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Northern Industrial Ceramic Commission: Update from Mike Scown

The MADE NORTH Northern Industrial Project explores creating a range of affordable objects, furniture and fashion that convey a sense of northern-ness from the north of England, through a choice of materials or way of manufacture.

The commission provided Starter Studio participants Mike Scown and Victoria Dawes with the opportunity to make new work which will be exhibited at MADE NORTH Gallery from Saturday 9th July to Saturday 27th August.

"I set about making a mug suitable for the busy, daily working-life manner of tea drinking. In response to feedback I’ve received from Sheffield’ers on my own mugs, popular demand seems to be for something large, with a big, ergonomic handle. The form is simple and sturdy, decorated with a motif inspired by the Tinsley Towers, once visible from the M1 motorway and a symbol for many of homecoming but demolished on the 24th of August 2008, my 18th birthday.

I wanted there to be some significance of the materials used in the production of the mug, and knowing that ashes from burned organic matter can form a durable glass, I decided to develop a glaze from the ashes of burned Yorkshire Teabags.

The testing involved 92 different combinations of Yorkshire Tea ash and other materials to find something both beautiful and suitable for daily use. Happily, the most successful outcome was a very simple blend of tea ash and an iron-rich clay I dug from the ground in Sheffield.

I would like the interaction between the human hand and mouth and the basic materials of clay and tea to serve as a reminder of our relationship with the greater ecosystem of the planet on which we live. How often when we make a cup of tea do we consider that it is a product that has been transported thousands of miles to reach us?"

Mike Scown will talk about his work during the exhibition’s Private View on Thursday 14th July, 6.30-8.30pm at MADE NORTH Gallery.