Setting the Scene – the Symposium

29 November 2013

The nearly forty participants included academics, undergraduate and postgraduate students and many professional artists and makers in the field, including most of the artists from the exhibition. 

Deborah Werbner and Simone ten Hompel summarised the speakers’ contributions and post-symposium reflections.

Simone ten Hompel and Deborah Werbner: Panorama Talk, Rounding up Perspectives

(report on the Setting the Scene Symposium by Simone ten Hompel and Deborah Werbner)

Simone ten Hompel, maker, academic and winner of the 2005 Jerwood Prize in Metal and Deborah Werbner, maker and researcher, examined in more detail the terms landscape and setting and related these to making and craft.  References were also made to the text in the accompanying exhibition catalogue.  The terms Landscape and Setting were deconstructed and explained noting the human shaping of space.  Discussion ensued regarding our personal perceptions of landscape and how this manifests itself in making.  How do our childhood places impact our later ways of seeing and making?  How are sensory experiences –e.g. sounds- shifted into space, a phenomenon ten Hompel refers to as “sound shapes”.   Notions of transformation and representation were discussed, querying the role of the maker in this regard.

Patrick Letschka: How to Draw Internal Landscapes

(report on the Setting the Scene Symposium by Simone ten Hompel and Deborah Werbner)

Patrick Letschka is a designer and a maker of wooden objects and an academic specializing in drawing and mark making.  In his work with medical students and art students he explores biological memory, visual perception and visual memory.  Letschka raised issues of sensory related “Proustian” memories as well as visual memory.   He engaged the Symposium participants in a series of mark making activities to test these perception and memory indicators first hand.  In his work and in the afternoon’s actions, the landscape explored was internal – in the mind’s eye rather than external surroundings. 

Paul Scott: Willows, Windmills and Wild Roses- Landscape Pattern and Promiscuity

(report on the Setting the Scene Symposium by Simone ten Hompel and Deborah Werbner)

Paul Scott is a Cumbrian based artist and academic working in ceramics.  He reviewed the historical antecedents to the Willow Pattern in ceramics and other traditional blue ceramic pattern work that depicts landscape.  The history of ceramics depicting landscape is long and culturally ubiquitous.  Indeed he demonstrated how many different cultures seem to appropriate similar generic type of landscape images.  What does it mean, for example, when an image derived from a farm scene in Gloucestershire, is adopted by the Dutch, the Swedes or the Finns as their own?  Contemporary ceramic practice has subverted pastoral views for political or personal statements.  In his own work, Scott has transformed the willow pattern to make comments for example on slavery – past and present; political prisoners; or even the demise of the traditional ceramics industry.

Helen Carnac: Setting the Scene: A Changing View

(report on the Setting the Scene Symposium by Simone ten Hompel and Deborah Werbner)

Helen Carnac, a maker, curator and educator, revealed in photographs and text her working process of slowing down, wandering and collecting.   Her quotidian walks become a strategy where she gathers images and objects and talks to people in the space.  It is an unraveling of the people, things and places in her surrounding landscape, whereby each is connected to the other.  Unlike an exhibition space that is fixed, nothing is static in an environment.   Upon return to her studio, the objects that were once redundant take on something else.   She described them as “markers of time”, “compositions” and “thinking things”.  Her poetic descriptions illuminated the work found in the exhibition, a culmination of this working and thinking practice. 

Marjan Unger: New Landscapes for Jewellery and Other Touchy Subjects

(report on the Setting the Scene Symposium by Simone ten Hompel and Deborah Werbner)

The eminent Dutch applied art historian, Marjan Unger, engaged the participants in a lively, insightful and provocative overview of the “landscape’ of contemporary craft.  She appropriated terms such as pragmatism, perspective and modernity as appropriate descriptives for professional crafts practice today. To counterbalance the overcrowded field of the designer/maker, she advised contemporary craft professionals to make new alliances and take new risks.  There should be fluidity in practice between fine art, craft and installation, with makers having confidence in their skills and trying out new arenas.  New values of collaboration and inventiveness are, in Unger’s view, vital to making contemporary craft endure and prosper.


Some responses from delegates at the Setting the Scene Symposium…

“There was certainly a buzz of excitement! The talks made me assess how I present my own work and yes I too have to order a few books to start reading.”

“ I was also very glad to have taken part in the symposium – good speakers and a nice, energizing discussion at the end.”

“The day was thought-provoking, intriguing, highly visual, participatory and inclusive; it has given me a lot to think about and more to research and read. “

“There was a palpable buzz amongst the departing delegates.”