Megan arrived at Highgreen at the end of September and was in residence until June 2019.
Having spent the last four years studying for her PhD alongside a life of delivering workshops and projects to encourage creativity in others, Megan used the time and space at Highgreen to focus on developing new work of her own and pushing her practice in new directions. Megan used this opportunity to move away from working exclusively with clay and used materials local to the area and worked with local makers. She was particularly interested to explore the cracks and fissures of place and objects and actively repair them – and consider these ‘repairs’ as artwork as in the artform ‘kintsugi’.
Wishing to make connections with others early on, Megan offered classes for local people to work with porcelain clay and make ‘utensils for living’. She led a workshop with North Tynies Forest School and then with Bellingham Middle School demonstrating how to make habitats and decorations using natural materials. Students from Percy Hedley School visited Megan to learn how to monoprint onto clay using slip. Greenhaugh First School pupils all enjoyed a hands on experience with clay as part of the Hey Clay! weekend of events that Megan hosted.
Megan’s final show Traces was an ambitious exhibition that brought together ceramics, site-specific installation, moving image, textiles, printmaking, sound and sculpture.
Stacked on a large table in the first barn is an assortment of hand thrown plates, cups and bowls, Love Letters to Tarset. The fragments of text and drawing were collected in February, when Megan invited people to write a ‘love letter to place’ in exchange for lunch and a handmade bowl. Wood ash from various fires places around Highgreen have been added to the glazes to create a dinner service truly imbued with a sense of place.
Megan put a second call out to the community ‘a barter for broken things’ where people could give broken tools and utensils and in return they’d get to choose a handmade bowl. These items have been ‘repaired’ with clay and other surgical paraphernalia and line the wall like a row of specimens. 21 Broken Things is a celebration of visible mending.
Another artwork Looking Through Your Damage sees cracks and gaps in the barn wall and floor infilled with mirror, a nod to ‘kintsugi’ the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery.
Drop is a film of people learning to drop spin using ceramic spindles. This piece was filmed in the barn where it is shown and aims to show the frustration and fragility of learning new things.
In the adjoining space you’ll hear an immersive sound piece White Noise for Mending. Drawing upon uneasy feelings walking alone when she first arrived at Highgreen, Megan developed this piece with musician Marc Rigelsford.
This installation is based on the ‘Three Fates’ from ancient Greek mythology, describing how the fates were personified by three very old women who spin the threads of human destiny. ‘Clotho’ spun the thread of human fate; ‘Lachesis’ dispensed it and ‘Atropos’ cut the thread thus determining the individual’s moment of death.
Clotho is three pieces of hand spun knitted yarn which unravels over the course of the exhibition as the ceramic microphones pick up noise, shouts and whispers from the barn, turning the artwork back into spindles full of yarn.
Lachesis is based on the measure of the nine months spent at Highgreen, inside a cage of made of leather links, sits a machine which measures out the residency in a 6 hourly cycle. Silk ribbons are sown and date stamped and run alongside a vintage tape measure which is gradually unspooling. The 30 meters of silk is broken down into 12 centimetre days. The links which form the cage are reimagined from old measuring chains which measured furlongs and miles.
The work Atropos is in an off shot barn and can be viewed from the room where the sound piece is being played or from outside the window or gated door. It consists of drop-spun yarn attached to porcelain chains, these chains have motorised scissors which whir away trying desperately to cut themselves free.
The place that has been such a hive of activity over the past 9 months, is now home to minimalist sculptures made from chains of clay. The walls are covered in prints that show snippets of instructions for mending, screen printed in Northumbrian honey and gilded with gold leaf. On the wall is a series of ceramic prints and drawings showing abstract views of Highgreen from above.
The Old Stables
A light box takes centre stage and displays kid gloves pressed into Parian clay forming an x-ray type image of the detailed stitching. Hand sewn silk gloves that are made in the same pattern as kid gloves hang from the wall, a reference to the glove making industry in Hexham. These gloves are marked with clay Megan has dug up from different sites in the area. Left to right is Highgreen clay, Bellingham clay, Tarset Burn clay, The Birks clay, Bellingham clay. The traces of making are left on the transparent silk.
Surgical knots made out of porcelain and rope are also on display.
Megan set about making a drawing a day using watercolour that beautifully document the changing weather and mood of Tarset. These are displayed in both The Studio and The Old Stables. There are also many of Megan’s working drawings which she made as each individual artwork progressed.