Behind the Costa Coffee on London road is Atelier 51 – creative home to a number of artists and artisans.  It was here that I met Elaine Bolt at Christmas Artists Open Houses Festival last December.  As we were chatting, she told me about a fascinating collaborative project she is working on with fellow Atelier 51 exhibitor, basket maker Annemarie O’Sullivan. The two met at Made London in 2014 and found an immediate connection in their work.  Annemarie had been looking to work collaboratively for some time and Elaine was interested in making site-specific work. Annemarie has been growing and harvesting her willow in the clay based soil at a former brickworks – it seems a joint venture was destined. The two are coming together to work on Making Ground, a project that comes directly from the ground that supplies the materials for their work.  Based at  Sacred Earth in Horam, the year long project will move from researching and testing the raw clay; harvesting, sorting and drying the willow as well as developing collaborative projects and community involvement with volunteering and workshops.

Early stages of the project for Elaine involve digging up the clay around the site and testing the different samples.  Elaine says unprocessed clay can be quite gritty and contain all sorts of earthy materials making it quite unpredictable. Annemarie has been working with a team of volunteers harvesting and sorting the willow before it is dried and then able to be used for weaving.

Elaine says it’s a bit early to pin down any collaborative plans, but they do know that they hope to explore ways in which willow and clay can work together both functionally and sculpturally and how working on the land that produces the materials affects their practises.

Making Ground plans to run workshops with early career makers as well as working with makers from UniverOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsity of Brighton 3D design and craft on the site.  There is also an opportunity via Kickstarter to spend a day on the site exploring the project.  Contact Elaine or Annemarie for more in formation.

More details of Elaine and Annemarie’s experience can be found in their blog https://makinggroundblog.wordpress.com.  Photographer Rachel Henson tells the visual story with haunting and atmospheric images.   Rachel has plans to produce flick books documenting the process and interaction with the land.

For more information check the blog and newsletter (links below) as well as Elaine, Annemarie and Rachel’s websites.






All photos supplied by Rachel Henson

Words by Anne-Marie Olczak