Thursday 30 April 2020

'February, Dark and Cold,' 2019, a pot from 'And The Door Opened,'

'February Dark and Cold,' 2019, 63 h x 28 w cm 

Hand built earthenware pot, slip-painted inside and out with sgraffito drawing through the slip. Bisque fired. Smashed by dropping it into a box on the floor. The box helps to contain the flying shards but it also breaks the fall to some extent so the shattering isn't so dramatic. Some of the larger pieces were dropped again to encourage them to break a bit more. The shards were then collected up and glazed, then fired, and the pieces reassembled with some left out so the viewer can glimpse the images inside. Broken edges gilded in gold leaf.

About the pot
This is the account of a young woman, a fifteen year old girl at the start of her story, whose mother had a job that frequently took her abroad. She seems to have had no other parent or guardian so was left alone. The account is sparse. At some point she has a son, has a drink and drug problem, and also mental health difficulties. When W@W first meet her, she is being sold for sex on the London streets. They help her to 'return to her northern town,' to her family. She leaves again. It appears there is sexual abuse and/or exploitation but it is not spelled out. She returns to London and is street homeless - and immensely vulnerable to (further?) exploitation in prostitution. She describes the cold dark damp of February and the violence on the London streets. At some point she is arrested and is in prison for a while. Once out of prison she contacts W@W again and gets support with the drugs and alcohol problems. They also help her to find a housing solution. This very young woman with a history of abuse going back to her early teenage years now has an interlocking mix of problems which, together, make housing and a future life immensely difficult. The pot has a number of gaps and cracks. This young woman's process of mending her life is only midway, probably. She still has a long way to go. She misses her child. It is unclear where her mother and the rest of her family is. What is clear is that she knows W@W are there to provide support when she needs it.

Photo credit: Sylvain Deleu.

Women @the Well, (W@W,) is a women-only service located in Kings Cross dedicated to supporting women whose lives are affected, or at risk of being affected, by prostitution. It also provides support to exit prostitution. 

‘And The Door Opened, is a series of events with displays of Claudia’s pots, with talks and demonstrations that illustrate the lives of the women supported by W@W.

The aim is to enhance the public’s understanding of what prostitution is, to name the abuse and exploitation, and to show that, with the right support, girls and women do not need to live and die exploited in the sex trade – there are ways out.