Permission to Play with Sgraffito

This week’s blog is by Tina Salvidge, a local artist who approached Seed Sedgemoor with a proposal to set up a Clay Club in Badgworth and Axbridge as part of the 2022/23 Cheddar, Axbridge, Polden commissions. The Club started in early January this year and has just completed its first term.

Clay Club aims to make a creative space for absolute beginners to improve people’s general wellbeing and include a social element to encourage people gently back into the social world after lock down. It is based in two locations – Badgworth – a very rural location, and in contrast the small market town of Axbridge where a Seed consultation identified a desire for ceramic classes.

Clay Club is run by local artist and ceramicist Tina Salvidge, a multi-disciplinary Somerset based artist, who works within the community on socially engaged projects, collaborating, sharing skills and curating exhibitions.

“Clay is a fascinating material with a lot of local history attached to it. Most people come having seen The Great Pottery Throwdown and are surprised how much you can do without a potters wheel. So it can be accessible. It’s fascinating to see the level of concentration everyone applies to their work and how lovely conversations flow naturally between often complete strangers. There is a real curiosity about the process and I am sure that some will go onto further explore their creative side – it ‘s almost as if you are giving people permission to play and be artistic which so few people have the opportunity to do in their normal busy lives.

As an artist I have been involved with several projects in my local community which have had a workshop element. Clay Club is run on a slightly different model in that you are building an ongoing relationship over several months and sessions with regular attendees alongside those who can only commit to the odd session. I am trying to run it as flexibly as possible so that there is a developing skills element, as well as not excluding those who may have missed sessions or can only come occasionally.

This involves quite a lot of planning and moving of equipment between village halls as Clay Club runs in two different locations but this enables me to provide Clay Club directly in the community – I am going to the community rather than them having to come to me. The fact that the sessions are free is quite unusual for Clay Club and has meant that we are currently oversubscribed, particularly in Badgworth. I really enjoy seeing the fantastic work that is produced and the confidence that people are gaining, as well as building stronger communities through art.”

This term Clay Club members have been exploring the technique of Sgraffito – a surface design technique used since classical times.  Scratching through a surface layer to create patterns that reveal what may be underneath.

Clay Club is a new group made possible by Seed and the Axbridge and Wedmore Health Trust.