Ignition at Central Saint Martins

Clay and the spectacle of outdoor firing in makeshift kilns combine in Ignition, a participatory ceramic project designed to encourage hands-on making and community dialogue.

This ongoing project, part of the Local Encounters programme at Central Saint Martins, was devised by Duncan Hooson, first-year leader on BA Ceramic Design. Across five groups, more than 80 local residents, business workers and community group members took part in ceramic workshops between May and June 2017. The aim was to offer these groups both formal and informal engagement activities that re-ignited a passion for haptic skills, and to cement new relationships across the local community.

M. Alcazar Duarte (c) 2017
M. Alcazar Duarte (c) 2017

Alongside Ignition, Central Saint Martins was commissioned by the London Borough of Camden (LBC) to run a creative consultation with the project’s participants. The consultation was shaped around a clay map of Camden onto which people could inscribe their thoughts, memories and ideas for the future of Camden. The creative consultation ran alongside Ignition and was an invaluable tool to start conversations with over a hundred people living and working in Camden which will help inform the borough’s future cultural framework.

All this making culminated in a collective kiln firing in June 2017, to which both Camden, and neighbouring Islington, residents and workers were invited. The clay pieces were fired using a raku kiln, a traditional Japanese technique which involves placing the red-hot vessels into wood chips, a dramatic process that creates raku’s trademark crackled surface.

Steve Mepstead (c) 2017
Steve Mepstead (c) 2017

“I’ve seen the success of bringing people together around the community of firing – live kilns, live firing and people seeing the process. Quite often the process, that transformation of clay through heat, is hidden. But with raku you can see it. Ignition is not simply igniting people’s imagination but the flame of the firing.” - Duncan Hooson

Ignition is not only about connecting with clay and making, but it’s a project that opens the doors of Central Saint Martins. “It’s all good saying ‘this is an arts school’,” says Hooson, “but what does that mean? What goes on there? Local partners say yes, but then it’s about maintaining and building on that. These projects are built through trust.”

Steve Mepstead (c) 2017
Steve Mepstead (c) 2017

With thanks to the Ignition participants:

N1C residents and workers at the Skip Garden
Women@the Well
The Camden Town Shed
Camley Street Reserve

Watch the film here: