The Song of Mud -Ceramic responses

Pupils at Sir Thomas Boughey School have been investigating the story of the Lost Boys in relation to the work of artist, Steve Dixon and the “Resonate” exhibition.

They have collected objects, research and images that evoke a sense of remembrance, contemplation, loss and the patina of time passed.

As a continuation of the work developed both in school and at The Clay Foundation led by studio manager and ceramic artist Jo Ayre.

The work completed during the three sessions used the poem by Mary Borden as inspiration, as well as objects, images and ephemera from the Wedgwood archives and collected by the pupils themselves. They used plaster casting, slip and printing techniques to create a series of objects that were embed into clay ‘mud’.

from At the Somme: The Song of the Mud


This is the song of the mud,

The pale yellow glistening mud that covers the hills like satin;

The grey gleaming silvery mud that is spread like enamel over the valleys;

The frothing, squirting, spurting, liquid mud that gurgles along the road beds.


Students work was displayed at Wedgwood Museum for the last day of the touring exhibition Resonance,alongside Steve Dixon and Johnny Magee’s work.


Arts Awards for Sir Thomas Boughey Volunteers

Yr10 Artists have participated  in a project with BCB, the British Ceramics Biennial 2015.

The project is all about the lost boys of WW1, those troops who were under the age of 18.

Students initially visited the Ceramics Biennial on 20th November 2015, where they participated in two ceramic workshops, making Willow Pattern tags and Bone China Forget Me Nots. The work was fired at BCB, Spode, and then the flowers and tags were constructed into Ceramic Wreaths.

They then attended the Remembrance Service on Armistice Day at Stoke Minster, where our students read part of the service and presented the ceramic wreaths and ceramic ‘forget me nots’ at the alter after the two minutes silence. We then walked up to the Cenotaph and placed the wreaths on there.

In the afternoon students took part in another clay workshop with Ceramic Artist Jo Ayre. Students constructed clay medallions based on the WW1 survivors medal and participated in a ‘slip and slap’ exercise, where they took clay texture impressions from the actual Spode building and then applied different coloured slip to the surface of this work.

Jo Ayre, the ceramic artist students worked with during both visits, will be coming into school after Christmas to work with the students to develop their work. The work was then on exhibition at the new Wedgwood visitors Centre in May 2016.

All students gained an Arts Award from their participation in the project.


Staffordshire students draw on WW1 letters

TEENAGERS have turned letters from the trenches into ceramic art after researching the stories of underage soldiers killed in the First World War.

Art and design students from Newcastle College and Sir Thomas Boughey High, in Halmerend, teamed up with Manchester Metropolitan University for the ‘The Lost Boys’ project.

Now their stunning pieces – inspired by soldiers from the North Staffordshire Regiment – are set to feature in a public exhibition at the university.

The work includes squares of paper porcelain inscribed with extracts from the letters. They have also made commemorative plates, including designs which use imprints from war medals.

Artist Stephen Dixon, a professor of contemporary crafts at MMU, came up with the idea so he could build on the success of a First World War project he did for the British Ceramics Biennial (BCB) last year. It saw him enlist the public’s help to create thousands of ceramic poppies.

For the latest creative challenge, which has also been supported by the BCB, he wanted to shine a light on the teenagers who fought for King and Country.

Stephen said: “They were supposed to be aged 19 or over if they were serving on the frontline. But lots of them lied about their age.

“We’ve discovered the names of soldiers who were 16, 17 or 18. It’s impossible to know how many North Staffordshire Regiment soldiers were underage. But estimates suggest there were at least 250,000 nationally.”

Many of the students involved in The Lost Boys are the same age today as the soldiers would have been during the war.

Exhibition at NUL College 20.5.16

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At the outbreak of World War 1, the legal age limit for armed service overseas in the British Army was 19 years, yet by the end of the war an estimated 250,000 underage soldiers between the ages of 14 and 18 had seen active service.

