As part of the CHALKUP21 project, architect Charles Holland designed and developed plaques at Spacer_, a transdisciplinary art studio for sustainable creative practice, to mark each of the nine structures that comprise the trail. We spoke to Sarah (artist & director) and Lynsey (technician supervisor) at Spacer_ studios to find out more about how the plaques were made.

What’s the difference between working with artists and working with architects?
Sarah: An architect tends to have a fixed idea in their head. They pour days and days and weeks and weeks over their drawings, so by the time it goes into production, usually what’s the case is they want exactly what they’ve spent the time formulating. And most architects are like that – whereas artists will experiment and push the process. They will have an idea but then they’ll maybe learn the processes and then expand the boundaries of them or be much more creative in their process. I would say architects tend to be slightly less creative in that process.
Lynsey: Charles started off like that, but when he realized where the journey was going he started to be more flexible and realized what he could do and what he couldn’t do. Charles was a bit different to some architects that I’ve worked with as he started to respond to the process, rather than being fixed about it. He appreciated the handmade aspect of it – that we couldn’t get it so, so precise because it was handmade. But he was still very much an architect!
Sarah: It’s mostly that artists like to push and explore the processes involved more than an architect would.

How did it develop from his idea at the beginning to the final product?
Sarah: He was testing his concept throughout and making sure that it held up, and it was really nice to have conversations with him throughout the process. What became I think increasingly important to him when seeing the bronze was things like the line of the cliff. This was visually very important – seeing it in the bronze could really bring out the linear design of his work through the materials.
He embraced the lines of the stacked MDF because it looked like the stratum within a cliff face, so once he could see that translated into the different materials and what that did to the design, he could then make decisions on how much he wanted to embrace that in accordance with the concept with his work. So it was also nice to have discussions about that with him, to ensure that the integrity stayed the same but then also so that there was an honesty to materials.  That was what he was quite keen on enforcing when he was making the work, right through to the patternation.
Lynsey: They were quite dark and quite level – rather than have a flat darkness, he wanted more work doing to the surface.

How long did it take?
Sarah: Three or four months? It arrived in December and we just finished before the deadline – one of them didn’t ‘pull’, all nine were invested and put into the kiln in exactly the same way, but for some reason, the Pines Calyx plaque didn’t pull. This was the most important, as it was to be installed first. We then had to recast one.

How did Spacer begin?
Sarah: So Spacer_ was originally called ‘Meltdowns’. I set it up with Steve when I left college. This area suffers from a migration to London – once you’ve been to art college, there’s a migration to London. I wanted to set something up that enabled my practice to carry on in the area. London is so expensive for studio space, and you don’t necessarily need a studio space for practice, but I did at the time. The sculptural provision was being reduced at the time in many art colleges as sculptural practices take up more space. Colleges were focussing on more desk-based activity and not having space for sculptural installation.
Steve was running the foundry department at KIAD at the time (now the University for the Creative Arts). He took the foundry with him. I was throwing lead around at the time, and we just said ‘well, why don’t we try and set something up locally?’. So we set up the foundry. These were the studio spaces that everyone shared, and we ran an educational residency program to help fund the space, we didn’t apply for Arts Council funding but took on commercial work through the workshop and that helped finance the rest of the activity. We’re now at a stage where we’re doing more different materials – resins and glass; working with designers and architects and not just artists. The education program was getting bigger so we took 2 years out and discussed what we wanted – we still want our own practice, but we still want to provide for artists. With the rise of 3D technology and 3D printing, we’re now developing casting to involve both of those technologies.
We had a rebranding last year and we are now relaunching and taking control of our growth. Now its much more strategic growth – we got into the habit of accepting everything that came through the door!
Lynsey: Spacer_ is an acronym for everything that we cover – science, purpose, art, craft, education and research. I entered the company when, after seeing a bronze show in Canterbury, I thought ‘I want to do that’. Then I was put on the internship, by the college.
After that, I desperately wanted to work here. We were able to develop a relationship, and seven years later I’m still here. If it wasn’t for the education program, I wouldn’t have seen it at the Sidney Cooper Gallery then I wouldn’t have seen it and I wouldn’t have had that reaction. I just saw them pouring bronze, and that was it! It was the right time.

Lindsey in the studio with a mould of the CHALKUP21 plaques

To find out more about the studio, please visit www.wearespacer.co.uk