The ceramic vessels and objects presented by Garvald Edinburgh as part of its exhibition, From the Ashes, feature unique and intriguing surface decorations created by wrapping them in various organic materials and thrusting them into fire pits. As well as producing some spectacular outcomes, the project and exhibition gave the organisation’s members an opportunity to experiment and showcase their own designs.
Garvald Edinburgh provides creative opportunities and community for adults with learning disabilities and autism. Its pottery workshop is one of several facilities members use to learn new skills and spend time together in a work-like environment.
Ceramics produced at the workshop in Dalry are usually glazed and fired in kilns, but for this project the team employed the ancient process of terra sigillata. This technique, developed during the Roman Empire, involves applying thin layers of slip to the clay and burnishing it to a create a shiny surface.
It’s nice to have an exhibition. We can see it and other people can see it. It might be bought by some people. I’d like that. It would give me a nice feeling inside.
According to Pottery Workshop leader, Colin Ashcroft, the members found the hand-working processes relaxing and meditative, but it was the opportunity to escape to the outskirts of the city to build fires and make new friends that really set this project apart.
“We thought it would be exciting and good for a lot of the people we work with to be outside, using fire,” said Colin. “The social aspect of being able to sit around a fire was important to the project.”
The workshop’s inner-city location meant that pit firing on site was impractical, so Garvald was invited to use some land at the Tiphereth community on the edge of the Pentlands to build its fire pits. This allowed the members to spend a day in the countryside, finishing their pots, cooking on a barbecue, and getting to know people at Tiphereth.
We thought it would be exciting and good for a lot of the people we work with to be outside, using fire. The social aspect of being able to sit around a fire was important to the project.
“I enjoyed the big fire the most,” said Garvald Edinburgh member, Sarah Laing. “I liked it because it was a new thing to do. It was outside. It was sunny and a nice day – it wasn’t raining.”
The pots shown at Custom Lane were produced in 2017 and 2018, but the coronavirus pandemic meant it wasn’t possible to arrange an exhibition during the past couple of years. Garvald’s Workshop Leader and Exhibitions Coordinator, Morven Macrae, explains that, as vulnerable adults, the organisation’s members have had an especially difficult time, having to isolate and deal with a lot of loss. She says the opportunity to stage an exhibition once again is important to them and represents a hopeful moment for the future.
“We’re really excited to be able to come together and celebrate the members’ work now,” Morven adds. “We approached Custom Lane because of its respect for crafts and we think these pieces stand up well in this setting. As part of our efforts to build back an inclusive society as we come out of the pandemic, we want our makers’ work to be seen in the spaces it belongs.”
Sarah Laing added that it meant a lot for her to see the ceramics on display in the gallery space. “It’s nice to have an exhibition,” said Sarah. “We can see it and other people can see it. It might be bought by some people. I’d like that. It would give me a nice feeling inside.”
Support Garvald Edinburgh by purchasing a beautiful vessel from the show or visit www.garvaldmakers.com to give a new home to one of the many beautiful items crafted by the members of the ceramics, glass, jewellery, woodwork, art and textiles workshops.