Bethan Davies: Collaborative Working and Project Outcomes

I have found working in a group very different to how I expected at the beginning of the project. I think we made the right choice in choosing a manifesto that allows us to work independently, whilst under the same theme, as I feel that it has been evident in this project that we all prefer to work as individuals and set our own aims or achievement. However, I have been pleasantly surprised at how easily we have worked together, particularly when decision-making, and I have enjoyed the support that working in this group has provided – through the other members affirming my design choices, and/or helping me develop them. Although we have been fortunate to not have had any issues or conflicting differences of opinion, I feel sure that if we had, we would have been able to discuss them and work them out

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Maharajah the elephant.

My role in the team was Project Manager, and I feel that I took on this responsibility well. During our meetings, both with and without the tutors, I made sure that we all stayed focused on our agenda and didn’t get side-tracked. I also feel that I encouraged the group members’ individual contributions to the project, and made sure that everyone had all the information they needed – for example by sending the minutes to anybody not present. Before taking on the role of Project Manager, I was aware that one of my weaknesses is that I can come across as bossy, so throughout this project I have made sure that when it came to group decision making I have been assertive whilst not being forceful in my own opinions. However, I do feel that I am a good negotiator, which I think was shown to be correct during our early discussions about what area of Belle Vue to focus on. Jo in particular very much wanted to focus solely on the zoo and the animals; but, sensing that Tom wasn’t so keen on this idea, I managed to persuade Jo that we should try to come up with a theme that would be more inclusive for our individual interests highlighted in our research.


Working in a group has made an impact on the project in the sense that ideas were developed more quickly as we could bounce ideas off each other. If we hadn’t been able to do this, I don’t think that our individual projects would have been as refined. Group work has also allowed us to consider more aspects of Belle Vue as there was a lot of research to do in the project, and working in a group definitely eased this pressure. This led to more in-depth research that threw up some fascinating stories: for example, I would never have known the incredible biography of Koringa the hypnotist without Laura’s research. Whilst this story hasn’t had a direct influence on my own work, it has given me a greater understanding of Belle Vue and its importance to the people who visited the gardens or worked there, which I feel is necessary in understanding why people buy souvenirs.

During the mid-point review, I thought that as a whole our group presented well; although maybe more consideration was needed with the seating arrangement, as it was difficult to present to the other group and the tutors sitting opposite them – I felt that some members focused on the latter more than the former. I was pleased that we kept to time, but I thought some members needed to have given more thought to what they would say about their individual projects, as there was some rambling at times. The mid-point review highlighted to me the differences in the group members’ ability of ‘public-speaking’ – I personally feel that my contribution went well, as I have had a lot of experience of doing presentations, but Dan for example, seemed more unsure of himself. I didn’t feel like he had prepared himself very well, as during his presentation or his individual project, he never actually mentioned his ideas or designs he just spoke about his research – something that was picked up on during the questions afterwards.


Designs in my sketchbook.

In my own project, I began think about how I could apply the ‘Belle Vue Blue Willow’ pattern to ceramics. I started by using Photoshop to combine my drawings of Belle Vue scenes with actual Blue Willow prints. This required me to do a lot of research into the variety of Blue Willow scenes – not every willow tree looks the same for example, and so I was able to combine the different elements from different variations of the pattern that I thought would look the best.

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Example of image with my drawings combined with the Blue Willow pattern elements.

Initially I thought I could use them in ceramic transfer printing, but I felt that I hadn’t been able to combine the images seamlessly enough. I then began to consider the technique of mono-printing, and began practising on clay tablets. The image is drawn onto tracing paper, which is then placed on top of a ceramic tile painted with cobalt (blue) oxide.


Ceramic tile with oxide painted on.


Tracing paper with oxide transfer on the back







The image is drawn over again, and there the pen touches the tile, the oxide is picked up onto the paper. This is then carefully pressed into the clay and the image is transferred. It was recommended that the clay is leather-hard when this is done: however, through trial and error I found that the image transfer was clearer when it was placed on fresh clay.


Clay tablet with mono-print.

I tried out several scenes, including some I had made myself featuring Maharajah the elephant. To continue the influence of the Blue Willow pattern, I decided to feature my mono-prints on oval plates. I made a plaster cast of a metal platter, and used this to make the plates out of Ivory Stoneware. After they had been bisque fired I then experimented with white glazes; using a wax resist to protect the mono-prints from being covered up. I am pleased with the outcome of the mono-prints, as the drawings look far subtler than the print transfers would have done, and they have more preciousness about them.


Ceramic plate with mono-printed scene.

The last week before the exhibition involved me making as many plates as I could, and getting them glazed in time. Unfortunately, they only came out of the glaze kiln on the morning of the exhibition, which meant that I had to take whatever I got, whether they looked good or not. I felt that the glaze wasn’t quite as strong as it should have been, but the mono-prints were perfect and really conveyed the message I was trying to get across in my work.

For the exhibition, we made tables out of the boxes we were provided with and arranged them in a U shape. Our plan was that people would be able to walk round all sides of the stall, but this had to be changed due to a lack of space, and a close proximity with our neighbouring group’s work. As my work was the heaviest, and the only non-wearable (a coincidence) it was decided that my work would go in the middle, Rebecca’s and Jo’s work would go on the wall so they could hang pieces up, and the rest would be laid out on the tables. We had made “price tags” to give a sense of what our work was about, and Jo had made us each postcards with images of our work. I was very impressed with the professional look that our stall had, and I felt that when put all together, the pieces looked like a collection.


Our exhibition stall.


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