Manor Maker: Base Materials with Emilie Taylor

31 Aug – 6 Oct 2019

Millennium Gallery, Sheffield

The act of making can be hugely transformative. This summer, a new exhibition at the Millennium Gallery will show how a group of adults undertaking great change in their lives worked with ceramic artist, Emilie Taylor to explore the potent metaphor of turning mud into gold.

Manor Maker: Base Materials considers the powerful impact of making on our sense of self, and in particular, the relevance of the British heritage craft of wood-firing pots in our contemporary urban environment. The exhibition is the culmination of a project which saw 10 adults, each in a process of change and recovery, work with Sheffield-based artist, Emilie Taylor to come together to talk, think, draw and use clay to create monuments to their process and themselves. 

The resulting pots, made by the group during weekly meetings over a four month period, were fired in a wood firing kiln built on the Manor Estate in Sheffield. The 12 hour firing took place on May Day or Beltane – the Pagan festival of fire – which sees out the old, brings in the new and welcomes change.

Alongside the pots created by the Manor Makers, who are service users at Sheffield Alcohol Support Service, the exhibition also features drawings they made in the weekly meetings, reflecting the thoughts and feelings borne out of the making process. Visitors will also hear a range of sound pieces which convey how the alchemy of the clay firing and the meditative nature of craft influenced and shaped the participants’ experience of recovery.

The impact of the project is best described by Manor Makers themselves:

“It’s the only time my head is clear – I feel safe and revived.”

“I’ve become more comfortable with life and its process by making the pot itself.”

“It’s stopped my mind from whirring, just for the couple of hours we are here.”*

“It’s a lot more than just a pottery group.”

“I’m really proud of myself. I never say that, but I have made a fantastic pot.”

“Putting thoughts and emotions into art set them free – it set me free.”


Emilie Taylor said:

“In a time of austerity and cuts it has been a huge privilege to be able to lead this project and explore the holistic potential of what creativity can bring to recovery. It has been humbling and inspiring to work alongside the people who have taken part.”

Manja Wolfram, Volunteer Coordinator at Sheffield Alcohol Support Service said:

“10 people who are supported by SASS Alcohol Recovery Community, each on a different personal journey of challenge and change, have really engaged over the whole 4 months of this project – which tells you something about the quality of their experience.  People connected not only to each other, but more so to themselves – emotionally and spiritually. Not only were new skills learned, patience tested, but support given in a very creative and reflective process, sensitively guided by Emilie the artist. We are very thankful for the partnership and opportunity to take part in this project. September is Recovery month, that we celebrate loud and bold each year in Sheffield with a number of services and people who are accessing these, and it could not be any more suitable to have the exhibition taking place this month!”


Alison Morton, Head of Exhibitions at Museums Sheffield said:

“The Base Materials project is a powerful example of how creativity can have a positive impact on self-esteem and wellbeing. The work the Manor Makers have created with Emilie is both compelling and affecting and we’re absolutely delighted to be showcasing it here at the Millennium Gallery.”

Emilie Taylor is a ceramic artist practising in Sheffield. Her work combines large-scale studio ceramics with a socially engaged practise, and she uses heritage crafts, particularly traditional slipware, to interpret and represent post-industrial landscapes. Emilie is interested in the vessel or container as a metaphor for how we seek to contain communities within British society, and has an ongoing interest in the firing process as alchemically potent and symbolic of change. Training as an Art Psychotherapist underpins her approach to social engagement and informs her work.

Manor Maker: Base Materials with Emilie Taylor opens at the Millennium Gallery on Saturday 31 August and continues until 6 Oct 2019 – entry to the exhibition is free.


Exhibition supported by Oscar Humphries.