“Coal and Clay” is a response to Bethan’s research into her maternal family history. Coming from the City of Stoke-on-Trent, they were employed by the two major industries of the time: the potteries and the coal mines. In fact, her great-grandfather worked down the pit until an accident injured his leg, whilst his wife worked on the pottery’s factory floor.
Bethan is fascinated with the impact local British industry has on family lives, and seeks to celebrate people’s employment in these workplaces which have shaped the British landscape. She creates narrative ceramic vessels through slab-building techniques, and uses the clay surface to stamp and print drawn illustrations of industry symbols as well as employee portraits. Working with both black and white stoneware allows Bethan to contrast the industrial materials of coal and clay, as well as referencing the metallic sheen of machinery. The vessel forms are suggestive of mining lamps and bottle kilns which would have been ubiquitous in Stoke-on-Trent.