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Excavated clay from London’s super sewer being used to make art

A London artist is using clay being dug up on the Thames Tideway Tunnel, the 25km super sewer, to create ceramic artwork.

"Pipeline" is a site-responsive art project that pays tribute to the work of pioneering engineer, Sir Joseph Bazalgette, who designed London’s Victorian sewerage system, and ceramicist and founder of Royal Doulton, Henry Doulton, who manufactured the pipes that joined the sewer to its buildings.

The artist behind it, Alison Cooke, is using clay excavated from the tunnel being dug beneath the original sewer system to make a series of ceramic pieces that reference the manufacture and construction processes originally used by Bazalgette and Doulton.

Chris Darton, Delivery Manager at Tideway, said: “Being environmentally friendly is a key part of the Tideway project so it is great that we are able to donate clay that we’re excavating for Alison to re-work into art.”

Alison approached Tideway’s Kirtling Street site to request clay and in turn was given five tonnes of clay spoil excavated from 25 metres below the Thames foreshore. The resulting artworks were exhibited at Collect Open at the Saatchi Gallery in February this year.

Alison Cooke, said: “The project aims to highlight London’s sanitation history and its future, and to draw attention to the deep clay bed beneath our feet.”

Over the course of 2018 there will be workshops, talks and creation of further pieces which will culminate in an exhibition of ceramics in Bazalgette’s old office in Soho square (now home to the charity the House of St Barnabas). This will be done with the support of Arts Council England.

In June, Alison will be hosting a free drop-in workshop at her studio where the public are invited to see work in progress, access information on the history and future of London’s sewer network and participate in an informal workshop using the Tideway clay.

The workshop will be held on June 22nd to 24th at her studio which is part of the Kingsgate Open Studios. The free workshop will be on the 24th June only.

The Thames Tideway Tunnel is a 25km super sewer tunnel being constructed to tackle the problem of sewage pollution in the River Thames. Tunnelling is set to start later this year.