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In the Studio

"Working between her studio in Sheffield and site visits to Blackpool, Charlotte Dawson, has created an entirely new body of work reacting to the visual and material language of Blackpool. The pieces created during this period connect the two locations. Through a series of sculptures which derive their shape from dining plates, Charlotte explores the blurred lines between work and leisure."


"Charlotte’s practice focuses on the parameters of the ‘object’ and the multiple purposes and sentimental readings objects can possess. In this new body of work Charlotte poses questions around object worth, acts of mass production and duality of purpose within a vessel used in both forms of service and for decorative purposes."


I approached this residency by questioning what Work and Leisure mean and how these two seemingly disparate words can be aligned within a singular object. I initially proposed a series of sculptures based on the form of ceramic plates which took direct influence from the visual and material imagery and culture of Blackpool whist questioning the wider blurring of lines between these words which occurs within this environment. Beginning with the basic concept of the plate as a vessel associated with labour, service, care and pleasure, I looked at the ways that these can manifest within a physical object – the plate as a practical object, as ornament, as souvenir, and as object of commemoration.


My intention is to exemplify the multiplicity of this object, not only through subject matter, pattern or design but through the production processes typical of my sculptures. I sculpt a singular object in clay, from this original, singular object, a silicone mould is created. Using this mould multiple pieces can be cast in Jesmonite. In creating a series of objects that transcend the traditional materiality of the original object, the mould allows for the possibility of mass production and for the possibility of repetitive action in order to produce a uniform object. Despite this ‘uniformity’, the individual casts hold within their own physicality the traces of my hand, my fingerprints left embedded in the clay and tape marks left in their sides from the sweet tub walls of my makeshift moulds and each cast plate, although identical in shape has a variation of pigment.


Within each object I am looking to question what constitutes a mass produced object and which stage of the process could be seen as enjoyable, an act of leisure, to produce one singular ceramic plate over the mass production of many? Within each object there is a tension brought about by the presence of the hand – hand made, hand cast – and the act of the repetition within of process. The melting distinction between production and manufacture and work and leisure result in objects which find themselves between at a threshold of human and clone.


This concept not unfamiliar in Blackpool with its myriad of cottage industries. The seemingly uniform yet unique sugar rock plates to be bought by the sea front, a mass of confectionary made in collaboration between hands and turning machines. The advertisements found outside of local café’s present the familiar sight of food in photograph form. This device, something seen on bus stops, bill boards and throughout any city centre on commercial advertisements is stripped of its ‘stock’ quality and understood as incredibly personal and specific to these individual spaces for which the image is advertising – these images are of food prepared, served and photographed within the place they’re situated.

I aim to call into question the parameters by which we view the objects and imagery that surround us and how a singular act can flatten the space between work and leisure and how an object handmade but produced on mass.

To read more about my time spent on the Work/Leisure residency click here to read my interview with The Double Negative.

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