In celebration of the overlooked. The hand that we use to communicate, collaborate, manipulate, caress, grasp, fix, make, measure, sense and interact with. The palm and fingerprint are a map of our individual identity, illustrated by the material of clay and the process of hand-building.
Delta, Crescent and Venule
The ubiquitous pigeon was the starting point for these bird studies. The theme encompasses evolution, organic forms, group behaviour, response to landscape, and patterns in nature.
Tattoo Ponti bird
Group of five Binary Birds
Ponti bird with dots
Metallic Ponti bird
White Ponti birds
Large metallic Ponti
Group of Flock family
Ponti bird with diamond design
Flock is an installation of over 100 ceramic birds by artist Julie Nelson.
The work was originally conceived for and exhibited in an elegant Edwardian house on Grand Avenue, Hove, UK, in May, 2017, during Brighton Festival. The city has a strong and sometimes uneasy relationship with birds, from the murmurations of the Pier's starlings, to the constant sound of seagulls that share the built environment.
Flock subsequently settled in a 14th century monastery, in the historic town on Rye for its annual festival in 2017.
Each ceramic bird has been hand sculpted by the artist over a number of months. Their shapes have evolved over this period and different characteristics have become apparent. Some forms have become more aesthetic than others but all have been included, even the broken and repaired. "Flock reminds us of the parts that make up the whole - a theme that runs through all of nature. From the four molecules that make up a strand of DNA, to the cells that make up a tissue, to the tissues that make up an organ which in turn make up bodies, families, communities nations and states. Seen from afar they are all the same. From a distance the birds look almost identical, but up close, each bears hand-etched grooves and markings as well as unique poses. Some are poised, some quizzical and others may seem menacing.”
The installation is not intended to be political, but visitors will take away from it as much cultural and sociological significance that they bring to it. Some may see themes of displacement, migration, national identity and what it means to be part of a community. For others the work will have cinematic undertones.
I and a team of academics, a psychologist, a psychotherapist and an arts manager have just won a grant from University College London to develop Flock into a series of clay bird-making workshops which will be attended by service users from South London and Maudesley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) to assess the wellbeing and mental health of those taking part.
Collections of objects, made and found, used as reference and inspiration. The seeds of ideas.
Contrasting rough with smooth, light with dark, angular with round. My vessels result from experiments in form and surface texture.
Press from my days as a designer/ maker of sculptural ceramic lamps exhibited and sold in the UK and abroad, under the name Nelson.
Flock project aims to inspire visitors to think about refugees within the wider context of migration and the meaning of community.
The project is part of a collaboration between ceramic artist Julie Nelson and the Grounding project, funded by South London and Maudsley NHS Trust (SLaM) and Maudsley Charity. Julie will be running bird-making workshops at Roots and Shoots in Kennington, London, with group members who use the community garden. The sculptures created at the workshops will contribute to a collaborative installation composed of almost 200 clay birds.
We have recently been awarded a grant by UCL Grand Challenges to explore the impact of the non-clinical clay bird making workshops on the wellbeing and mental healthcare of group members who attend the Grounding project, comprised of people who have overcome adversity on their journey to the UK. The project was initiated by artist Julie Nelson in collaboration with the team from the Maudsley; Dr Gemma Eke, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Myriam Sarens, Psychotherapist and Horticultural Therapist, Helen Shearn, art manager, together with academic researchers Dr Humera Iqbal, Lecturer in Psychology, Professor Helen Chatterjee, MBE, and Dr Katie Quy, clinical psychologist.
I would like to thank Chris from Hesketh Pottery, Seaford, for the generous donation of clay for this project.