This interdisciplinary research project in association with The Clay Foundation, Stoke-on-Trent and Manchester Metropolitan University School of Art engaged over 60 young people as both researchers and makers, working alongside researchers to raise public awareness of the contribution made by underage soldiers in the Great War.

The project built upon current academic and practice- led research into the social history and legacy of the Great War at MMU and focused on the geographical location of Staffordshire, with its historical connections to the ceramics industry, to explore the commemorative potential of ceramics.


Students studying on the Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at Newcastle-under-Lyme College have been researching Major Cecil Wedgwood and the pottery workers who enlisted during World War 1, with The Clay Foundation and artist Stephen Dixon, at the World of Wedgwood.

Students volunteered their own time at the World of Wedgwood’s archives to uncover previously untold stories, and also to discover if there were any under 19 year-old soldiers who went to France during WW1. Major Cecil Wedgwood was the first Mayor of Stoke- on-Trent and partner in the Wedgwood pottery firm but was killed in action at the Battle of the Somme. This year marks the Centenary of the battle.

The college students have created an online blog that documents all the heritage and archive visits made. Ceramic responses were inspired by the information discovered during the Lost Boys project and all identified content is to be displayed at the Special Collections Gallery at Manchester Metropolitan University from 13 June 2016 for two months.

CPD Ceramics Twilight Event

12 teachers from Stoke on Trent Secondary schools attended Prof Steve Dixon’s ceramics CPD session based at Wedgwood Museum and supported by The Clay Foundation/BCB on Friday 4 March 2016.

The group used  images from personal WW1 related paper items and individuals created compositions that were arranged on white glazed plates. When fired the black turns a brown colour which gives the effect of being aged with patina.

Teachers commented that they would use this process again within their own practise and at school with students.

The teachers were given a tour of the WW1 collection at Wedgwood and were able to handle archived paperwork from WW1 related to Major Cecil Wedgwood and the pottery factory.

Lost Boys CPD Twilight flyer Feb16

NUL College at Staffordshire Regiment Museum


A selection of students on the BTEC Foundation Diploma in Art and Design have continued their involvement in the ‘Lost Boys’ Project which is being run in collaboration with the British Ceramics Biennial and Professor Stephen Dixon from MMU. The project aims to research the underage soldiers who were enlisted during WW1 with findings being explored and presented visually through a range of collaborative ceramic outcomes.

On Tuesday March 22nd students visited the Staffordshire Regiment Museum in Lichfield to gather further research through photography and drawing. Students toured the reconstructed WW1 trenches and were able to obtain an insight into what it would have been like to be on the front line and the conditions that the soldiers had to live in.

Following this there was a talk on uniform and the firearms used in battle – this included a handling session which enabled students to examine and photograph the equipment for their research. To conclude the day there was a workshop on research techniques which explored how to examine documentation to find out more about an individual soldier when exploring the archives at the Library.

Research gathered during the visit will be applied through two further ceramics workshops which will be run by staff form MMU and held at NULC on April 22nd and May 20th.
The ‘Lost Boys’ project has enabled students to develop valuable research skills and independence through the many facets of the project that have been encountered. These skills are essential for anyone pursuing a career in Art and Design and will undoubtedly provide an excellent foundation for further development at University and beyond. In addition students have been able to experience working alongside a practicing artist, developing practical skills in ceramics and having the opportunity to see their work exhibited at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery.

Reg Mus2.jpgReg Mus1Work produced during the recent visit to Wedgwood will be on show at the Wedgwood Museum on May 6th and MMU on June 13th.

Words by Cheryl Smith Curriculum Leader: Foundation Diploma in Art and Design
Newcastle-under-Lyme College

Stoke Sixth Form College debating society visit

The Lost Boys project continues the collaboration between the BCB, Steve Dixon and local schools and colleges. The BCB hope the next step of this is to involve the local community in replacing a missing memorial plaque in Stoke Minster. Within Stoke Minster, there are a series of wooden plaques memorializing all who fought in Wedgewood’s Battalion and lost their lives. Tragically, the last panel is missing meaning Wedgewood himself isn’t currently being remember in this way.

