I love finding links between things that have caught my eye in places past which connect me to the present. Here’s October, ‘the mature man collecting fruit’ seen high above the Wedgwood Institute in Burslem, Staffordshire.
Today, up here in Scotland, a few volunteers from the local orchard group gathered to press the last of the Clyde Valley apples into apple juice. I doubt they were draped in robes like this but it must be a seasonal activity that goes back generations.
When I first saw the sequence of seasons and astrological symbols above the Wedgwood Institute in Burslem, Staffordshire, I was captivated by the detail, quality and symbolism of the sculptures and mosaics high above street level.
The mosaics looked weather-beaten but there was enough detail to see what might have been. I wanted to capture each of the months and zodiac signs before a few more winters saw them off – you can see from my photo that the mosaic tesserae have begun to fall away.
Scorpio is a much maligned sign of the zodiac, but to me it is a symbol of what is all part of the season of life events representing the cycle of dark and light, death and rebirth and so on.
On the Wedgwood Institute, you can see the full sequence of astrological signs set in mosaic roundels above the terracotta figures of the months.
I loved working out the forms of each sign so I could paint them in the sparkling mineral pigments of lapis lazuli and malachite set against the red and yellow earth pigments. It’s a great setting to add the glitter of Cornelissen’s 23 carat shell gold to give a celestial background!
Final layout below before I had them all mounted and sent to Barewall Art Gallery in Burslem.
It’s been a while since I’ve been to Burslem and no doubt there have been many changes but Barewall Gallery is still very much at the heart of Burslem, the creative mother town of the Potteries. I’m delighted that they are stocking all of the original artwork of the months and zodiacs – quite a few have already sold.
To give you an idea of Burslem’s townscape – here’s a sketch of Market Place from about 5 years ago.
To close and bring this full circle, my nephew visited me in Staffordshire back in 2015 and I took him to Middleport Pottery in Burslem. On our way out we found ourselves on Nephew Street!
Skip forward a few years and we’ve moved up to the Braes. Once again the season has moved to that time of ‘collecting fruit‘, but this time my nephew visited with a wee helper….
As always, thanks for reading!