Mud Mugs, Bells and other Festival projects

Taking pottery to festivals with my assistants, Steve Howard, Ian Baggett, Sally Baggett, Lizzie Lowes, Kate Howard and Simon Johns.

As a Drop of the Ocean we have been taking a workshop to festivals since 2005. We take thrown bells in earthenware, stoneware or porcelain and coated in slip. At Glastonbury this is made from clay from the festival site. Festival goers use sgraffito (scratching designs through the slip) to decorate their own bell. We take them home to the pottery, glaze and fire them and send them back to their designers. At our first festival in 2005 our workshop was working towards a mural, later it turned into an obelisk!

The Mural Story   2005

 We wrote to Michael and Emily Eavis in September 2004 thanking them for 7 wonderful Glastonburys. We felt we wanted to give something back and offered to run a project at the festival in 2005 helping festival goers to incise, impress or in some other way decorate red clay tiles to be made into a mural. We got a reply on Christmas Eve, Nic and Marie Piper who run the Green Craft Field were interested and sent us forms to apply to work with them. We were cool and gave the matter careful consideration, the forms were filled in and posted by the 1st Jan!

Full of excitement we arrived to set up our stall on the Sunday before the festival. We’d had a two week heat wave and the glorious weather continued for the next four days. Our tent looked great with a terra cotta hanging curtain adorning half of the open front and chiming gently and continuously. We went to sleep on the Thursday night full of anticipation. At two the wind got up and the curtain started clanging wildly. Sometime after that the thunder and lightning started. At five the rain came down, it was so heavy we just stayed in our tents. At 8.30 we took the chiming curtain down before it smashed itself to pieces.

That was when we discovered that we had left a window open at the back of the frame tent workshop. The carpets at the back were soaking and the wooden boards we had made to take the tiles home on had started to warp. We opened for business at 11am, gone was the vision of barefoot hippies sitting on the carpets modelling tiles. Here was the muddy reality of wondering whether, having survived the flash flood, anyone would be of a mind to wander up to the Green Craft Field and decorate a tile.

Our first artist came in almost immediately, her tile a very heartfelt, “rain, rain go away, come again another day.” Before she had finished the tent had started filling up and from then on we were busy right up until we closed on the Sunday evening.

The Mural

Consists of about 300 tiles. Lots of the tiles are weather themed featuring rain drops and lightning and even two Hokusai waves. There are lots of subjects that you would expect, love, peace, Glastonbury 2005, music, bands and guitars. Suns, moons, the pyramid stage, lots of lovers initials or names linked together, the Tor and the Cider Bus, fairies and Angels. Many, many butterflies, hearts and shells. Some extremely talented people modelled tiles, the most memorable being a wonderful elephant, two people drumming and an ethereal angel.

One of our contributors collected grasses from the site and rolled them into the surface of the tile. As the tile fired, the grasses burned away leaving traces of ash as had been intended. The process darkened the surface and gave it a slight shine.

Amber, 11 months old contributed a tiny handprint. Lucy, 4 years old, got away with making several tiles (against all the rules!) because none of us could say no to her. She also happened to make fantastic tiles.

Strangely many cats make an appearance as does Dave’s DNA. There is a very wise quotation in both Japanese and English, “Even monkeys fall from trees”. The maker of one tile, covered with bubbles wrote in our visitors’ book, “my baby’s never seen so many bubbles”!

Personal Favourites

The (original) Teepee field under the stars with “welcome home” underneath. (Mary) Ian’s Teepee with the open door and the tile incised by a small child who wrote “I love you Mummy and Daddy” and reduced his parents to tears. (Sally) The Tor outlined by moonlight. (Steve) Recycled Ban the Bomb sign by Dan. (Kate)

The Future

We are hoping to find a permanent home for the mural on site at Glastonbury. Hopefully somewhere that the contributors can all find their work and appreciate the mural as a whole. We would like to thank everyone who took part, for all their fantastic ideas and artwork, thanks for making your mark.

At the 2007 Festival I showed some of the tiles to Liz Eliot who coordinates the Green Fields. We discussed siting the mural. Liz suggested mounting them on a standing stone. The geometric squares lent themselves perfectly to an obelisk and I modelled the design on the mother stone in a stone circle aligned on Callenish on Lewis.

The Obelisk was first seen in the Green Fields in 2008. The following year it arrived in the Green Craft Field with its new asymmetric top. The subject of the tiles decorating this addition is motherhood. It has since visited in 2010, 2011, and 2014, between outings it rests behind the pottery in Staines. It is currently awaiting a face lift.