With Ceil Wedgewood playing such a big role in the research undertaken by the Students so far, the fact that he himself isn’t being memorialized has given even more importance to getting the missing panel replaced.

To explore possible ways of replacing the plaque, the BCB wanted to gain local opinion on the matter as well as how younger generations see the history and heritage of the Potteries.

Stoke Sixth Form College hold a meeting for students to debate all sorts of issues such equality, sexuality and national and local news stories. Katie Leonard was invited to present the Lost Boys project so far and the next possible ideas moving forward to gain their thoughts.

The debating group is not compulsory for any students which made having a great turn out even more encouraging. Katie explained what the BCB do to given context to the project regarding the ‘Resonate’ installation in the festival and the ‘Resonance’ travelling exhibition Steve Dixon is currently doing.


The question she asked the students was ‘Is clay the right material to memorialize?’ to discover if they had a connection with the material and if they believe clay would be fitting to use in a memorial such as the plaque in Stoke Minster. Here are some of the thoughts thrown into the mix:

‘What clay would be used?’

‘It would be great to make a connection between where the clay used came from and where the fighting took place.’

‘Would Wedgewood be kept in mind?’

‘We should look into the animals that feel with the soldiers such as the horses as they gave their lives too.’

‘Clay seems like the perfect material to use but each and every soldier should be remembered in clay not just the final panel, all are important.’

‘Do we have all of the names that are missing and how can we find them if not?’

This is where Katie shared that this is where the students could come in as volunteer investigators and researchers to find out the people who were on the missing panel. The project aims to get as many students as possible to come in not only to help uncover the lost stories of these soldiers but to learn more about their own areas history and heritage.IMG_9402

Secondly, the matter of longevity was bought up and whether having the memorial in ceramic would last longer than the rest of the panels which are made out of wood. We assume that the lost panel was destroyed by rot so having the new one made in a different material may be beneficial.

Some more thoughts were:

‘Who would own it?’

‘How can we preserve it should something happen to Stoke Minster?’

These points are definitely something to think about when commissioning the work but hopefully, because Stoke Minster is so accessible and had a healthy congregation, nothing will happen to the building in the near future.

Some of the students wanted to know who would design the replacement plaque.

‘Would you keep the design the same as the ones made of wood?’

‘I think it is essential to keep the old theme so we don’t take away from the period in which the originals were made, trying to remember not recreate.’

‘Too modern may offend some of the people attending the church but I agree we don’t want a pastiche of the past either.’

It was discuss that a local survey with the church goers would be good to get local opinion on design. The initial design ideas will hopefully be worked on with an artist and a group of students that have engaged in the research around the soldiers and their stories.


Lastly, Katie wanted establish what everyone’s thoughts were about the act of memorializing war. Is it a remembrance of the bravery and strength of the people who fought or is it a glorification of war and violence. The most memorable memorial to war at the moment was the display of poopies at the Tower of London on rememberance day which is now traveling around the UK. The act of wearing the poppy is a public sign of remembering World War 1 that is very popular but has had mixed responses from people for years especially the colour that is used.

Many see the colour red as sign of violence, blood and death whereas some see it as bravery and the life given to save our country. Many have said the rose should have been white to symbolize peace. Discussing this with the group many thought that white stood for surrendering and giving up.

‘There shouldn’t be a debate around colour. There should be no right or wrong way of remembering someone.’

Katie asked what the students would do if the poppy could be re-designed in clay.

‘The colours could be combined.’

‘The poppy should be natural. Keep the raw clay material as the surface and colour.’

‘If it is made of clay they should be natural colour of clay. That’s the way it was intended to be.’