FLAT HOLM ISLAND: A 4 Day Visit with Cardiff School of Art

Art & Aesthetic B.A. Hons

A 4 Day annual visit to the island with 1st. year students and staff. Flat Holm is a now a bird sanctuary and has a significant history. There are resident staff and visitor accommodation. All the participants were confined to the island for 4 days. There is a boat to and from Cardiff on Monday and Thursday only.

FLAT HOLM ISLAND- 4 Miles outside Cardiff Bay

‘Pit Pot Island’:  A Ceramic Project Awaiting Completion

Funding and time denied the completion for what I conceive to be an ‘installation’  This is a Floor Mounted sculptural project. It would be my first attempt at Sculptural Ceramics. 

SKETCHBOOK NOTES: Sketchbook pages showing the cross section of a possible concept for ‘Pit Pots’ as I think of them. I imagine them excavated from whole bags or mounds of rough clay, an idea expressed by the collage of torn paper in the circular image. The coloured circles are showing the mechanical, constructed nature of the ‘Pit Pot’ as excavated with neat geometry with a turning tool on a potters wheel. The rough mounds would be left as is. All would be confined to a fragmented external circular base shape, an island perhaps?  Above the circle drawing is a conceptual cross-section outlined in RED inspired by the built structure of the pits themselves. Here the ‘Pit Pots’ get their name!  The tool required for making the pots is already made. (see below)

Day 1 was spent walking around the island and settling in. Touring the island was completely fascinating with the evidence of its long historical importance and natural beauty. It is home to 25,000 seabirds!  The most important visual impressions came from seeing the Montcrieff Pits; 5 gun emplacements put there by Queen Victoria. 

FLAT HOLM ISLAND: Observation & Inspiration with Notebook References & Concepts 

These are wonderful architectural structures in the form of underground gun positions with contraptions for raising and lowering the guns [now in Cardiff Museum] in the event of hostile encroachments from our French neighbours, at least thats what Queen Victoria suspected. The diagram above (from the museum) shows how the working parts would function with the gun in both positions.  A gun can be seen in the photographic image above, lying alongside the outlined in RED circular pit, all beautifully built in Limestone and Brickwork. Access to the pit is from below ground through narrow tunnels. Five gun positions are on the island in varying states of disrepair.

I found these structures/buildings fascinating in the use of materials, the space, location and purpose. I came up with the idea to view the Pits as Pots, as vessels excavated from the soil.  From this notion I produced the sketchbook studies on the island.  I am really familiar with travelling and working in books, so felt very comfortable with my working strategy and environment. I also came along equipped for the work in hand.

Concepts for Making: A rough and ready approach is how I conceived the making processes. Rough handling of the raw material and an absence of colour other than the natural colour of the clay and oxides. I want to imply a reference to the natural environment of the island and emphasise the concept of the landscape versus the neat orderly geometry of the five circular gun emplacements.

The pentagonal divisions and five circular ‘pots’ within each section have a nice balance.  But I feel a strong need for organic chaos to be surrounding them, to exaggerate their form and find natural expression for the surrounding wildness.

GLAZE & ‘PIT POTS’: The interior may be made of glowing colours or textures, materials with a mechanical, industrial or commercial appearance reflecting their architectural, customised presence.

MAKING THE MACHINE: The mechanics of making the ‘Pot’ forms or spaces within the mounds or bags of clay will be created on a rotating ‘jollying’ structure created from a redundant sculpture stand. 

Below: The rough sketches contain all I needed to know before making the final drawing for the tool. Trial & error model shows it is now ready for use.

FLAT HOLM ISLAND:  Moncrieff Gun Emplacements