Thursday, September 22, 2011

Liz Stops: Musing on a sustainable practice

Works in slipcast porcelain have been a consistent thread through my practice for some years. The forms I devise are usually landscape-based, expressing interpretations of my rural locale. I assemble groups of objects in configurations of 2 to 150 that portray particular and imagined locations. I value the exacting and time consuming processes involved when developing a form, making a mould and then slipcasting, as an opportunity for contemplation and immersion in the objectives underpinning a defined project. I find that reflection is fostered by repetitive process and physical engagement with materials and is an important component towards furthering and evolving ideas.

I also work in recycled and found media, an enterprise that attempts to more closely link the form and content of my work with my environmental concerns. I recently completed a PhD entitled Carbon Credits in which I explored these possibilities in depth, an undertaking that was motivated by the conviction that it would be possible to develop a professionally viable practice that incorporated a strong procedural ethic of sustainability. Carbon Credits was integral to my environmentally committed lifestyle and was also contextualised within a society increasingly aware of its dependence on the health of ecological systems with which we interact. My project also acknowledged the environmental impacts of colonisation.

Image: Liz Stops, Investigations into Colonisation,   2010 Porcelain, recycled fenceposts, charcoal, binder 47cm high x 110 x 30

The outcomes of my investigations were objects and photographs through which I observed the implications of my colonial complicity in misuse of resources, but also imagined new possibilities of a more inclusive interaction with the landscape. Works completed during the project were in porcelain; a variety of recycled materials such as pulped cotton, flywire, bird wire, barbed wire, copper sheet, charcoal, bone, ash and sap, most of which were collected as a result of my land-management practices; as well as photographic documentation of temporary works and ephemeral events. In particular, charcoal that had been collected from my winter fires over two winters became the sustainable substance through which I aligned the conceptual, the material and lifestyle considerations, developing works that responded to my local colonised landscape, while establishing resource-conservative studio procedures. The production, preparation and manipulation of charcoal became a regenerative gesture through which I could envisage a hopeful environmental future.

Image: Liz Stops Wombee Landscape III: Dawn, Charcoal, ash, sap, bone, binder 50cm high x 75 x 5

Carbon Credits also impacted on my porcelain practice and led to the development of strategies to minimise its carbon footprint. These included taking measures to eliminate studio waste by devising works that utilised scrap, as well as installing a grid-connect solar system to produce electricity for firing. However, recently, mining of one of the components of my porcelain slip has ceased in Australia and it is now imported, thus increasing the footprint of my work. This occurrence highlights the fact that resolutions are not static and my practice requires continual review and adaptation.

Carbon Credits thesis
Planet website
Australian Ceramics website
Brenda May Gallery website 
Sustainability stories link 
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Craft Australia is interested to know how you are tackling sustainability in your practice. If you would like to contribute ideas or have an experience you would like to share on the Craft Australia blog. Contact the blog editor

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