Frances Priest’s ceramic art installation at Edinburgh Hospital is engaging patients, staff and visitors with its visual warmth and texture.
Completed in December 2018, the work is known locally as The Tiled Corridor. Priest tapped into local, Victorian architecture for her inspiration and collaborated with specialist ceramic manufacturer Craven Dunnill Jackfield, fusing studio ceramics with factory tile-making.
“To properly collaborate with a manufacturer like this – it’s gold dust. Craven Dunnill Jackfield is a rare species and we need to safeguard it – there aren’t any others like it.” Frances Priest
At the hospital, the installation adorns both sides of a light-infused corridor, stretching 14m by 2.5m high. The glaze palette mutates from ochre-yellow to teal, providing a sense of movement. The relief tiles interlock to create vast patterns, but with no pattern repeats and few straight edges.
The winning pitch – ceramic art
The original brief focussed on signage artwork in vinyl for the new mental health hospital. However, Priest’s previous ceramic art Patterns of Flora and her initial pitch also featuring ceramic tiles proved convincing. She was given the go-ahead to work on a large-scale art installation along one of the hospital corridors. The health authority saw the project as a way to both soften the clinical environment while providing some interior beauty.
“The tiles have been so well received by patients and staff alike; they have brought colour and interest to the entrance of the hospital, which is no longer a blank canvass.” Tim Montgomery, hospital director
Echoes of Victorian architecture
The Tiled Corridor has echoes of local Victorian tenements and the glazed stairwells of Craig House, once part of the old hospital. Priest’s research took her to the Jackfield Tile Museum, Shropshire, where she had access to a wealth of archives, including relief and embossed tile designs from the 19th century.
A collaboration with artisan tile maker Craven Dunnill Jackfield
On her first visit to the Museum, Priest met Adrian Blundell, production director at Craven Dunnill Jackfield, renown for their original tile production and ceramic expertise. It proved to be a pivotal moment, leading to her decision to collaborate with the company on this project.
“Frances’s empathy with ceramics and her creativity meant she was able to push the normal boundaries of design, arriving at something new and contemporary.” Adrian Blundell
A team of around 20 ceramists worked on the project, ensuring its smooth progress. Production started in August 2018, and the tiles were installed at the hospital in December 2018. The completed piece features more than 2500 tiles, slip cast by hand at CD Jackfield. These are interspersed by some 300 of Frances Priest’s studio-made tiles, featuring a flower style reminiscent of her previous work. The bespoke palette of coloured crackle glazes developed for the project, included ochre-yellows, teals and dramatic accents of deep blue and pink.
A lasting impression on the senses
During the two weeks it took to install her artwork, those passing along the corridor commented on how the tiles sparkled in the sunlight. Also, how the colour-drenched space created a warmth reminiscent of somewhere hot, like Morocco or India. Priest was surprised and touched to hear how the staff loved the opulence in their working environment, contributing to them feeling valued in their jobs.
Having now completed her first ceramic art collaboration with CD Jackfield, Frances Priest is eager to do more public pieces and to further explore the extensive archives held at the Jackfield Museum.
Craven Dunnill Jackfield: www.cdjackfield.com
T: +44 (0)1952 884124
Frances Priest: www.francespriest.co.uk
Peter Navratil at Recraft (installation): www.recrafts.co.uk
Becky Brazil (project manager)
photography by Shannon Tofts