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A Collection of Short Stories, 2022

The halfway stage of Maya Dew's 6 month Graduate Residency with AirSpace is marked by this interim exhibition in our window exhibiting space. Showing the works A Goblet's Stem and Bowl, 2022, A Commemoration to Coal and Clay, 2022, and Where be the Rats that Stole our Candles, 2022.

A COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES is an installation featuring a series of sculptures that reflect and entwine a string of folkloric narratives from working class communities both local and national. 

With a plethora of history in these surrounding towns, part of this work explores the stories that transpired following the connections between Staffordshire’s popular occupational practice of mining and the habitual rituals that transpired during its time. Beliefs centred largely on negative omens that, if seen, would cause tragedy. One recurring is the belief that if a rat were seen then an accident would likely occur. These mischievous creatures came to be the centre of many tales, one being the case of stolen candles, thought to be the act of the Devil themselves, but only to be the act of devilish rats.

Another element considers the assortment of items found in local derelict sites, with frequent gatherings of broken pottery, clinker, bricks and shells. And while these spaces are likely to be old Shale Pits, they have a suggested effigy of Oyster Festival traditions, a celebration of St James, the Patron Saint of Fishermen, who protected those working in the sea. Grottos made from such items lined the beaches of Kent with candles lit throughout the night to dispel bad luck. And so, these local spaces appear like fallen grottos, as though this practice is no longer needed for this area, no longer do we believe in their luck.

The third element considers material of coal and clay- reminiscent of Stoke-on-Trent’s working history in the mines and the potteries. The clay has been locally sourced in derelict sites that frequent Hanley, and when obtaining this clay, a multitude of items were found within, be it rocks, coal and rusted metal machineries. There had been a practice faintly known in the Staffordshire area of burying work tools to ward off evil spirits, items were arranged beneath the ground and covered over again with earth in the hopes of a guarded home.

These short narratives consider the hopes and beliefs of those working in some of the most dangerous conditions known in English working history. They follow community’s ritualistic practices in guiding home their working loved one, doing so because those in higher governmental places weren’t. 

Faith in small habitual exercises became a sole solace for many families, as the predicament that those in power had put them in gave them little else. Through persistence and fight, those conditions have vastly changed, but for them, in those days, they had this.

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