of a Notice Board. On the surface this might seem like a humdrum mundane component of the project, yet it is actually crucially important, and integral to the ideas that underpin the whole project.

This project is about being Outward Facing.

One of the problems, at times, for the Arts operating in the public realm, is how to effectively tell people what you're doing. The ability to communicate in an intellectual but accessible way, is really important. We have to be able to let the public/audience/viewers
know what, how and why we are doing what we are doing so that an understanding, and in particular with this project, a level of engagement and participation can be created.

So, our Rose Garden notice board will stand on site for the duration of the project, telling people about The Rose Garden. We will be updating it as the project progresses, so that people can keep abreast of developments. Additionally, we hope that the board will be used by the BCB for the duration of the Biennial, with regular updates for the many and varied activities and events which will form the content of the 6 week Biennial. It is, we think, the perfect way to link the associated complementary ideas which underpin the approaches of AirSpace Gallery and the British Ceramics Biennial.

Monday, 16 September 2013

The Rose Garden - Making the Ceramic Rose with Rita Floyd

The centrepiece of The Rose Garden project, the thing that embodies the project, referencing both the ceramic context and looking to the future for the City of Stoke-on-Trent and the ceramic industry, is a beautiful hand made ceramic rose. The ceramic rose, sculpted in the form of a real rose which we are working to bring to market in 2015, will sit inside a  glass cloche, atop the plinth which grew out of the circular flower bed last week.

Rita Floyd
Adderley Floral
Making our ceramic rose, is master flower maker, Rita Floyd. Rita has been making ceramic flowers since the early 1970's when she left school at the age of 15 to go straight in to an apprenticeship at Longton pottery firm Adderleys.

1922 map showing the Daisy Bank Works on Spring Garden Road
Adderley's today

Bricks and tiles had been produced at the Daisy Bank Works in Longton since the 1850's  and by the 1870's, under the name of William Adderley, China and Earthenware was successfully produced right through to the late 20th Century, by which time the Adderley name was being carried on by the new parent company Ridgway Potteries. The Daisy Bank Works, renamed Gainsborough in the 1950's, ceased to operate in 1998 and now has been transformed into a private cemetery and garden of remembrance.

An example of Rita's flower work
Talking to Rita while she was making our rose this week, it became clear how central the City's pottery firms were to its social fabric. In 1972, at the age of 15, Rita could confidently leave school and go straight in to a 2 year apprenticeship with Adderley's, along with 6 other school leavers. There were 3 intakes of school leavers each year, who would join the existing staff of 80 flower makers, who had been making floral ware at Adderley Floral since the 1940's.

Rita had to learn her craft quickly. Full time work followed the end of her 2 year apprenticeship where she was paid, aon a piecerate basis. This meant working quickly but to a high standard to ensure she earned the maximum possible amount.

In 1974, Rita was paid by the dozen flowers - 8 petals per flower - 6 new pence per dozen. A dozen flowers took Rita 15 minutes to make.

Fast forward to 2013, and flower-making for Rita has changed. Following the closure of Adderley's,
after which the 80 flower makers of the 70's had dwindled to 9 by 2005, and a period working piece-rate from home for Coalport, Rita has been a demonstrator of her craft at Gladstone's Pottery Museum.

Now working a 4 day salaried working week,  as part of a wide-ranging demonstration of ceramic processes. Members of the public spend a day watching, and having a go, and getting to take their works home at the end of the day.

On top of this, Rita, along with colleague Jeanette Seabridge, worked for the British Ceramics Biennial in making the flowers
which adorned the bespoke brickware which made up such a prominent part of Stoke-on-Trent's Transformation garden - a silver-medal-winning garden at
the 2013 Chelsea Flower Show. For Rita, there is a bit of a release in her current work. Her job as demonstrator and works with the BCB, and now AirSpace allows her a bit of license and creativity. Rita told me that she loved her job at Adderleys, working as one of 80 flower-makers. The hard work was offset by an atmosphere of fun and camaraderie which saw

Adderley Floral dubbed "Butlins" by the Workforce.
But the piece-rate work of Adderleys and Coalport allowed no creative license - the flowers had to be made to a strict design, with a repetetive, monotonous exactness, and she admits to having felt a stifling of creativity.

Today, you can really get the sense that Rita is enjoying the chance to create, with the ability to think for herself and add her own touches.

