LOUISE FRANCES SMITH

Local Materials, Seaweed and Clay – ACE Funded Project

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Last summer I was incredibly lucky to be awarded an Arts Council grant called ‘Developing Your Creative Practice’.

The title of my funded project is ‘Local Materials, Seaweed and Clay’ – my funding application outlined a three phase project that would take place over an 11 month period starting in June 2021.

Phase 1

  • Research how to identify, collect and process local seaweed and clay;
  • Experiment turning materials into inks, slips, sculptural materials, paper and more;
  • Online glaze development course – learn how to turn seaweed into an ash glaze;
  • Learn about the local landscape and changing coastline.

Phase 2

  • Develop a new body of work from research experiments using local materials.

Phase 3

  • The final phase is to bring the research into a format I can share with the local community;
  • Research and develop the community project element;
  • Investigate different ways to display my new body of work.

I left the final stage quite open due to possible covid restrictions, but I hope to be able to share my research via an exhibition or display in Margate in late Spring and run a workshop alongside the display.

Two main aims of my project were to learn how to make my practice more sustainable and gain skills to teach others how to use local materials in the future. Over the past three years living in Margate, I have felt more and more connected to the coastline especially during the lockdowns where I took my daily walks. I created a new body of work during this period, titled ‘Margate, fragments of isolation’ and I want to deepen the connection between the landscape where I am taking inspiration from and the work I am creating.

There was also something from this period of slowness that made me feel more aware of my impact on the planet. I unwrap clay from a plastic bag, as I have done for the 8 (ish) years I have been working with clay – I have no idea where the materials in that specific bag of clay I’m opening come from. I have some knowledge about materials but hardly any first hand experience of collecting my own clay.

I’m now over half way through my original timeline which has shifted a little (as all plans do!) and I’m only just starting to make new work. Although I was worried that I wasn’t sticking to my timeline I feel it’s important for me to follow these new lines of research that my project has led me to – like making bioplastics from seaweed, and also bringing chalk as a key material in to the project – Thanet has the longest continuous stretch of coastal chalk in the UK* which is made up of millions and millions of fossils. Because of the very chalky landscape here there is hardly any clay in Thanet, but I have been taking clay samples from other areas in Kent.

I should add here that Margate is a small seaside town in southeast England, in the county of Kent. It’s situated in the east of Kent in an area called Thanet – which was an island in Roman times, separated from the rest of Kent by the River Wantsum. More on this in my upcoming blog about clay in Kent!

I have also been working with some incredible mentors on this project and a couple more I will be working with on the final stages of this project. I will be talking in more detail about some of these mentors in my next blog post and also sharing much more of what I have been working on.

As I find my rhythm with writing these blogs, it’s my aim to interview different artists and designers who are working with sustainable practices and have been an inspiration to this project and my practice.

Thank you for reading my first blog post, I look forward to sharing more with you over the next few months.

*The Smugglers Trail. 2021. Richard Hubbard and Geoff Downer.

One comment

  1. Nice to read this update. AND how did I not know Isle of Thanet used to be an actual island!! 😅

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