Just before I get started:
This year has been an absolute whirlwind. It’s safe to say the time has come and gone just as everyone seemed to warn me it would before moving to university. However third year for me has been the most important. I personally have had one of the hardest years to date, and that is due to losing my Grandfather in March this year, just before easter break. For me this was make or break time; I was at such a high and important point within my work and for me time just seemed to stop and disappear. I didn’t think that I could get anything finished in time, and I thought I would be graduating alone in November. But I managed to work through this, using my Grandfather as my inspiration and just wanting to get it done for him, but not without the help of Amelia. She has been my absolute rock through this immensely stressful time, being the one I could run to seeing as I do not have any family with me in Cardiff, so for that I am extremely grateful, because now I am finishing on time, comfortably and (kind of) calm.
I felt as though I hit the ground running when beginning this year. I had spent the summer reading for my dissertation and working on an intricate and detailed drawing of a baby in the womb. It was through this drawing that I realised that this is the subject matter that I wanted to be focussing on throughout my final year: The human body. When I began to delve into this subject matter, I mostly focused on how we are held together and all those tiny little details and systems in our body that we don’t usually give thought to daily. Beginning to draw away from the physical and delving into the scientific, I soon found myself focussing greatly on the cells that make us up. However, I didn’t focus too heavily on the scientific side of these subjects, instead I headed down the aesthetic road, trying to highlight the beauty of these microscopic critters. However, this work had no context, and all I was simply doing is telling you it was beautiful. I wasn’t until I took a day trip to London to visit the Hunterian museum that I realised just what my work was missing. I found myself looking at all sorts of specimens, but mostly cancer. There were masses of different cancers in jars that had been sliced in half. Being able to look inside of the masses, I had a glimpse of how they grow and live, and it was at this point where I knew this would be my focus point. From here onwards I found myself dealing with an extremely sensitive and delicate subject matter that I had to be conscious of as I go through with creating this work. As time developed I found myself working with materials that coincide with feelings of warmth, comfort and ‘home’, such as knitting together wools, threads and surface materials, hoping to combine this with the subject matter to create pieces that induce feelings of relaxation and calmness. By doing this, I hoped that my work would entice an audience that will further spark a conversation about the disease. My aim throughout this year was to raise conversation and awareness to further help with understanding the disease. I soon found that the materials I was using weren’t going to achieve what I needed, and I found it extremely difficult to create pieces of work. I attempted to knit and crochet ‘cuddly’ cancerous tumours, using the colours and patterns to create them in a way that made them approachable and not intimidating to the eye. But these materials just didn’t work well, and I found myself at a loose end.
After many tutorials and a christmas ‘break’, I seemed to have had an epiphany. I was extremely happy with the subject matter and it took me a while to find my ‘why?’ for the work, but I needed to work on changing my materials. I spoke with Amelia and Martyn about working with clay to create ceramic work. It was through the process of trying to work with wool that I realised I wanted to made 3D work, I just was using the wrong resources. Switching to clay seemed to be the right decision for the subject matter. When relating the subject matter back to my work, it grew extremely apparent how important this relationship is. Using ceramics gives the work a new level of value. Once fired and glazed, ceramics become extremely delicate and fragile, if knocked, bashed or dropped will end in breakages. When handling these objects you naturally handle them care in order to avoid any of the above, and this is a precious aspect for my work. I quickly learnt that this was what was missing from the knitted work. Still being able to work with bright and beautiful colours, I seemed to have found another important part of my work. Once all 6 of my ceramic tumours were fired, I began the glazing process. This process is extremely unpredictable yet on the other hand it is extremely unique. Having the rooted fear of the unknown and being very unsure if the tumours would survive the glazing process in the kiln, seemed to relate back to the human and having that fear of how badly this disease will affect you. Once they came out of the kiln they all have grown their own unique characteristics through the firing process. This is either where the glaze surface bubbled, flooded or pooled, they became completely unique. This as a process was extremely tedious, tiring and intricate but I am extremely happy with this route I decided to take. I then took these ceramic tumours once finished and photographed them in the everyday. I wanted to highlight that unfortunately cancer is a very big part of our everyday lives now, and for some follow you on your day to day routines, but I wanted to question just how much we talk, share and exploit the disease. Through a series of photographs printed into a A5 book, I captured natural movements with only slight snippets of human interactions highlighting how we handle the subject, either with somebody or alone. Through these photos I realised how important this project became to me. I began to realise that if this body of work could somehow aid someone in their recovery, or sparked a conversation they were yet to be able to share, my work will have done the job. I quickly understood that my ceramic pieces needed the book to be with it in the show as this gives it the context it had been lacking throughout the year, finally finding my ‘why?’.