We're really happy that Rita is making our Ceramic Spode China Rose - she personifies our approach to the project - a quintissential part of the City's industrial past, and now through application of time-served skills, with a role in its creative future.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

The Rose Garden - Groundworks Day 5

A rainy day at the Rose Garden slightly curtailed activities on Day 5 of the Groundworks. We had planned, among other things to, to pay some closer attention to the demarcation of our wedge-shaped zone of activity. Our original plan had been that we would jetwash the whole concrete surface. However, we have reasoned that after last weeks day of sweeping, not only does the sweeping offer a sufficiently effective solution, but the jetwashing might be too vigorous an activity, and may disrupt those areas outside the zone.

The rain isn't the best weather for sweeping, and so we've postponed for a week, with fingers crossed for drier weather. The rain had helped, though, with the bedding in of our Heucheras, Heathers and Caryx grasses, all of which were looking fit and healthy.

On arrival, it struck us that two of the remaining rose bushes in the garden were just coming in to bud and flower just in time for the BCB opening in a fortnight - in a fitting vibrant BCB pink.

We took the chance of the slightly inclement weather, to finish of the last of the cement-based building. First was to build the plinth which will hold our ceramic "Spode China Rose".

And finally to replace the edging stones for the two flower and plant beds.

By the end of the day, we realised there was still loads to do. We've still got to paint the front wall and railings, make and affix 8 wooden seats for the flower bed, make a notice cabinet to house our project proposal, more planting and an investigation into how much the tree surgery, that is essential to carry out ,will set us back. But despite all the work still to come,  it was satisfying to stand back and clearly see the distinct demarcation of our transformation zone and a clear indication of the fruits of our efforts.

Friday, 6 September 2013

The Rose Garden - Groundworks Day 4 - digging, sweeping, scrubbing and planting

The Fourth Day of work on the Rose Garden Site started early on a quintessentially beautiful late-summer morning. As we turned up to start work for the day, it was nice to have a quick tour of the site and notice the greeting of the few remaining roses in bloom.

There are only four or five roses left in the space, all shrub plants, and mostly they have grown unwieldly, and a little diseased, after years of neglect and a lack of regular pruning. Roses benefit from some tough love, especially early in their lives, as without hard pruning, they can become leggy and a little top-heavy.

Despite this, it is a testament to the character of the plant that even though blackspot has taken hold, and parental neglect has led to wild and unruly growth, there is still enough energy to produce blooms as beautiful as these. They are acting as an allegory for the project - a will and determination to succeed despite previous travails. In our plan for the full restoration of the Rose Garden, which will see the re-population of the site with our new Spode China Rose, we will ensure that these existing roses will be cared for and a place found for them.

The work in earnest began with a delivery of high grade topsoil - 2 tonnes winched in to the space in 2 bags.
This was for filling the central circular planting bed, but before we could get round to that we needed to transfer some more of the high-clay content soil from the bed underneath the railings in to the circular bed.

Close attention was paid to ensuring a clear and distinct outline of our "wedge-shaped" zone - only areas within the zone are having attention paid.
We moved about 15 barrow loads from this area in to the circular flower bed, before transferring the
bagged top soil. Once in, we watered the soil and gave it some time to settle before planting later on.

In the meantime we concentrated on the floor of our zone. Systematic sweeping and scrubbing to spruce up the concrete surface and clear as much mud and dust before future jet washing. Clearing and digging over a shady area which will become a fern-bed. Readying walls for painting, and adding fresh gravel to the gravel-bed. All this was done to accentuate the area that we are renovating and re-activating. By the end of the day you could clearly see where we had been.

The final job of the day was to plant up the flower beds, in order to give the plants a maximum amount of time to acclimatise before the BCB and the Rose Garden opens on September 27th. The planting happens in two stages.

First, we have introduced a selection of Carex grasses to the central bed. The grasses will look beautiful all year round, easy to maintain and will create  a great architectural base and striking contrast to the bespoke ceramic rose which will be the centrepiece of the bed.

Further back, in the shady area there will be a family of
rich green coloured ferns, coping with the limited light, and creating a contrast with the bark floor cover.

The large flower bed under the railings, initially, has a line of Heuchera's. The plan for this area is a two-tone white and pink colour palette - the colours of the BCB and will point to the particular style of civic planting schemes.

Stage two of the planting will be completed in the last week before the exhibition opening. At this stage we will be introducing bloom-
filled bedding plants, in pinks and whites, mostly cyclamen, throughout the three main planting areas - among the ferns, the grasses and the heucheras.

The end of Day 4 of the groundworks saw us about halfway through the project. Still to come, we need to pay some attention to pruning existing trees and bushes, painting masonry and railings and fully cleaning the concrete ground surface.

Next, though, we are meeting with ceramicist Rita Ford who is going to be hand-making the ceramic version of our Spode China Rose.