From May to September 2021
Kate is Artist-in-Residence
in the Elan Valley.
The 1892 Water Act allowed Birmingham Corporation to purchase the watershed of rivers Elan and Claerwen. These 70 square miles would provide water to fuel the city’s industrial growth.
The WATERSHED LINE, the perimeter of the land claimed, was, and still is, marked by concrete posts.
Today, 81% of the Elan Estate is an SSSI. Ironically, the economic value of its water has protected it from the use of pesticides and other chemicals, preserving habitats for now rare plants and animals. However, harnessing the natural cycle of these valleys was a feat of Victorian engineering that accelerated industrialisation, contributing to the current global environmental crisis.
In the winter of 2013/14 the River Teme flooded and changed course, leaving two wide loops stranded. The water cut through the ground and unearthed many shards of pottery.
These shards were not new to the force of the water; they were already pitted and crazed, worn down and rounded.
They must have been deposited many years before in the river’s long-lost meanders across the flood meadow.
As the water receded it left a ravaged expanse of shale, pebbles, sticks and stones that were dotted with broken pieces of pottery.
Shards allows the pieces of pottery to speak as unique and individual remnants of vessels that have been made, used, broken and discarded by people through the centuries.
It appreciates our ability to fall apart and rebuild; celebrates the inevitable weaknesses and fractures.
Water collected from the new stretch of river temporarily binds the shards together in a new vessel that holds the effort of personal reinvention.
The time-lapse film reveals hidden details in this process of waxing and waning that we are unable to see when immersed in the struggles of daily life.