Gathering Container
Common Clay x Flatland Projects
18 – 30 January 2020

A leaf a gourd a shell a net a bag a sling a sack a bottle a pot a box a container. A holder. A recipient.

Science fiction writer Ursula K Le Guin’s essay ‘The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction’ posits the idea that, before the spear, we had the pot. Before we made weapons to attack, we made tools to gather. It was in this act of gathering – seeds and oats and nuts and berries – and of gathering together that our human culture was formed. We gathered to tell and hear stories, to exchange knowledge – although the stories that have been immortalised are those of the big, strong, Ape Man hunter with his big stick energy. In fact, Le Guin writes, ‘Before the tool that forces energy outward, we made the tool that brings energy home.’ It is no coincidence that the name for these energy-holders is receptacle. To receive.

It is a human thing to do to put something you want, because it’s useful, edible, or beautiful, into a bag, or a basket, or a bit of rolled bark or leaf, or a net woven of your own hair, or what have you, and then take it home with you, home being another, larger kind of pouch or bag, a container for people, and then later on you take it out and eat it or share it or store it up for winter in a solider container or put it in the medicine bundle or the shrine or the museum, the holy place, the area that contains what is sacred.

Common Clay is a container for people. Like a velvet pouch of Scrabble tiles, the studio receives in people and lumps of clay like small nuggets of knowledge, provides a place for them to gather and build and mould with one another, and then offers this knowledge back into the world as a gift. In the first instance, skills are gifted, both through structured classes and more informal, spontaneous cooperation. Yet the results, the ceramic objects, are also gifted: most of the members eat and drink from things that others have made in the studio. These receptacles are often holders of further gifts – a cup of tea made for a friend, a bowl of soup for an ill family member, a pot to hold a plant giving oxygen. To give is to receive.

In a 2019 interview, the feminist theorist Donna Haraway says that reality is ‘a matter of testing the holdingness of things. Do things hold or not?’ Our reality as humans, as kin, has always been to make objects that hold our stories, and to find others to receive them.

Gathering Container is an exhibition of work by Common Clay studio members, invited to Flatland Projects for Flatland’s first anniversary show. The exhibition is supported by Arts Council England.

17th - 20th October 2019
Common Ware at PEER, London


As part of Art Licks Weekend 2019, Common Clay – a Hastings-based ceramics studio – present Common Ware, an exhibition at PEER showcasing ceramic multiples made by members and associates of the studio alongside an immersive sound piece and daily artist led workshops.

Nine artists have made a ceramic work in multiples of fifteen, designed for everyday use. To unify this collection of works, and to reflect the creative community central to their collective philosophy, each artist has considered the importance of self-care in the everyday and the therapeutic quality of working with clay. This thinking process is the means by which the handmade ceramic objects have been created. Ambient electronic sound work by noch emanating from a ceramic vessel further creates a reflective space for visitors to view the works and engage with the material.

Each day of the exhibition between 13:00 – 17:00 there will be a free drop-in workshop led by a participating artist for members of the public to join in with. Each workshop will revolve around creating things with clay and will encourage participants to explore mindfulness, sensations and personal hopes.

The multiple artworks, which at the end of the exhibition will be packed into wooden boxes, will be exchanged between the artists as a gesture of communal making and sharing, an extension of Common Clay’s ethos. The remaining six boxes will be available for sale to help fund future projects by the ceramics studio.

Common Clay, Unit 8b, Beeching Rd Studios. Beeching Rd, Bexhill. TN39 3LJ