During Conversations with Clay,each participant manipulated a piece of clay while engaging in conversation. Clay is the perfect medium for this type of interaction as it retains its plasticity. It has a memory of every finger and handprint imposed on it and through its manipulation our thoughts and words can take on concrete form. Lis Mann uses a new lump of clay for each conversation session and hollows out the individual pieces from it, so that the hollowed-out shape becomes the vessel that holds the record of the interaction.
Conversations with Clay was hosted by Ovada Gallery, Oxford on 20th October 2009
Lis Mann writes: I found Tuesday very fulfilling; conversations ranged from art versus craft, to making art non-elitist, to projects that the members were involved with, to memories of childhood, to what the properties of clay evoked in the members, and I am sure there was much more. There was also great attention to the process and to trying different ways to make the clay work for the individual; this included the additon of water, scoring and piercing with sticks, making prints, embedding and peeling, amongst others. This is the first time I have joined in the process and I enjoyed it tremendously. I would like to thank all those who came and made it a valuable experience. The finished group vessel now joins seventeen other group vessels as part of a record of one hour in the life for the participating groups. The process will, I hope, be ongoing and engage new groups in the coming months.
Patrick Jeffs writes: In Conversations with Clay I found myself engaged in two streams of thought: the largely unconscious process of trying to create form in an unfamiliar medium whilst taking part in a conversation which ranged over many topics. Occasionally the clay-making activity redirected the conversation and it was this influence of the non-verbal over the verbal that I found fascinating.
Ingrid Jensen writes: Conversations with Clay did several things for me. It was very enjoyable to sit with friends talking about art while manipulating clay, a familiar and comfortable medium. The talking was liberating in that it opened up a thinking and communicating space in which new ideas could grow. The making was constructive because I explored in a practical way some issues with a collaborative balloon installation planned for January 2010 - and the physical focus was calming and resolving.
Philip Lee writes: Red earthenware is a clay I have not worked with for quite a while so it was a pleasure to rediscover it. It was also good to be given permission to play with it, in what ever way I wished. Nevertheless, I found it difficult to stop worrying about making objects. Trying perhaps a bit too hard to be free and uninhibited, I don't recall working with much intention; I made torn flat pieces that I joined together trying not to spoil the torn edges. After that, and as if to do the opposite, I found myself trying to make perfect spheres. I do not think that this was a conscious process and my interpretation here is with the benefit of hindsight.
Linda Francis writes: The activity reduced barriers, led to observations and resulted in a variety of approaches. The conclusion seemed to be that one really needed to focus either on conversing or on making: neither are automatic activities.
Imogen Welch writes: Usually when I have used clay, the point has been to make something! However, I sat and manipulated the terracotta substance into little curls like wafer-thin orrechiette. This didn't interfere with my ability to chat, one of the subjects covered in the 'conversation'! Our discussions ranged far and wide and included Anthony Gormley, art versus craft, and authorship and collaboration.