Oatlands Brickworks, Pollen
Oatlands Junior School, Harrogate, 2018
Sponsored by Manning Stainton, Harrogate College and Newguard Coatings
In 2012 I decided to pull up my concrete back yard to make the view from my studio more green and ended up unearthing a rich seam of clay.
I dug up approximately 120kg and after processing and firing some in my kiln, could see it was a high quality brick clay.
I began to research the history of the area and discovered there used to be a brickworks and clay pit at the bottom of my road. The terrace my house is part of, was built for the brickworkers from this clay, and I love that over 125 years later the house is once again being used by a clay worker!
In 2018 I worked with the pupils of Oatlands Junior School to create a wall sculpture for their entrance using the Oatlands clay. They had no idea of the hidden history of their area and were amazed that it used to be called Brickfields- and their school could have had a very different name!
Through workshops the children learnt how to process the raw clay; taking out the pebbles/twigs, sieving and then wedging on plaster batts. They gained a greater knowledge and understanding of the material, realising that clay does not magically turn up in a plastic bag at school but is from the earth- beneath their playing field!
Each pupil made a ceramic pollen from the clay they had processed. The pollens were chosen from an existing survey of local plants undertaken by the pupils in collaboration with The Wildlife Trust.
When designing the sculpture I saw the children as the pollens. They grow and are nurtured during their time at school before going off and cross pollinating with other people/ideas/ways of life.
By using the local clay we not only celebrate the former brickworks community of Oatlands but symbolise the moulding of personalities through the pupils' interaction with their local community and environs.
Although this sculpture celebrates future aspirations, it also captures a snap shot moment in time, when all 298 of them were together.