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National Friendly speaks to Woman's Hour Craft Prize winner, Phoebe Cummings

The Woman’s Hour Craft Prize arrived at the Bristol Museum last night, giving ticket holders the chance to see the exhibition and hear from winner Phoebe Cummings. As an event sponsor, National Friendly was there to chat with Phoebe about the prize and her work.

National Friendly

How does it feel to have won the Woman’s Hour Craft Prize and to be in Bristol touring your work?

Phoebe Cummings

It’s definitely a shock and it feels like it was quite long ago because it’s been really busy since I won. The exhibition started in London and it’s been to a couple of other venues but this time is the first time I’ve really seen it outside the V&A. It’s been very interesting because the last time I saw the piece it was still unfired and I normally get rid of my work.

National Friendly

For those new to your work, take us through the art you make.

Phoebe Cummings

Usually a lot of what I make is temporary because I work with raw clay and build it directly on sight. This piece was originally a fountain which gradually eroded itself over the duration of the exhibition because I’m interested in making pieces that change as they’re shown, in some ways enacting their own performance, rather than making fixed objects. But to tour the piece you need to fire it and preserve it.

National Friendly

Do you feel like that’s changed the nature of your work?

Phoebe Cummings

I knew when I applied I would need to propose how to tour the work and it’s something I now think about a lot because usually the object doesn’t exist when the exhibition finishes. So I’m thinking a lot about how I might record that process and how I can represent the object when it’s gone using film and photographs. In a way I’m trying to capture the essence of the work as opposed to recreating the whole thing.

National Friendly

Winning the prize has allowed you to do a number of things. What’s changed and what’s next?

Phoebe Cummings

There were already projects I was working on when I won the prize so I’m continuing along the same lines but its helped being able to get a camera to document what I’m working on because there’s been some work I’ve lost. Increasingly, since I’ve had kids, I’ve been making smaller pieces at home but originally I built everything on site, so having a new dedicated workspace at home makes things so much easier.

National Friendly

Do your children influence your work at all?

Phoebe Cummings

It’s always interesting to see how they react to things, kids have quite a gut reaction to things so they can be a good measure at times.

National Friendly

Are you enjoying touring your work?

Phoebe Cummings

It’s really nice that it has that chance to travel outside of London because not everyone can come to the V&A to see it. I’ve never done a touring show before because of the nature of my work, so it’s been a push to think about other ways of documenting and recording the work.

National Friendly

Are there any other pieces in the Woman’s Hour exhibition that you’ve enjoyed?

Phoebe Cummings

There are so many. Neil Brownsword’s work with the flower making is a historic thing I feel very connected to, also the way a lot of flower makers would work from home is a process that is very close to my own.

National Friendly

What do you hope people take away from the exhibition?

Phoebe Cummings

I think the exhibition really shows off a range of work and will hopefully surprise some people. Maybe changing some people’s minds about what you can consider to be under the genre of ‘craft’ and push the edges of that definition.

The exhibition is a partnership between BBC Radio 4, the Crafts Council and the Victoria and Albert Museum, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour.

The exhibition runs until 2 September, 2018. Click here to book tickets.  

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