Olivia Fiddes

2020 Thinking Residency

I was delighted to be asked by Justine to take part in the 2020 Thinking Residency at Harp Cottage. It would be a fantastic time at the start of a new year to take time away from the city, focus on new ideas and take inspiration from the surroundings.

I arrived in Harp Cottage in the late afternoon. I was excited to get out and explore so quickly pulled my boots on and walked around the local area. I live in London, so I was immediately pleased to take in big breaths of fresh air and take in the quiet birdsong. I explored the local fifteenth church, St Stephen’s. It is absolutely¬†beautiful and had so many aspects to take in, from the 8th century font, medieval tiling to the rows of wooden pews and stained glass. I spent the rest of the evening in the cottage next to wood burning stove.
The following day I woke up early for an hour walk from the cottage in Old Radnor to the border mark from Wales to England and back. The cottage really is right on the border and it has very interesting history because of that. There was a light dusting of snow when I woke up and slightly icy roads. There were lots of snow drops popping up all around, showing signs of spring just around the corner.
I came back to the cottage and got to work on an idea I’d been thinking about to create carved clay prints. I’d then use a combination of ink, paint and the wet clay to print the designs on to paper. I’ve been exploring ways to create sculptural and 2D work with clay, as well as more functional pieces. I took inspiration from the 8th century baptismal font in the church for the carved pieces to print with. It is very sculptural itself and has an intriguing almost mythic history. It has a very chunky, simple yet powerful shape which is something I’m often drawn to. I also made some miniature models of the font, in the style of the lucky charms I’ve been making recently.
Again I woke up early with coffee in a flask and walked in the other direction from Harp Cottage up the hill. There was a great view and you could see the various peaks around the area.
I came back to the cottage to continue working on the prints. I’d carved some different sizes the day before and tested them out roughly. On Wednesday I was able to get a hang of using them better and made some prints that came out neatly. I also worked on some other lucky charm pieces, incorporating the hill peaks around the cottage. They could be considered a charm for peace, illustrating the landscape noted for forts and vantage points protecting the local area. I also sketched and did some ink drawings of some of my recent work including kirinuki cups, which use a technique of carving away a chunk of clay to reveal the shape within it.
After a day of working alone in the cottage I popped to the Harp Inn for a pint and then back to get some valuable time next to the fire.
For my final day at the cottage I got up early to catch the morning light and took photos of the pieces I’d made, as well as a couple of finished pieces that will be available from the Harp Cottage store. Everything looked very at home in the cottage. I spent the rest of the day sketching out ideas I’d had for bigger pieces, to make when I got back to my studio. I’m working on a new collection and I will be testing out ideas I’ve had at the cottage on a bigger scale, and distilling these down to a group that works well together.
In the evening I collected all of the ash from the fire from the time I’ve been at the cottage. I’ll use this ash as a component of a new glaze recipe, which will hopefully give an interesting new finish to some designs that I make. It’s great to be able to use waste in a productive and meaningful way like this.¬† It will also make the finished pieces very personal to the time spent at Harp Cottage.
For my final evening I went out to the Harp Inn for dinner. I managed to charm my way to a table as it was incredibly busy. It’s an amazing old pub with open fire and hops covering the ceiling. The food was very tasty and I got to hear a fair bit of local gossip.