Coalpit Heath, South Gloucestershire
Blackberry Scratch is a functional artwork designed and made by artists Adam Blencowe and Thor ter Kulve, working together as Studio in Place. It forms part of Blackberry Park, a development of 215 homes, open space and infrastructure on 15 hectares of former arable farmland east of Park Lane in Coalpit Heath. One of a cluster of three villages with Winterbourne and Frampton Cotterell, Coalpit Heath is located about 8 miles north of Bristol. The project was funded by the developer, Barratt Homes, through a section 106 planning obligation. The artists’ site specific permanent work responds to Coalpit Heath’s industrial heritage, and its founding as a coal mining settlement.
As part of their initial research locally, Adam and Thor held a free creative workshop at Manor Park Primary School for pupils and their families to make their own seat in a day. This enabled them to meet local residents, gather information about the local area to inform their design, and meet those potentially interested in participating in the project as it unfolds. Their second workshop, held at Fired Up Ceramics in Yate, invited local residents to help the artists make the large black clay ’tiles’ that make up the seat.
The artists’ design is a circular seat built into the sloping central green space of the site. It uses the natural contours of the ground to create a resting place. The seat’s textured ceramic tiles are fixed to a Corten steel frame. Its shape references the drumlins which often occur in areas where mining has historically taken place. Following a meeting with a member of the South Gloucestershire Mines Research Group, the artists named the project Blackberry Scratch after the technique of mining coal simply by scratching away the surface; this method was used locally around Coalpit Heath. The artwork was unveiled to residents on 1st September 2022, and a number of residents living at Blackberry Park, who were involved in making the ceramic tiles for the work, came along to the launch. Some participated in the workshop before they had moved into Blackberry Park, and the launch event provided an opportunity for residents to meet some of their neighbours.
About the artists
Artists, makers and designers Adam Blencowe and Thor ter Kulve work together as Studio in Place (SIP) and their practice is broad, ranging from exhibition design to private commissions for homes. Their work as a collective is dedicated to the design of spaces and furniture, and they are both graduates of the Design Products MA course at the Royal College of Art in London. Adam has a background in furniture design and Thor is a maker whose designs have been produced by several European manufacturers.