God’s Workshop, Of Clay and Straw

Research Area:
R&D, community consultation, design proposal, planting
Research Type:
Practice-based research; pilot programming; community consultation and engagement


Curated by Nandita Palchoudhuri and Lucy Tomlins, God’s Workshop: Of Clay and Straw aimed to:
– Broaden access to contemporary art through ‘making the making’ publicly visible.
– Present new understanding of our material environment and its sustainability, through presenting the full lifecycle of a project, including its erosion.
– Create connections between seemingly disparate materials and cultures through material engagement and a contemporary art lens.

God’s Workshop explores a new model for the realisation of site-specific, contemporary sculptural installations, in which the build is turned into a staged, performative event that the public can witness or participate in, dissolving the barriers between artists and audiences to make visible the layered processes of production and dissemination.

From Coventry to Kolkata

Born out of a cultural partnership that connects contemporary Western sculptural practice with the traditional skills of the Kumartuli artisans of Kolkata, God’s Workshop foregrounds sustainability and is an exploration of the relationships made through the materials of clay and straw, their production and applications, and connections and approaches both hyper-local and universal.

Working with Kolkata-based curator Nandita Palchoudhuri, this project brings together the unique skills and perspectives of five exciting artists from within our UK and India networks. The lead artists are Rachael Champion (Margate, UK) , Dolon Kundu (Kolkata, India), Amy & Oliver Thomas-Irvine (Cornwall, UK) and Jim Woodall (London, UK). Working with the established materials of unfired clay and straw, the artists are each invited to inject their own visual identity based on their personal material sensibilities, conceptual concerns and experience.

Materials - Clay, Straw & Water

A common language without words – Finding connections between seemingly disparate communities and cultures through materials. Clay, straw and water have been chosen because they have specificity that is hyper-local, as well as universal connections and understanding. Bringing people together and creating a community around the public processing of these materials and a new public artwork.

In a culture in which the production and origins of goods are becoming increasingly complex and remote, Pangaea is addressing a wish to return to the roots of both our cities and the natural world and in turn participate in the making of things.

Clay is a plentiful natural resource and often a waste, or by-product, from infrastructure projects. It is raw, immediate and can be found almost anywhere.

Straw is a byproduct from food production across the globe, from rice, to wheat, to beans. The wheat straw synonymous with the English landscape originated from wild crops in Syria. From British thatch, to the delicate craftsmanship of the Kumartuli of Kolkata, to examples of cob buildings across all seven continents, straw has proved itself as more than animal feed and bedding.

Densely packed, it is both incredibly strong and light and an extremely versatile, enduring and sustainable building material.

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