Art and Design
Creative research at Bucks New University includes ceramic innovation, product design and cultural heritage. Bucks is also undertaking environmental research relating to conservation and sustainability.
Led by the Chiltern Conservation Board, the Chalk, Cherries and Chairs landscape partnership is funded by Heritage Lottery Funding. As part of this scheme, Dr Helena Chance is leading the “Woodlanders Lives and Landscapes.” project at Bucks.
The Chilterns, regarded in popular imagination as a beautiful landscape of beechwoods, chalk escarpments and picturesque villages, was for more than two centuries, a unique industrial landscape. Nowhere else in the nation could be found the combined industries of chair-making and straw-plaiting, dependent on the plentiful beech-woods and the thin wheat straw that grew on the chalk downlands. The woods and villages were alive with industrial endeavour in furniture-making, woodware, straw-plaiting, lace-making and tambour-beading (the technique of applying beading and sequins for the fashion industry). Much is already known about the working lives and these rural communities, and the artefacts they produced, but less is known about their domestic and social lives, particularly those of women and children. The LPS Chalk, Cherries and Chairs survey revealed that 54% of respondents expressed interest in knowing more about the social and cultural history of the area and that 14% would be willing to volunteer to find out more about the woodland wood-turners (bodgers) and their families. The Woodlanders’ Lives and Landscapes project will enable volunteers to discover how those industries connected through the family lives and stories over the last 150 years. The project will capture memories to understand more about domestic and social lives, homes and gardens, networks, social and sporting activities, health, politics, experiences of war, dialects, traditions, songs, games, food, clothes, religion and education. The project will discover how these people’s lives and work shaped the landscape we see today and how the landscape shaped them.
- To build a stronger connection and sense of place for local people with the landscape of the central Chilterns through research, recording and interpretation of local history.
- To provide local people and communities with new skills to identify and record the lives of Chilterns families engaged in local industries and crafts.
- To record family stories on a community history website.
- To engage a wider audience with the findings through a range of activities including walking tours, bodger’s pub tours, talks, a competition, and exhibitions.
The project will be delivered by local volunteers, under the guidance of Dr Helena Chance, historian of industrial landscapes, Bucks New University and supported by the Landscape Partnership Scheme Heritage Officer.
The project will focus on four areas where wood was supplied for the furniture and woodware industries and where women and children were employed in cottage industries: the woodlands and small communities around Holmer Green; the woodlands and communities in the Speen, Lacy Green, Loosely Row and Great Hampden area; the woodlands and communities north of Stokenchurch and south-east of Chinnor, the woodlands and communities north of West Wycombe. Other communities, in the project area, such as the woods and villages in the district of Wendover, might emerge through research.
Funded by the EU Horizon 2020 scheme, WATERSPOUTT aims to provide safe drinking water to communities who rely on unsafe sources. The consortium is carrying out a technological development programme to advance three applications based on Solar Disinfection (SODIS), which can make water safe to drink after it has been collected.
In parallel, a social science programme has been structured to make sure that the technologies are adopted by the target communities in rural Africa, with the support of the local authorities and in an economically sustainable way.
Dr Lyndon Buck and Richard Harlow are supporting the design element of the project, with Dr George Clerk supporting the social science programme. Further information is available on the WATERSPOUTT project website with project news and recent developments on twitter @waterspoutt_eu.
Following on from WATERSPOUTT and also funded by the EU Horizon 2020 scheme, PANI WATER (Grant no. 820718) examines solar disinfection water-treatments in India.
Led by Dr Lyndon Buck, Bucks New University will be working with designers, engineers, health and social scientists to design, develop, manufacture and test a series of socially accepted and locally adapted solar water purification technologies in Indian rural communities.
For nearly two decades Prof Neil Brownsword has highlighted endangered forms of industrial craft specific to the ceramics industry of his home town – Stoke-on-Trent. His residency at the V&A in 2017-18 was driven forward by the museum’s collection of 18th and early 19th century North Staffordshire ceramics and pattern books that convey and document production methods. The residency, supported by the Korean Cultural Centre UK, was in collaboration with Juree Kim to explore interactions with site, place and indigenous ceramic practice. It culminated in production of “Pattern Book”, a new performance installation in collaboration with Paul Holdway in April 2018.
The artistic and technological advances that evolved out of this region’s early industrialisation, were greatly influenced by the borrowing and assimilation of styles from East Asia. Prof Brownsword revisited examples of Staffordshire Chinoiserie, with a particular fascination for the ‘slippage’ that occurs via this mode of cultural appropriation, due to variants of skill or unavailability/substitution of specific materials.
To better understand and directly work with some of these early reproductions, Prof Brownsword collected his own examples akin to those held in the collections of the V&A via online auction websites. Decorative surfaces unique to ceramics production have been digitally extracted from their form, via scanning technologies that embrace the ‘glitch’ as a means to transform instead of duplicate. The deconstruction and reimagining of this archive has informed the creation of Prof Brownsword’s own pattern book. Elements will be replicated via traditional industrial craft systems through a series of live events.
Master copper plate engraver Paul Holdway who worked for over 40 years at the former Spode factory, has been specially commissioned to engrave one of Prof Brownsword’s adaptations of a Staffordshire Chinoiserie prototype. At the live events, the intimate space where actions that constitute the engraving are performed will be amplified, providing a rare opportunity to observe an industrial craft no longer practiced. Through this process the immediacy of the digital is returned to the slow paced tactile and material interactions of handwork. Alongside this traditional mode of image re-production for ceramic manufacture, various iterations of Prof Brownsword’s pattern book, together with a taxonomy of his original eBay collection will be on display.
Deemed outmoded or economically unviable, much of the traditional know-how retained by a senior generation of industrial artisans in North Staffordshire remains in danger of being lost. South Korea’s safeguarding of intangible heritage associated with its own ceramic history, has ensured that associated skills are maintained for future generations. Prof Brownsword’s practice continues to explore aspects of North Staffordshire’s intangible heritage that remain worthy of comparable status and preservation.
Topographies of the Obsolete is an artistic research project funded by the Norwegian Artistic Research Programme initiated by Professors Neil Brownsword and Anne Helen Mydland at Bergen Academy of Art and Design (KHiB), in collaboration with partners in Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, France and the UK. The project explores the landscape and associated histories of post-industry, with an initial emphasis on Stoke-on-Trent, a world-renowned ceramics capital that bears evidence of fluctuations in global fortunes. Further details can be found on the Topographies of the Obsolete project website.