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Emilie Taylor May Day May Day May Day

18 May - 10 July

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Taylor

Emilie Taylor May Day May Day May Day Considers the dual importance of May Day as a Pagan festival celebrating the land, fertility and abundance, and its modern identity as International Workers Day, or Labour Day.  The title, whilst referencing these calendar events, also alludes to our current state of emergency.  The social, economic and climate emergency, exacerbated by our relationship with the land and the polarity of wealth dividing the population.  

The creation of artwork for this exhibition has almost entirely taken place during the various lockdown periods enforced by the Coronavirus Pandemic and place a new lens over this timely subject.


Sheffield based Emilie Taylor is a Potter, making large scale studio ceramics that tell the stories of the communities she collaborates with. Interested in the vessel or container as a metaphor for how we seek to contain communities within British society, Taylor has an ongoing interest in the firing process as a symbol of change. She uses the English heritage craft of Slipware to interpret and represent post-industrial landscapes. Slipware has been a prevalent craft since the 16th century and would have combined personal annotations with political illustrations and text. It would have been used by communities meeting together and sharing food particularly at harvests. Slipware has always had a personal, political, and symbiotic relationship with the land in its creation and its use. Historian Casey Strine wrote ‘while history is written by the victor, pottery is always of the people’.

Excerpts from the catalogue Essay by Shane Enright

The exhibition catalogue can be purchased from the visitor centre shop for £7


As clay is ‘of the land’, traditional slipware pottery was integral to celebrations connected to the land, Emilie Taylor makes work that considers our relationship to our surroundings - agriculture, food production, food poverty, boundaries and land ownership. Beyond the studio she collaborates with ‘hidden’ communities, using slipware in its traditional role of combining the personal and the political to tell contemporary urban stories.

The exhibition will showcase a series of large-scale slipware pots illustrated with narratives drawn from rural and urban sources. Young women dancing - sometimes joyfully sometimes more darkly, inspired by the Greek Horae Goddesses of natural order and social justice who presided over time and the seasons. Only now they are barefoot in leggings, or wearing their trainers, hair scraped back screaming at the sky or holding onto their children. Golden lustre illuminates the windows of the housing estates sgraffitoed* behind them.

The pots will surround a huge birch maypole installed in the Gallery’s circular exhibition space displaying an embroidered call to arms.  The exhibition will also show Taylor’s working drawings and mono prints, and a video with insights into her research and practice.

Taylor’s work is part of several public collections including Gallery Oldham, Millennium Galleries Sheffield, The Williamson Gallery Birkenhead (purchased by the Contemporary Art Society), The Guild of St George, and the private collection of the Duke of Devonshire. Her work has also been selected to exhibit in group shows by the Crafts Council, Yinka Shonibare and Arts Council England. Her recent projects include ‘Edglands’ which documented the events leading to the exposure of grooming in Rotherham, thus illustrating Taylor’s crusade to preserve these hidden narratives within institutional collections and public display.

* A technique in ceramics, art and wall design, where the top layer of pigment or slip is scratched through to reveal an underlying layer.

Arts Council