Phoebe Cummings: Ceramics Artist in Residence (2010)

These posts were a diary of Phoebe’s residency and a collection of photographs documenting the processes and evolving outcomes inside the studio during her 6 months residency in the V&A ceramics residency studio space which she evolved as an ongoing temporary installation. Phoebe researched how nature and landscape have been represented historically through ceramic objects and interpreting elements of these designs in the construction of three-dimensional environments.

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End notes

My residency came to an end on the 22nd December, though the work has remained in the studio. I will be returning to the V&A next week to begin taking apart the installation, keeping some fragments and re-cyclingother material. During the final week, photographer Sylvain Deleu came to the studio to document the work, here are aselection of his pictures. (All photos© Sylvain Deleu) All photos© Sylvain Deleu(

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An oasis

Birmingham 2009/10 For eight months I livedon a street just off spaghetti junction on the M6. At the bottom of theinterchange was a row of semi-detached houses, which I passed most days. One house in particular stood out. Itsfront garden was crammed with palms and other tropical looking plants, seemingly defiant or oblivious to their location. The thick vegetation narrowed the path so as visitors to and from the property were swallowed or emerged like explorers. Each day I tried to imagine the view from inside the house, like an endless cinema where the curtains must part to reveal the …

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Catching Shadows Friday Late – visitors work with clay

In celebration of the fantastic Shadow Catchers: Camera-less Photographyexhibition currently on display in the museum, October's Friday Late was themed around Catching Shadows. As part of the programme of activities for the eveningI invited visitors to model additions to a clay landscape which was lit to cast a shadow of the scene onto the wall in the Sackler Centre. Throughout the night wetransformed this… to this… Visitorsseemedhappy to get their hands dirty,use their imagination and getcreative, producing a wonderfully chaotic scene by the end of the night. Thank you to all those that took part!

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In 2009 I made several visits to the closed Spode factory site in Stoke-on-Trent. I collected a number of things from the factory floor, including an abandonedcopy of J.G.Ballard's novel The Drowned World. The foundbook was damp and growing several types of mould so I bought a new copy which I have read and re-read several times over the past year. It describes London as it sinks below water and silt, with climatic changes causing plants and animals to revert to that of the triassic age. It is full of incredible images, such as the Ritz hotel marooned and covered …

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Before starting the residency I had a clear idea of what I wanted to research in the collection but no fixed vision of how the work I made would look. What has emergedappears as thoughthe landscapes from the museum objects I have been studyingwere swept under water where they became muddled and settled as sediments. Adredged scene, like fragile crusts formed on things that once were.Somewhere suggestive of theaftermath of a volcanic eruption or a desert. The vast emptiness of desert landscapesseem closer to something of the universe rather than the world, their shifting mass of singular matter fascinates me. …

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An island aside

Sometimes the studio feels like an island aside of time. Inside this glass case I move around in a landscape of my own construction, distilled from the objects which surround me. Sometimes people watch through the glass, sometimes I watch people watching. Often there is the thud of a head against the window from a misjudged closer look. Reflectionsof the island fragment the viewof the room beyond.I think about the rows of figurinescaptured in their individual scenes as Itake photographs inside this scene of my own making.

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On fallen ground

Last week I was in Athens. Walking around the city Ithought a lot aboutthe relationships between materials and the ground. Stonesextracted from the landscape, carved and builtinto elaborate constructions, then to fall and be abandoned or ripped apart and re-made. At Hadrian’s Library a mosaic floor appears in the dust between the remains of collapsed walls. Close by, upright green shoots pierce the same ground like miniature livingcolumns. Before I went away I made part of a fallen tree based on a scenefrom an enamel painted platein the study galleries. Though ruins often appear in the compositions applied to tableware, …

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Hidden worlds

Last weekI had the chance to see more of the work that happens behind the scenes at the museum, including the technical workshops and conservation department. I had never thought much before about the hidden structures that exist between the building and the objects. In the workshops, mounts were being made for pieces of jewellery which looked like intricate shadows of the objects themselves. Visiting the conservation department mademe see objectsin the museum more like living organisms, with humidity, temperature and light controlled in their environments. Their materials expanding, contracting, producing gases and disintegrating. The time and care that is …

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Being based on the sixth floor has the advantage of having to walk through the whole museum as I come and go from the studio. I have already developed favourite routes and an ever growing list of favourite objects I pass each day. It feels quite magical to be given a key to this vast building and the possibilityto spend time exploringthe collections in depth. A highlight of the first few weeks has been a trip to the museum store at Blythe House. Reino Liefkes (Senior Curator Ceramics & Glass Collection) showed meimages ofa collection of fragments from a Meissen …

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