Raewyn Harrison's collaborative project Back to the River is part of the Thames Festival from 1 - 30 September
Our Directory Maker of the Week, Raewyn Harrison, talks to us about getting into making, what inspires her and her favourite part of the making process.
Who or what got you into making?
I have always been lucky to have creative jobs that have involved design, later I developed skills in research, space and building on my degree in Interior Architecture. Ceramics was an attempt at doing something new when I had limited time as mother with toddlers. What started as an interesting past time rapidly turned into an obsession after I discovered how much I enjoyed all the processes from making through to firing. After I graduated from the very challenging yet rewarding two-year Fine Art Diploma in Ceramics at the City Lit, I set up a professional studio.
Could you please tell us a bit about your work?
I make porcelain collections with a strong narrative about locations and structures that fascinate me. Ceramics is the art form used most to commemorate and has a strong resonance with memory. I am interested in things that have been forgotten or were never considered worth commemorating. I like how something can be brought back to life when it’s reinterpreted through a modern lens.
What are your inspirations?
The river Thames is a constant source of inspiration which led to my ‘Mud Larking’ series. I collect fragments from the foreshore, delve into archives for historical maps and go on expeditions to take photos of disused industrial structures and WW11 Forts in the Estuary. I use photography to create images for firing onto my work but it is equally important for inspiring the form, scale and surface of the objects I make.
What is your favourite part of the making process?
I am very inspired by the making process itself and intentionally leave a trail of evidence in my work. Throwing lines, construction seams and slip cast dribbles demonstrate the variety of techniques I especially enjoy about working with porcelain. My trade mark dribble edges are combined with my own glazes that fragment images, making each piece unique.
What are you working on right now?
Back to the River is a collaborative project I have been working on with Thames archaeologist, Mike Webber for this year’s Thames Festival. We have held a series of workshops and talks with local community groups in Southwark and reconnected people with the history of Bankside and the Thames.
The project’s grand finale will be a one-day event on the foreshore in front of Tate Modern, where we are asking the public to help us make a large clay art installation.
On Saturday 9 September, we are inviting you to come and explore the archaeological and industrial heritage of Bankside and take part in one of the earliest Thames-side trades: ceramics manufacture. We want you to get your hands on some clay and create your very own cast, made from a mould of a genuine artefact found on the Thames foreshore. You will be able to place your cast on the beach, adding to the artwork and helping to mark out the remains of Mason’s Stairs, a Tudor causeway that gave access to the River.
The installation will remain on the foreshore as the tide rises and falls over 24 hours. The artwork will reference the tens of thousands of artefacts that have been found on the foreshore and the ancient tradition of placing ritual offerings into the Thames.
Alongside working on Back to the River, I have created a new body of work called ‘Foreshore Finds’. Everyday objects from generations of Londoners can be found in Thames river mud. I have treated them as treasure by casting them in one of the most precious clays, Ming porcelain and glazing them in a range of colours that remind me of the Thames.
The Back to the River event is free and on Saturday 9 September from 11am to 2pm on Quenn's Walk, Bankside, London SE1 9DT and is part of the Thames Festival.