Ex-student Harriet Lawton creates art pieces and design objects in textiles, ceramic and print, in response to objects and collections. Since graduating in BA (Hons) Embroidery in 2013, she has developed a strong practice as both an artist and an artist educator.
I attended Crossley Heath from 2002 to 2009 and thoroughly enjoyed my years at the school. I was an active student in my studies and extra-curricular activities, for example as Porter House Captain in 2008-2009. However, I always knew that I wanted to pursue a career in the arts. I was lucky to receive the creative education that I did at Crossley Heath and studying art and textiles at A-level confirmed my career aspirations.
I went on to study art foundation at Bradford College and I thrived in this year due to the work ethic and self-motivation I had developed while at Crossleys. I loved being able to focus solely on creative subjects and at this point I was already beginning to develop a personal creative style. For my final major project, I looked at the theme of ‘Collections’ and created a textile piece which explored the collections of the people I knew. You will see that this theme is one which reoccurs often within both my degree study and professional practice.
From Bradford I went on to Manchester School of Art to study BA (Hons) Embroidery. This was a unique course that suited me perfectly due to the way in which it explored learning through making and through the teaching of a wide range of art and textile techniques. It was in my second year on the course that I first began to explore ceramic objects and collections, specifically the Japanese technique of ‘Kintsugi’, in which broken ceramic objects are repaired using gold. I fell in love with this concept and created work which used traditional textile repair techniques to ‘mend’ broken ceramic objects.
In third year, I developed my exploration of ceramic collections in greater depth and formed the basis for my professional artistic practice. I experimented with a number of techniques, including using broken ceramics as a unit for collage, creating ‘textile fragments’ using digital print and bonding techniques, and using water-jet cutting to cut out motifs and details from ceramic plate surfaces.
My degree show included two final pieces. The first was a water-jet ceramic composition, featuring ornate edge details and traditional motifs, such as swallows and willow trees cut from their original plate surface and displayed as an illustrative, collaged scene upon the wall. The second was an installation of ‘Trompe L’Oeil’ textile plates, which were displayed on an 8m-high wall in the atrium of the newly opened Benzie building at Manchester School of Art. This work was a turning point for me professionally, as I had to pitch the installation to a selection panel and, once selected, go through the process of producing an installation work with limited time-scales and budgets. This work was extremely well received and was featured in Embroidery magazine and re-exhibited at FRESH at the British Ceramics Biennial in 2013.
I graduated in Embroidery in 2013 and since then I have been developing my artistic practice. I took on a studio at The Artworks, Halifax in the September following graduation and have found this to be a great support network when developing my career. The Artworks is an independent art school located at Shaw Lodge Mills with a strong teaching programme, gallery space and artist studios. It has been great to have a dedicated space to work from and a network of creative people around me.
I have developed a practice as both an artist and an artist educator, working with a number of organisations across the north of England. My first commission upon graduating was for The Whitworth, Manchester’s ‘Tactile Too’ handling archive
I created a body of work inspired by my grandparents’ ceramic collection and this is now stored at The Whitworth and loaned out to schools and colleges for students to study. I also completed a commission for Wakefield Museum in 2014, in which I displayed the museum’s ceramic collection as an art installation as part of their ‘Artists in the Atrium’ commission.
As well as working to commission, I develop products to sell and have exhibited these at shows, including Saltaire Arts Trail and the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair. I recently completed a commission for Super Slow Way to develop products based on traditional canal art. I created a collection of printed silk scarves and water-jet cut ribbon plates featuring Brightwork patterns.
I also work as an artist educator, delivering a range of workshops at The Artworks, including Youth Art, Adult Textiles and Screen Printing, and local outreach projects with schools and organisations, including St Augustine’s refugee centre. I also work with various galleries as a freelance practitioner, including The Whitworth Manchester, The Yorkshire Sculpture Park and The Crafts Council.
More recent projects have seen my work become increasingly participatory and my artistic and teaching practices have begun to combine. In 2015 I was Artist-in-Residence at The Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair and I delivered the project ‘The Object Factory’, screen-printing a series of object designs which had been drawn by the show’s audience. In 2015-2016 I worked on my biggest commission to date with Gawthorpe Textiles Collection in Padiham. I developed and delivered the project ‘Cataloguing Padiham’, working with the local community to develop a series of hand-drawn and stitched labels, digital fabric prints and an outdoor trail of laser-cut labels in Padiham town centre.
I am currently working on various artist educator projects with organisations including the Piece Hall and the Crafts Council, as well as putting together a Masters application to hopefully begin study in September this year. I am really proud of what I have achieved in the four years since graduating and aim to continue developing my practice, with ambitions to eventually exhibit nationally and internationally and to teach at an academic level. I value my time at Crossleys immensely and would like to give particular thanks to Margaret Walton, not only for her textiles teaching while at Crossleys but also for her continued support of my practice.