It is from our growing social enterprise that we are able to design, prototype and perfect our Portland Pigeons, with the help of local residents.
The social enterprise is one element of our busy programme – and it will eventually run from the workshop space at the old pub building on Portland Street.
We work with community members to create bespoke ceramic products that we sell from our social enterprise. The money we make goes back into the project and the building – supporting a wider programme of developmental, social, creative and educational activities.
The Portland Pigeon is a bespoke ceramic piece, created in collaboration with local residents of Portland Street, Stoke-On-Trent. Like many of our projects, it started when we noticed something that needed doing. Our building had a hole in the roof – we needed a ridge tile to fix the hole – and we thought about making it a decorative one – adorned with a pigeon!
Homing pigeons are our inspiration. They travel long distances, through treacherous weather conditions to come home. Stoke-On-Trent is home to a lot of pigeon fanciers and racers – so it seems fitting that this working pigeon be The Portland Inn Project mascot.
We have created three pigeon products. A round pigeon (sculpture), a ridged pigeon (ridge pidge) which can fit neatly on your existing roof ridge tile and a pigeon ridge tile combined. We are still developing the combined pigeon ridge tile, but round and ridged pigeons are ready to be purchased!
These images show prototypes for the pigeon and the final pigeon products, created by artists Anna Francis, Rebecca Davies, Alice Thatcher and residents as part of the development of the product. Our aim is that they will be created and fired in our workshop on Portland Street, once we have renovated our building.
How are they made?
Our Portland Pigeons are handcrafted in Stoke-On-Trent, using a studio white clay body.
The method used to create the original birds involved creating two equal shaped pinch pots which are then joined together. A traditional, hand-sculpting technique is used to tap and lengthen the shape with a wooden paddle, allowing the bird form to emerge from the clay.
From these sculpted birds, we created two different pigeon shapes. A mould was made for each and then all birds press moulded from these two shapes. The press-moulded pigeons are then hand fettled and feathered with traditional sgrafitto mark-making using bespoke coloured slips created in collaboration with artist Sarah Fraser.
The pigeons are first biscuit fired to 1000C, and then glazed and fired a second time at 1220C. This process means that each Pigeon is unique, and hand crafted at each stage of the making process. Even our packaging is hand screen printed, and the artwork created in collaboration with our young members!
Selling these pigeons helps us raise funds that can go towards the renovation of the building. You can purchase by going to our shop!