18 - 30 January 2020
Amy Mock, Babalola Yusuf, Becky Beasley, Carla Wright, Chantelle Duncan, Gary Edwards, Hannah Caney, Jeni Johnson, Maya Shapiro-Steen, Mew, Nancy Odufona, Olivia Morris, Rosa Dias, Silas Money, Sharon Haward, Sue Drees, West Hill Pottery
A leaf a gourd a shell a net a bag a sling a sack a bottle a pot a box a container. A holder. A recipient.
Science fiction writer Ursula K Le Guin’s essay ‘The Carrier Theory Bag of Fiction’ posits the idea that, before the spear, we had the pot. Before we made weapons to attack, we made tools to gather. It was in this act of gathering – seeds and oats and nuts and berries – and of gathering together that our human culture was formed. We gathered to tell and hear stories, to exchange knowledge – although the stories that have been immortalised are those of the big, strong, Ape Man hunter with his big stick energy. In fact, Le Guin writes, ‘Before the tool that forces energy outward, we made the tool that brings energy home.’ It is no coincidence that the name for these energy-holders is receptacle. To receive.
It is a human thing to do to put something you want, because it’s useful, edible, or beautiful, into a bag, or a basket, or a bit of rolled bark or leaf, or a net woven of your own hair, or what have you, and then take it home with you, home being another, larger kind of pouch or bag, a container for people, and then later on you take it out and eat it or share it or store it up for winter in a solider container or put it in the medicine bundle or the shrine or the museum, the holy place, the area that contains what is sacred.
Common Clay is a container for people. Like a velvet pouch of Scrabble tiles, the studio receives in people and lumps of clay like small nuggets of knowledge, provides a place for them to gather and build and mould with one another, and then offers this knowledge back into the world as a gift. In the first instance, skills are gifted, both through structured classes and more informal, spontaneous cooperation. Yet the results, the ceramic objects, are also gifted: most of the members eat and drink from things that others have made in the studio. These receptacles are often holders of further gifts – a cup of tea made for a friend, a bowl of soup for an ill family member, a pot to hold a plant giving oxygen. To give is to receive.
In a 2019 interview, the feminist theorist Donna Haraway says that reality is ‘a matter of testing the holdingness of things. Do things hold or not?’ Our reality as humans, as kin, has always been to make objects that hold our stories, and to find others to receive them.
Gathering Container is an exhibition of work by Common Clay studio members, invited to Flatland Projects for Flatland’s first anniversary show. The exhibition is supported by Arts Council England.
Common Clay is a is a ceramics studio in Hastings run by artist Carla Wright, offering an open-access membership and a kiln firing service for artists working on their own projects - alongside a programme of community workshops, beginners classes, artist residencies and open studios.