Open Studios: Emma Fenelon

Emma Fenelon is a maker based in the Arches Studios (amazing studio set up by the way, read about them here) just off Blenheim Grove & through the arch at Blenheim Court. She took part in the in the Open Studios last year and we are very glad that she, along with a lot of her fellow Arches Studios artists, will be taking part again this year! Here is a little sneak peak into what she will be doing in the Open Studios: “Emma Fenelon is making tiles from Peckham clay and is inviting people to come and make their own mark on one of these tiles, at The Arches Studios on Saturday and Sunday of the festival. Young, middling and old: everyone welcome: clay tiles, vintage letter printing blocks and help provided. Your tile will become part of a public art work after the festival. What do you want to say, what trace to leave behind?” We were very excited to have the chance to chat to Emma about her work and studio life:

Hi Emma, your work is fascinating, we particularly like the towers, can you tell us a bit about these?
I think of the Towers as stories, not written but searching to be written: part exploration and part meditation. They take many months to make and grow upwards in sections as I explore internal landscapes. I had a nomadic childhood set against a background of cold war espionage and the crumbling remains of some once grand families, tinged with secrets, hidden quests and loss.

I grew up thinking my father was James Bond, which as it turns out was not so very far from the truth. We moved between rural English countryside to behind the Iron Curtain to cold war Warsaw, where the gas lighting, snow many miles deep and dancing bears in the streets almost convinced me we had moved to Narnia. Later we landed on the shores of 1960’s belle epoch Roma, our playground the roman ruins and warm seas. For holidays my mother took us to stay with her mother in a genteelly but steadily decaying Scottish castle with spinning wheels and secret passages. The whole place full to the brim with centuries of leftovers from previous occupants, whose lives we could only guess at.

The risks inherent in my father’s career in espionage, added an edge to our continuously moving home and country, which along with my parents laissez faire parenting style, meant I often worried, that we might leave something behind, possibly one of my growing band of baby brothers, as we moved.

Leaving things behind, wandering around places guessing who and what went before, making up stories to fill the gaps; more than anything my childhood was spent exploring and I continue this in my towers.

How long have you been a part of the Arches Studios community?
A series of events that on the surface seemed a bit traumatic; losing my job and being sued by a psychopath, actually turned out to be great gifts as they led me to fulfil a lifelong ambition to go to Art College. I graduated in 2006 with a 1st Class honours degree and some publicity from my use of human ash as a ceramic ingredient. I then went looking for a studio. I have been part of the Arches Studios Community ever since.

What benefits does working in such a communal space have?
It offers me a quiet personal space in which to work which is beautifully balanced by the friendships and support of fellow artists. After some solid hours of making I love the contrast of sharing a meal with lots of talking. I have gained from seeing how other artists and makers go about their work and their careers, some of them have been in the Arches for more than 20years and seen a lot of changes, and being an independent and loose collective gives us the flexibility to weather the changes.

What was the best thing about taking part in Peckham Festival?
I loved being part of the first Peckham Festival, it was fresh, new and exciting. It felt like it was our own festival, that belonged to Peckham and to us.

What was your favourite part of the festival in general?
Meeting so many people! Loads of people, many who had not visited before, came to our studios over the weekend.

We have extended the deadline for applications for Peckham Festival Open Studios. To apply click here.

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    [post_content] => For Peckham Festival, Emma Fenelon is showing clay sculptures exploring the themes of safety and home. She recycles local clays and minerals in her ceramic work, from Peckham Clay to human ashes.
Emma Fenelon's nomadic childhood, seeped in espionage, secrets and exploration left her fascinated by the palimpsest of traces we leave behind and what we are in turn, marked by, how our epigenetic heritage links us inextricably backwards to lives possibly unknown but acting upon us.
Emma Fenelon graduated with a 1st class honours degree in ceramics from Camberwell College of Art, shortly after becoming a grandmother for the first time, and after finally escaping from a violent relationship.
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Emma Fenelon

Arch 226, Blenheim Arches
Storytelling and mark-making are key to what drives Emma Fenelon's work.
From past Festival