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Raw Materials: Plastics Resident Makers’ Brief

Thursday, October 25, 2018 - 17:00

Raw Materials: Plastics Resident Makers’ Brief

Bow Arts is looking for makers / designers / artists for two residencies that will form an integral part of the Heritage Lottery Funded project Raw Materials: Plastics. The residencies are research-based to the aim of making new work for the end of project exhibition. This is an exciting opportunity for a maker to further engage with heritage in their practice, as well further explore the material of plastic. The residency provides both a development and exhibition opportunity – to the aim of producing a physical response to heritage that will be exhibited alongside archival objects in the Raw Materials: Plastics exhibition (spring 2019).

Raw Materials: Plastics will explore the industrial heritage of plastics in the River Lea Valley, east London. It will be the third phase of the Raw Materials project, which has previously focussed on Wood and Textiles, culminating in an exhibition in the Nunnery Gallery from May-July 2019. Following on from the previous projects’ success, Raw Materials: Plastics will explore the invention of the first celluloid plastic in Hackney Wick – parkesine – and follow the evolution of this life-changing material into Xylonite and Halex in the specific geographical area of the Lower Lea Valley, local to the Nunnery Gallery and Bow Arts’ studio sites.

Research will be conducted through archive and museum collections, on-site visits and exploration, led by an active volunteer steering group and supported by local project partners. The residencies will provide a contemporary response to the heritage of plastics, to the aim of engaging new audiences and highlighting plastic’s east London heritage, as well as the need for this material’s evolution for its sustainable future. Supported by University College London (UCL) and access to its Institute of Making, the residencies will be supported in exploring the future of plastics, such as plastic recycling and bio-plastics.

The maker’s response should engage new audiences with heritage through contemporary interpretation, drawing out the relevance of plastic heritage in contemporary design or exploring the steps we must take to keep the use of plastic environmentally sustainable.

Part of the residencies’ role in community engagement will be running a series of workshops that engage different groups in the heritage of plastics at the Nunnery Gallery.

The Raw Materials: Plastics project will be highly publicised and a great opportunity for a maker to increase the recognition of their work, in heritage, arts and materials communities. The residency will also provide opportunities to work directly with project partners, including local archives at Barking and Dagenham, Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Suffolk and Waltham Forest, as well as the MoDiP (Museum of Design and Plastics), Valence House, Vestry House, and the V&A, all of whom are supporting the project through access to their collections and specialist advice.


The residency research can be carried out in the following ways:

  • By attending the project archive and institution collection visits.
  • By attending the River Lea heritage site visits.
  • By researching independently any element of the industrial heritage of plastics in the River Lea area, including environmental impact such as the effects of industry / pollution on water.
  • By investigating innovative plastics uses and techniques pioneered in east London.
  • By working with students from the UCL, who will be invited to participate in the project with relation to their studies.  
  • By talking to members of the community who remember the plastics industry.

The idea for the final response for exhibition and the focus of the skills workshops will be developed with the Gallery Director of the Nunnery Gallery and the Raw Materials Project Manager, both of whom will provide support and guidance throughout the residencies.

Applicant Specification

Applicants should have:

  • A proven track record of producing work independently and to deadlines.
  • A proven track record of working with plastic-related material or be able to demonstrate a developed interest in working with plastics.
  • Experience of leading workshops / working with a community, or a proven desire to develop this experience with some evidence of steps taken to do so.
  • A flexible approach to working that bears in mind the focus / direction of the fellow residency.
  • Ambition to develop their practice through engagement with heritage / an interest in the industrial heritage of the Lower Lea Valley.


There is a budget of £5,000 per residency to respond to this brief. The budget should cover all research time, tools, materials and related making costs to create the final piece(s) ready for exhibition. Fees to run skills workshops will be additional, at Bow Arts’ half-day artist rate of £90 per workshop. The spending of the budget will be in consultation with and monitored by the Raw Materials Project Manager, with guidance from the Gallery Director.  



The residency will begin with the project research starting in October 2018. The made response must be ready for exhibition by May 2019, to show in the Raw Materials: Plastics end of project exhibition at the Nunnery Gallery, running from May-July 2019.



Please email a response to this brief in no more than 1000 words, answering the following questions:

1. Why are you interested in the industrial heritage of plastics, specifically in the River Lea Valley area?
2. Why do you think your practice / approach would benefit from this residency and the access it provides to archival collections?
3. Which area of research relating to the heritage of plastics interests you most and why?
4. What work might you hope to produce in response to this brief?
5. How do you think your practice / approach would positively engage community / vulnerable groups through skills workshops?

Applications should be sent to with the subject line [RAW M RESIDENCY APP : FIRST NAME SURNAME] by the deadline of Thursday 25 October 2019

You can read about the previous projects on the Raw Materials website.

Download PDF application here


Contact Email:
Thursday, October 25, 2018