ceramic woman figure on serving platter
11 Oct

the knife angel sculpture in Derby made by Alfie Bradley

Last week the apparition of the ‘Knife Angel’ next to Derby was an example of the ways in which objects can be used to reflect on social and political meaning. As ‘social sculpture’, the 27 feet high sculpture made from around 100,000 bladed weapons collected in knife amnesties, and created by the British Ironwork Centre with sculptor Alfie Bradley is a stunning and topical National Monument.

photo of car window broken in breakin

Tuesday morning, Birmingham. Bad luck. Someone thought that it would be a good idea to break into my car. They didn’t get in. Nothing was taken because there was nothing of value to steal and some of my personal belongings were thrown into the road. I spent the day getting 2 car windows replaced.

Later in the day my disappointment in people became re-enchantment as I talked to Brummies on the bus back to where I was staying. More than 4 people gave me advice about buses and directions, one old lady her life story and the bus driver waived payment for the ride.

I was even happy to find the rock used to break the windows, inside the car. Perhaps an interesting object to make art from? An opportunity to change its story and create a new one?Just as we change our stories about ourselves and our lives, manipulating objects around us can change the way we live and think.

small ceramic figure of a woman on a found ceramic serving platter

Constantly amazed at what people throw out, I have in the few short weeks spent in Derby made some interesting finds. A serving platter found next some rubbish in Charnwood Street is an unusual old dish with contours and an oval depression that seems an obvious place for a small ceramic figure of a woman – sitting and serving. What is the story of the serving dish? What is her story?


Playing with the conversations initiated by dissonant scale, form and purpose between domestic objects and small clay people seems difficult this week. There are many scribbly drawing ideas but making has been a little stilted. I have been looking at other materials to create figures beside clay– like textiles and old books . Then I see James N. Hutchinson’s show at the Tetley in Leeds and fall in love with such an obvious material – newspaper – used to make his tiny sculptural busts. The artist’s personal musings about sculpture in his book ‘One drop of water contains as much electricity as would make a thunderstorm,’ and conceptual aspects of his show are of interest, if not the old-news eclecticism.

Exploring new spaces in the Midlands and thinking about labels: ‘social sculpture,’ ‘participation’, ‘socially engaged practice’ and how we make work, who with and who for, are discussions to be had and to reflect on as I get going with negotiating and recording stories from the public next week. Just as it is always refreshing to talk to people you don’t know, sometimes it is enlightening to have conversations with art that you don’t know either.

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