Artist Georgie Manly tells how she has worked with Crisis clients on a project

You might not think that clay is a particularly demanding material to use in art, but it can be. It opens up so many questions when you start working with it; there is so much technical information you can learn and many exciting processes to explore.

I completed an MA in ceramics at Cardiff School of Art and Design in 2014 and started looking for opportunities to develop my skills as an ‘artist facilitator’ for community and education projects.

Early this year, I discovered a brilliant new project: a partnership between Crisis, the Pitt Rivers Museum and Arts at the Old Fire Station. They were looking for someone to facilitate a 12-week course with Crisis clients, drawing inspiration from the Pitt Rivers’ collection, to create an exhibition for the Gallery at the Old Fire Station. I was delighted when they accepted me. The project brings together my interest in learning, working with people and, of course, ceramics.

It started by looking at the collection of ancient vessels and asking, “What does a vessel mean to us? A container to hold liquid? A pot? A ship? A blood vessel?” We continued this dialogue over the first few weeks, when I demonstrated some simple hand-building techniques, such as pinch pots, coiling, and slab building. As the group became more confident with the material, they began to develop their own ideas around what a vessel means.

We spent the remainder of the course creating meaningful works in clay. I wanted the group to experience mixing their own glaze from scratch, as I find it one of the most exciting parts to the process. It’s a great learning experience to create your own unique glaze, rather than using something that is already pre-made in the tin. I think the group enjoyed the alchemy of this; it’s a sort of artistic chemistry and you never know for sure how it will turn out.

Now the course is finished. All the work is about to be put into the kiln, with the help of Wallingford School, and fired to 1,080C (fairly low, as we are using an earthenware clay). Also waiting to be fired are my own ceramic sculptures I have been making in my studio, also exploring the same theme.

My sculptures – inspired by the museum’s collection of early 20th century African animal traps – will be shown with Crisis clients’ work in our exhibition Vessels, which opens at 6pm on Friday, May 1, at the Old Fire Station Gallery. On May 2, there will be a chance to create your own works in clay in response to the exhibition, with me at Gloucester Green Market, from 10am to 4pm.

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Vessels runs from May 1 to June 20. It is free and open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 10am to 5pm.