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Teena Gould - public art in Wales and beyond


ARTIST IN RESIDENCE. Teena Gould. March - Oct 99

buckley sculpture by Teena GouldThe Buckley Project was a rich experience for me on many levels. Firstly it fulfilled my aspirations to carve directly onto wet bricks. I had previously worked with many aspects of bricks from glazing them, designing with them and even making them. Clay in all its manifestations as a creative medium enthrals me. The quality of the Buckley brick is quite unique - a dark, textured and almost metallic surface. It is an ideal material from which to carve the brickwork waymarkers for the Heritage Trail.

I embarked on this project aware of the challenge of designing, making and siting not one but ten pieces of work. Because of its scope I would be working not only with the community, but also with a variety of organisations and partners. Firstly Hansons Brickworks at Lane End, the last brickworks in Buckley, Flintshire County Council Countryside Services, Education & Leisure Services, Princes Trust - Cymru, and later Deeside College. Now this really excited me! Arts Projects are often marginalised and the artist is generally left to get on with the job and report to a committee. This was an opportunity for real partnership with a constructive and working brief and I had a key role. When management and organisation leads to an inventive and community based conclusion it is to me a creative process. Much as I wanted the community to feel they had a constructive role in these sculptures, the project itself was important within those larger organisations.

buckley sculpture by Teena GouldBuckley initially struck me as a rundown kind of place which gradually unfolded as I got to see its landscape and got to know the community. The Heritage Trail was in its infancy with a background of solid research and in the process of continuos development. The ten points were marked with wooden posts and backed up by an explanatory leaflet. This gave me starting points from which to develop initial designs and proposals. After a public meeting groups and individuals from the community volunteered their involvement. 10 groups responded which was more than expected. When The Guides Association told me there were ten of them I said that was fine till they explained that there were 10 groups with up to 30 in each group! Each of them went on to carve individual bricks which were to form the sculptures plinths. I set to work meeting the groups, agreeing designs, setting up studio space in an Industrial Unit, testing materials and planning the programme. The rhythm of the construction was to work with the schools first and follow on to the community groups over the summer.

I approached the first carving with some trepidation, but was soon in the swing of heaving large blocks of brickclay about and attacking them with the strength needed. Carving tools collapsed under the pressure of this gritty material as my muscles developed. Being the only woman on the Industrial Estate took some getting used to, but I was soon accepted as an honoury bloke even in the Brickworkís! I dealt with fork lift trucks, kilns the size of houses and the Countryside Service Rangers were on call with landrover and trailer. I was even able to intervene in production and the factory made large blocks the size of 3or 4 bricks. These are trimmed and stacked into a cube and carved - the largest piece consisted of 72 blocks with some sculptures being a group of smaller pieces. Once the form were complete, they were dismantled and made ready for firing. I had also to learn a new terminology - ëburnersí are the men who fire the kilns and when they say a kiln has ëgone overí it means that a stack of bricks has collapsed not that the kiln has ëreached temperatureí. Our sculptures were called ëTeenaís bits and bobsí, this really was working to a different scale!

buckley sculpture by Teena GouldMy objective was for each individual sculpture to express its own heritage and landscape whilst being linked to the whole. We dug some clay from the old pits which was recycled into a ochre slip. Many of the process I used were connected to industrial ones from Buckley Potteries and Brickworks. The Heritage Trail is about recycling a living landscape, and the sculptures used traditional techniques in a contemporary way. Some of the pieces are curvy organic shapes which reflect the natural forms of the lovely tree fringed pools with indentations and dips to hold and pour water. Others relate directly to the shapes of Buckley Pottery from medieval times onwards and refer to the round shapes of the old Beehive Kilns. Natural form, life cycles, the flow of water and structures of the earth as it regenerates itself is the context for some of the sculptures. How we have use and continue to use that landscape industrially and socially also informs the work. One piece was placed between the last remaining chimneys in Buckley and uses architectural carved and coloured bricks. Woodcarvers applies their techniques to wet bricks brick block carving. Added to that was the creative expertise and expression of the community. The skill of the many hundreds of designers, carvers and builders who took part was tremendous. The community spirit developed and expressed itself as the project progressed. Over 600 children and adults were involved in direct ë hands oní work, and the whole community appeared to be supporting the project.

Unpacking kilns always holds a magic and excitement and this was no different despite the massive kilns! I experimented with some ash glazes, coloured slips and the range of Buckley clays. The success rate of the firings was high.

buckley sculpture by Teena GouldWe held an appeal to collect old Buckley bricks to form circular bases. Installing the final pieces was carried out by staff nd students from Deeside College, with the support of the Rangers. As this work progressed it seemed to me that the sculptures took on a life of their own, both blending with and informing their environment. On all levels this project really was about the sum of the whole being greater than its separate parts. Amongst the community a mythology developed and the sculptures became known locally as ëthe stonesí. As a public artist I always hope that the completed work continues to have a life or energy of its own; this can depend on the power of the process, but once that is gone the work needs to move on.

The opening was a delight. Over 200 adults and children converged on the hill and took part in the guided walks along the trail.

I can only thank the community, the partners and the landscape for unfolding its riches.

teena@teenagould.com site designed by keith morris | red snapper web designs 2009