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Porcelain collar, transparent glaze, waxed thread, plaster casing, found barbed twig Highgate Woods, ceramic reclamation tile, hard wood frame

H. 8 x w. 16.5 x d. 16.5 cm



From the series 'Non-Essential Items'

'Gatherers. Foragers. Scavengers. This project began for us around New Year when we were down at a stretch of the Dorset coast that suffers from sudden and dramatic erosions of the cliffs. There’d been a lot of rain which had collapsed a stretch of land that was well covered in grasses, bushes and small trees. These had been dragged down the pebbly shore into the heavy winter waves, rolled for who knows how long and deposited back at one locally famous spot where people bring their pickups and chainsaws to load up with free wood for the fire.


'We started noticing the way the root balls had been scoured and rolled into discs and spheres, all those hidden tendrils suddenly discovered and looking mysterious - still questing off, but the obstacles and hardnesses they had twisted around were gone. They had become depictions of the absent earth. Slipping through the fossil hunters and the fuel scavengers, we collected the finest of these nature-worked root balls and trunks and strapped them to the roof of the car. We also found black grasses and dense bundles of twisted root and sea furze that went in the boot.


'We started work on these pieces in late January, when the world was younger and utterly different. The reversal of the trunks to display the roots, to allow them to thread through the air and be revealed, seemed necessary and obvious. Placing porcelain collars and sleeves along the supports further celebrates their contours and forms. Porcelain discs and the ‘waste products’ of throwing have been fired and added to the form.


'All the binding is done with waxed thread and tarred twine. A red line to draw the eye and splice some wound or weakness.


'As we elaborated the first pieces of the series, the world was upended and our values were reversed. For a time we put the work to one side and were rolled and scoured by the waves of the crisis.


'Along with our neighbours and our distant loved ones, we were tumbling and - for a time - lost. But one freak wave must have dumped us above the high tide because we took the work out again and, wordlessly, instinctively the pieces came together as if they had nothing better to do.


“Non-essential Items”, we are calling this work. There are so many things more fundamental to survival. A series of ten pieces, deriving from the large piece which was commissioned for the beautiful space at Omved.


'You don’t need these things. Or perhaps you do. We’ll find out when our values have done with being rolled by these waves.'



About Steph Buttle & Tim Gray

We have each worked for many years in our separate disciplines, ceramics and wood. The almost fanatical drive to master the disciplines of our mediums, that we each displayed in our early years, has become something gentler and more instinctive. We work together quite silently and it is as if the work has already been done by some process of hind brain contemplation that we weren’t even aware of. The pieces come together quickly and smoothly and it is a real joy to work like this after the painstaking learning of our skills that we did as younger people. 




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Non-essential Items #2 | By Steph Buttle & Tim Gray

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