Meet the locals: Jenny Beavan

Jenny Beavan is a local ceramic artist with links to the Crafts Council and the education of ceramics in the UK. Her work has created an international reputation, known for the textural and colour she uses which links it to the Cornish landscape. After a residency with Imerys texture became integral through the incorporation of clay granules, found grasses and weeds that left their trace after firing.

Jenny has been commissioned to create ceramic installations of clay country core samples which will be installed at the Mount Charles roundabout as part of the St Austell Greening project. The installation connects the two key projects of the Austell Project – the Whitegold Project and Greening St Austell.

Celebrating the geology of the clay her work connects the site to the clay pits on the ridge behind and welcomes visitors to the heart of the clay country. “My work is an exploration into material and place observing in particular processes of interdependence between water and geological change. The intention is to capture a moment in a process of change and to reflect upon the physical and metaphorical aspects of a place as a vessel with containment.  

Water saturates, shifts, seeps, explores, exploits, distracts, destroys, manoeuvres, penetrates, mixes, grades, attacks, finds a way, a path a passage, dislodges, surrounds, circulates, gravitates, yet can be drawn upwards to form clouds. It can contain contaminants, minerals, debris, and detritus. It can damage – uproot vegetation but gently carry its seed. It can create a multitude of sounds in its movement and yet at times travel peacefully in silence. It can be affected by external influences – light and dark, heat and air in motion. Water is constantly changing its condition.

The experience of walking and being in a place often creates the necessary impulse from which to respond. I will often, almost daily follow a water course through a  familiar landscape, where the activity of revisiting and being familiar with and more sensually aware, helps to shape and re-shape minute and seasonal changes. Terrain which visibly offers its contents such as crumbling coastal cliff edges, valley gorges, craters and volcanoes, underground mine-workings and the ever-changing industrial open-cast workings of the china clay pits, where each reveals unique geological and historic make-up and matrix content. Being inside, between or next such places always fills me with a sense belonging.

After 16 years of working closely with the china clay industrial landscape, I have this year, secured my 3rd residency with IMERYS Minerals, which gives me access to work in the china clay pits, to research and to collaborate further with the industry.

My response in clay is to find simple and appropriate construction methods. Exploring these are important to carry the message from place to clay so that I can construct with fluidity, working rhythmically, decisively and tentatively, recycling and merging imagination with memory in search of insights and surprise at every stage of the making and firing process.

To help me achieve this I combine difficult materials – manufactured with indigenous materials of a place allowing each to express in combination, their own characteristics, determination and wilfulness. Materials that are most often used are porcelain, china clay matrix and china clay products; aggregates and natural combustible material As if being choreographed, the materials play their roles sometimes working in harmony with each other but more often causing stress and drama in their journey from wet through to dry, from clay to fired ceramic.”

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