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Creative Production

Since 2019 the Growing Project has partnered with Modern Clay, a co-operative clay studio in Digbeth run by artist members, which produces ceramics, runs public workshops, and designs bespoke projects with charitable organisations. Collaboratively with The Growing Project, Modern Clay developed clay-making workshops for participants, sharing the benefits of working creatively and enacting their belief that creative expression is vital to well-being.

The first growing season in 2019 culminated in a harvest dinner for 60 people, including elected officials and local land and business owners. All seated alongside residents of St. Anne’s hostel and members of Crisis and SIFA Fireside. Guests and participants shared food and stories centred on ceramic platters and plates produced by the project participants in Modern Clay’s studio. Since that first successful year, The Growing Project and Modern Clay have continued to explore crossovers between gardening and ceramics. The resulting wares and one-off editions include the Digbeth pot and the Minerva cup, both of which are batch-produced and hand-finished with motifs created by project participants. As well as some one-of-a-kind jugs and cup sets with handles made collectively during group workshops. The Minerva cup was designed to pair with the loose-leaf herbal tea blends: Teas of Resistance.

Handling it, together, 2023

Working with artists from Modern Clay, members of the Minerva garden group were each given five Minerva cups which were fresh out of the jigger jolly and leather-hard. They each created a design for a unique handle to be replicated (or not) across the five cups. Once glazed and fired, the resulting set would contain one cup for the artist and four cups to be sold as an edition, forever connecting the artist to the work and sharing their set with whoever ends up using the other four.

In preparation for this, Artist Joanne Masding built two 26cm high jugs from stoneware which were collectively dressed with many unusual and unique handles by the Minerva group. The beautiful resulting pieces were exhibited as part of Manchester Art Fair 2023.

A landscape image of a cream-coloured sculptural ceramic pitcher placed upon a potter's wheel. The pitcher features many handles of different shape and size, creating and abstract effect. The wheel and the pitcher stand in front of a deep blue wall.

‘Handling it Together’, The Growing Project x Modern Clay, Birmignham, 2023.

Mineva Cups, 2023

In the second half of 2023 The Minerva Garden Group took the knowledge learned from making the Digbeth Pot and scaled down the designs to form beautiful, functional tea cups, made in white stoneware with a clear glaze. The outside of the cups have been decorated by hand with delicate stamps made at 1:1 scale from plant samples taken from the Minerva Apothecary Garden. Immortalising the garden in these cups.

a landscape image of four cream-coloured ceramic cups placed on a circular table top against a plain, dark, teal-blue background. Three of the cups are stacked into a tower, and one is laid on its side, showing a smooth wider top section, with delicate organic shapes stamped into it, and a rougher, narrower bottom. Black stamps are partially visible on the underside of the cup.⁠

‘The Minerva Cups’, the Growing Project X Modern Clay, 2023.

Digbeth pots, 2020-2023

Since 2020, The Growing Project and Modern Clay have been working together on a further 3-year collaboration, exploring crossovers between growing and ceramics. The partnership centred around the design of a simple, functional terracotta pot that could be produced in batches. Modern Clay worked with residents of Hagley Lodge and St. Anne’s hostel to design motifs that adorn the outside of the pots and represent different elements of the project. Suns, beetles, carrots, and trees were made into stamps and pressed, by hand, onto the pots before firing.

The economics of the Digbeth pot are built into its design; it’s stackable to minimise storage and transport costs and a standard 9cm plant pot fits snugly inside. In Modern Clay’s studio, we tested firing the terracotta pot at a range of temperatures, to find the ideal combination of the frost-resistant properties of high-fired ceramic, and the deep-red glow from a mid-range firing. Digbeth pots are made using a jigger jolly machine, which spins a plaster mould in the shape of the outside of the pot and presses clay into it with an arm that forms the inside profile. It’s a centuries-old way of making ceramic ware, keeping the heritage knowledge, skills, and tools in action in the Midlands, and building on it through contemporary design.

In the third year of the collaboration, workshops with the Minerva Garden Group have focused on adding sculptural elements to some of these existing pots, making bespoke and unique editions in creative and therapeutic sessions.

‘The Digbeth Pot’, The Growing Project x Modern Clay, Birmingham, 2023.

From Seed to Soil to Plates, 2019

The successful pilot season of The Growing Project in 2019 at St. Anne’s Hostel culminated in a harvest dinner for 60 people, including elected officials and local land and business owners, seated alongside residents of St. Anne’s and members of Crisis and SIFA Fireside. Guests and participants shared food and stories centred around ceramic platters and plates produced by participants in collaboration with Digbeth-based clay studio; Modern Clay.

Teas of Resistance, 2019

The Minerva apothecary garden sits alongside the Grand Union Canal. We have adapted formerly underused space into a garden full of medicinal herbs which forms part of The Growing Project. 

Working alongside community support charities and other partners, we host weekly sessions with the Minerva Garden Group which includes people passing through difficult times and who are in need of community support. The group cook together, create artworks and editions, tend to the garden space and harvest plants for blending teas.

Since 2021 The Minerva Group has designed four herbal tea blends during ‘tasting sessions’ with the support of gardener and artist Carolyn Morton and community artist and herbalist Chloë Lund. 

These blends focused on celebration and empowerment, centering warmth, energy, bliss, strength, peace, and mindfulness. The newest calming and clearing tea Breeze Easy, made with herbs; lemon balm, spearmint, camomile, rosemary – all of which grow in the Minerva apothecary garden.

‘Teas of Resistance’, The Growing Project, 2023.