Sharpe’s Pottery Museum – Initial Project Brief, January 2018

Sharpe’s Pottery Heritage and Arts Trust fosters a sense of pride in South Derbyshire by protecting, promoting, celebrating and sharing local history, heritage and culture. The museum is situated within a former pottery with a grade II listed kiln hovel. It is a treasured landmark building and has symbolic significance. The site itself is approaching its 200th birthday and is believed to be the only surviving sanitary works site in the country.
The South Derbyshire motto ‘The Earth Our Wealth’ reflects the industrial heritage of the area. The museum tells this story from the successes of the community resulting from the products of the earth (coal and clay) to the environmental impact that this created. In the ever-changing local landscape, which is now being regenerated through the National Forest and tourism, the museum provides a link to a rich, industrial heritage.
Sharpe’s Pottery Museum wishes to commission an artist to design and produce a sculpture inspired by the ‘The Earth Our Wealth’. The piece will be located outside the museum to encourage visitors to learn more about our story and to be a source of local pride.
The shortlisted artists will be invited to submit concept designs with full costs and timescale will be paid an honorarium of £250 each to cover associated expenses. Funding (up to £15,000) to undertake the project will be sought from Arts Council England to cover all costs apart from approximately £750 match funding which is already secured.
The Earth Our Wealth
Sharpe’s success story, and that of other local potteries, would not have been possible but for the presence of coal and clay in the area. It led to the urbanisation of the area and the proliferation of collieries, brickworks and potteries. There was an abundance of rough clay with specific properties that made it perfect for the creation of sanitary ware and pipes. This was exploited following the 1848 public health reforms which led to a huge demand for pipe and sanitary products. By the turn of the 20th century more than 70 pottery-based manufacturers had sprung up in the area using these local resources. The scale of local production was vast and employment in the pits and potteries boomed, however the landscape was devastated by continued use of coal-based kilns.
After introduction of the Clean Air Act in 1950s and resulting changes in technology South Derbyshire’s pottery industry failed to keep pace with Staffordshire and all local potteries were closed by 2007. This made the area ripe for regeneration and when the decision to site the new National Forest was taken in the 1970s it continued the tradition of local people finding work from the earth beneath their feet.
The museum holds many iconic pieces that create a sense of place; reminiscence focus; intergenerational experiences and community identity. The town centre continues to be regenerated with a nod to its roots, most recently through a Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Townscape’ project. As a key building within the town centre and the conservation area Sharpe’s is integral its prosperity and reflect its legacy.
The Commission
Sharpe’s Pottery Museum wishes to commission an artist to work closely with staff, trustees and the local community to develop a concept proposal and then work up a detailed design and implement or oversee implementation subject to planning consent.
The sculpture will add to the existing townscape and should be recognisable and meaningful to the local community as well as providing a clear statement of its legacy. The piece should provide the visual link between the pottery site and the town centre, as well as the symbolic link between the products of the earth and development of the town. The artist will have access to the museum’s ceramic collection and would benefit from accessing the local history archive (on site) managed by our partners at Magic Attic for research.
The sculpture will be permanently sited outside the museum and freely accessible to the public so it should be created in robust materials. There are three possible locations are being considered. The final piece should be easy to maintain without the need for specialist equipment or skills.
To apply
Please submit your Expression of Interest (EOI) by email to Lara Rowe, Curator. by Friday 23rd March 2018
Artists are asked to submit:
- Current CV with contact details
- Artist Statement – no longer than one page in length – outlining your artistic practice and why this commission is of interest to you.
- Images of past work, including images, titles, dates and associated budget where possible.
- Details of experience of working with communities and stakeholders.
This is a two-stage selection process.
Stage one:
Prospective artists are invited to submit and EOI as above by Friday 23rd March 2018. This will be reviewed by the project team. A shortlist of up to 3 finalists will be invited to the next stage of the selection process based on selection criteria that will include but not be limited to the following:
Approach and interest in the EOI as expressed in the Artistic Statement
- Professional experience of the artist as expressed in the CV
- Artist excellence, skill and innovation as evidenced in samples of previous work
Stage two:
Sharpe’s Pottery Museum will only notify artists who have been shortlisted and only those artists will be invited to progress to stage two of the selection process. Shortlisted artists will be paid an honorarium of £250 to develop their proposals (art concept with proposed budget and schedule) over a four week period and present their designs to the project team.
The selected artist will work with Sharpe’s to submit a funding application to the Arts Council England (Grants for the Arts up to £15k) for the final project.
The proposals will be considered based on the following:
- Artistic merit of the proposal
- Technical feasibility of the proposed concept including safety, structure, durability and ability to meet budget and schedule
- How well the proposal fits with the use of external space and the heritage building
- Stakeholder input
Sharpe’s Pottery Museum will make a final selection and reserves the right not to select an artist from those shortlisted.
Lara Rowe, Curator
Sharpe’s Pottery Museum, 23 West Street, Swadlincote, South Derbyshire DE11 9DG
The deadline is Friday 23rd March
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