I got to know Phoebe Cummings in summer 2007 when she took part in the residency, BolwickArts 4 which I ran from 2002-2007 at my home, Bolwick Hall, north of Norwich. Phoebe applied to be part of the residency, having recently graduated from the Royal College of Art. The way that Phoebe was working then, in 2007 was revelatory to me for a number of reasons. She was making work in raw, unfired clay that responded to place, so that her pieces had an ephemeral quality to them and would disappear over time. She arrived with a little bag of tools, ordered some very basic ‘school’ clay and just got on with making, the ideas taking shape as she did so. At Bolwick she immediately became interested in the ‘fruit store’ studio space and a boat shed with a watery interior.
I felt at the time that Phoebe was tapping into something very basic and instinctive but also revolutionary, in a quiet way. She wasn’t worried about the pieces being ephemeral as the work survived through the performance of making and her photography of it- that very much went along with the ethos of the residency, and there was something quietly thoughtful and critically engaged about it. But the other thing about the work was that, for those who came along and were part of it, it would remain with them as an experience. It is that essence that I continue to want to capture in my curatorial work.
Since 2007 Phoebe’s career has gone from strength to strength with exhibitions and residencies around the world. In 2011 she won the British Ceramics Biennial Award and in 2018 was awarded the inaugural BBC Women’s Hour Craft Prize. In 2018 Phoebe also created a major installation for the exhibition, Material Environments at the Tetley, Leeds.
The three photographs that I am showing of her work for BolwickArts were given to me by Phoebe and are very much treasured.