19.12.2023

PROFILE:

Francesca Anfossi

Our second instalment following individuals and spaces that break from convention looks at interdisciplinary artist Francesca Anfossi and Rochester Square, Camden.

Interview
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Interdisciplinary artist, educator and curator Francesca Anfossi doesn’t have a traditional studio, instead, she has Camden community landmark, Rochester Square. In 2016, along with her partner Eric Wragge, Francesca began restoring the former nursery, installing a ceramic studio, garden and kitchen built on the creative cycle: from the earth (clay) to plants (garden) to plates (food). As well as being her own personal workshop, over the last seven years Rochester Square has become a bedrock for Camden locals and London-wide ceramic artists.

After training in fine-art, Francesca’s attention turned to the social aspect of craft, with clay emerging as her primary medium. She says: “I am inspired by its very nature – a versatile, inclusive and non-hierarchical material.” These principles have become the life-force of her art practice and work at Rochester Square, where she invites school children to participate in ceramics workshops and learn in the studio’s garden; established artists such as Jonathan Baldock, Caroline Achaintre and Anne Ryan to prepare new bodies of work for upcoming exhibitions; and a rolling roster of Studio Members to produce their work, host workshops and collaborate on projects, which includes Rochester’s own sculpture garden.

THE HARVEST SUPPER – QUARTERLY DINNERS CELEBRATING THE END OF THE SEASON – USING VEGETABLES FROM ROCHESTER SQUARE'S GARDEN. IMAGE COURTESY OF ROCHESTER SQUARE

Glaze swatches in the studio. Image courtesy of Rochester Square
'Weeds' by Tue Greenfort, 2019-2021, in the Sculpture Garden at Rochester Square. Image courtesy of Rochester Square

It is difficult to know exactly where Francesca’s work at Rochester Square ends and her personal practice begins. “They are inextricably connected” she says, “with the majority of my projects conceived in direct collaboration with communities and evolving according to their needs.” After winning Whitegold Projects International Ceramics Prize 2021, Francesca worked with Cornwall Neighbourhoods for Change to present A Cornish Banquet: a community feast using plates and picnic blankets made from collages depicting the participants favourite foods; and most recently she produced and contributed to A tavola con Rochester Square, an exhibition of ceramic furniture and objects by the artists at Rochester Square at Museo della Ceramica in Savona, Italy, which runs until 26 February 2024.

Picnic blanket depicting collages of project participants from Cornwall Neighbourhoods for Change favourite foods, presented at A Cornish Banquet, Whitegold Projects International Ceramics Prize 2021. Image courtesy of Francesca Anfossi
Handmade plates depicting collages of project participants from Cornwall Neighbourhoods for Change favourite foods, presented at A Cornish Banquet, Whitegold Projects International Ceramics Prize 2021. Image courtesy of Francesca Anfossi

 

Playing in the space between domesticity and non-functional sculpture, Francesca’s works span multiple categories: from furniture and lighting to objects and installation. She says: “I create ceramics, but I am interested in how the interaction of art making shifts pieces naturally into functional objects.” Many of Francesca’s most prevalent pieces, such as her egg cups and baskets, have emerged out of the practical necessities of daily life at Rochester Square. “We have seven hens” she says, “and every time I went to collect their eggs, I didn’t know where to place them without them rolling around or looking like a pile.”

Egg Basket. Image courtesy of Francesca Anfossi

Egg Cups presented at 'Square Meal' 2019. Image courtesy of Rochester Square

Toolkit, 2021. Produced during Francesca's residency with Whitechapel Gallery. Photography by Marta Fernandez Canut and Andy Keate. Image courtesy of Francesca Anfossi

It is this perpetual conversation between community and making that so defines Francesca’s work and has enabled Rochester Square to become an engine for social life. Alongside hosting workshops, gardening clubs and studio spaces, Monday’s are dedicated to communal lunches for Studio Members (who also garden together), and between 2017 and 2019 bi-monthly dinners would be held for friends and neighbours to celebrate the studio’s activities. Here, meals would be cooked by volunteers and eaten from handmade bowls by Rochester’s artists. “Much of what we do is about giving the participants involved opportunities to learn new skills and form new social bonds” says Francesca. “Rochester Square allows me that direct engagement, and as a result the barriers between art and craft, professional and amateur, work and leisure are removed.”

Communal lunch at Rochester Square. Image courtesy of Rochester Square

Rochester Square artists at work in the garden. Image courtesy of Rochester Square

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