Living Garden: Floral Project



As part of a year long series of activities in 2020-21, designed to communicate all of the many facets of the Spode Rose Garden, AirSpace has commissioned Stoke-on-Trent based artist Louise Adams to capture the seasonality of the garden, through her drawing and painting practice.

Through regular visits, starting in October 2020 and finishing in November, 2021, Louise will be producing seasonal responses, looking at the light, colour, pattern, texture and feeling of the Garden, and producing 6 finished paintings which will form the visual basis of a future publication demonstrating the changing nature of this beautiful small garden.

Key in selecting Louise for this commission, is her experience as an artist/designer in the pottery industry. Following her MA at the Royal College of Art, she became Senior Designer at Minton, then Art Director for The Royal Crown Derby Porcelain Company, applying her painting practice to those familiar and universally loved ceramic floral designs. Here, Louise's time-served experience in capturing the aesthetic of the natural form will represent the Garden's intrinsic link to Spode, and Spode's historic representation of the natural condition in its floral patterned tableware - Blue Italian, Spode Geranium, Willow Pattern, Sunflower and Convulvulus.

Adams' curiosities about the natural world and the Spode Rose Garden, lie in the contrasts, the force of nature almost pressing against the walls and buildings around it, and the absolute beauty of the plants changing shape through each season.

Contrast and colour are important in patterns and paintings. Space helps us to see and understand complexity and make it more beautiful. This works for life too.

Inspiration stems from the beauty of nature in every season. The Spode Rose Garden celebrates this with its abundant and wonderfully various plants;

Most of all I want to communicate and record something of the spirit of the place. It is a garden, not a wild place, and I really appreciate the work, skill and love that makes it. The garden is small, long, and not very deep, but the design works well, offering views and space for entrancing details, like a swish of leaves patterned with tiny crab apples.

I love to use watercolours, gouache, pencils, pastels, collage ... anything can work. I like to start ideas with an inkling about what will happen, although, of course I make the decisions. I gather colours and textures on bits of paper, play with arrangements, marks and composition. It's important to be open to changing and discarding ideas, to things not working. It's also important to me, to keep making work with no obvious destination.

Both my parents came up to Stoke to work in the ceramic industry. My Mum first, was at a tile company - T & R Boote. I have a lovely collection of her designs from that time, very 1950s.

My Dad worked in different potteries including George Clews, William Adams and H & R Johnson, before going freelance. They both in time went into teaching, were divorced when my Dad went to teach at Trent Poly, then Chelsea School of Art and my Mum taught ceramics and art at Leek School of Art. Everyone says she was a brilliant teacher, and I was very fortunate to grow up with lots of encouragement and exposure to all the arts from both parents ... it seemed the normal way to be....making things, gardening, painting, and being on the edge of the city, really aware of nature, the rhythm of changing seasons, a curiosity about how plants and trees grow, their shapes, colours and patterns. I couldn't help but be influenced by this.

Working as a Designer in the ceramics industry at a time when computers were starting to become used and gradually part of the design process, I always still loved the act of painting patterns as well as thinking of them. The long tradition of designs inspired by nature was thrilling to me, and I was fascinated when I worked at Minton to be able to spend lots of time in the fantastic Minton Archive. Opening a box of floral designs, beautiful, sparkling and bright, always made me think about the contrast to the dirty, sooty kilns and the dullness of the light there must have been when they were firing. I know my Grandfather would escape with his friends on country walks and he never returned to work here.

I've always been interested in painting from nature, and during my time in industry considered it a necessary part of my work, helping me to look at things with a fresh eye, to be inspired and to fill up my store cupboard of ideas. I loved being part of an Industry with such a fine decorative and technical heritage, and one which makes objects that people can really treasure, whether commonplace and plain, or highly adorned. I was really happy to be designing objects and tableware that evoked feelings, and I think this is what I aim for when I paint. Looking at a landscape or a garden, I experience how it makes me feel. I am aware of the light, the shadows and colours, and I love the way looking at a painting can evoke an emotional response, a connection to a place or time.

- Louise Adams, 2020