Chanelle Brown – Gathering At Goodbye

And so our resident maker Chanelle Brown has come to the end of her six months, below she reflects on her final few months which has culminated in her work ‘BANTU’ being part of an exhibition at Woolwich Works, a fitting culmination to her time here, and the beginning of a much longer journey.

‘As I attentively reflect on the last few months of my residency at Blackhorse Workshop, I am bizarrely led to consider the way in which birds flock together, flocking allows for better protection against predators and also allows birds to fly further by improving aerodynamics and in turn allowing them to use less energy. Specifically at this time of the year, they share the sky to migrate south. Birds have a carefully routine way of listening to the seasons in effort to survive and cultivate harvest. However, before long they’ll return and work with the rest of nature to diligently sustain agriculture at this end of the planet. Although I am saying goodbye in this season as I continue to prioritise my practice and personal growth, I am motivated by the way Blackhorse workshop has encouraged my artistic and respective development, hoping to revisit when the ‘seasons’ shift.

I have quietly observed how for some of the members and workers at the workshop, the community space provides a sense of family and home, an environment not only to create masterful work but to connect, congregate and build kinship. I recognise how important community spaces are for all demographics but especially those who are marginalised or orphaned by society, family or otherwise. I remember going to a mosaic class at my local community centre as a child, it was a novel escape from the concrete jungle that clouded the view from my bedroom window. The teacher loved heart FM, which was an exciting melodic escape from my religious, ‘no secular music!’ home environment and the space had large windows that let-in the most beautiful kind of light. Everyone was given free rein to create, and it was my idea of heaven. Watching how Blackhorse workshop build community has encouraged a personal desire to one-day develop a learning exchange space built on collective-care, cultural legacy and wellness, specifically for children and adolescents that have little access to the arts and theraputic outlets.

Sharing skills and learning from elders is an undeniable African-Caribbean tradition, if our mothers aren’t teaching us the skill of home and hearth then in my case, I’m learning how to thread a needle or ‘cast-on’. Although at times turbulent, conversations and moments shared with my Nana has always taught me resilience and the true art of craft which I believe to be self-care and healing. The new Loom design has allowed for better success in weaving, the images (right) show two woven works, (sample 01) Woven in Citrus and (sample 02) Beneath my Brown Skin are Skeins of Green and Blue. The Nana Loom is a great new resource I am now using to develop new works.

From the off-set I intended to turn bowls, fascinated by the prospect of making functional tableware from merely blocks of wood, an easy enough challenge for a woodwork novice, so I thought. Although hopeful, my romanticism was quickly challenged with terminology like ‘ride-the-bevel’, ‘kick-back’, ‘turning-between-centres’; a whole world of ‘turning talk’ most of which evades my memory. The beginning stages of learning involved a lot of confusion, ‘kick-back’ and trial-and-error but ultimately I began to develop an understanding of the wood, lathe and chisels in a way that made sense to me. Eventually the ‘balletic flow’ followed pleasurable results and thus the inception of BANTU, an Afrofuturistic expression of elevated tableware. The felted details (almost hair-like) denote vulnerability, softness and the vibrant African-Caribbean hair culture. These unexplainable ornamental figures give a regal taste of dining with blackness. A reclamation of heritage, beauty, prestige and elegance.

BANTU will be featured in a group show at Woolwich Works, called Black in Full Colour, curated and initiated by duo, The Collective Makers. BANTU, alongside other incredible art can be viewed (free) throughout the month of October.

A special thank you to all at Blackhorse Workshop and Foundation for Future London for funding the residency.’

Chanelle Brown