Talented Prion pupils sculpt piece of living history

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ARTISTIC youngsters at a Denbighshire school have been helping to create a piece of living history which celebrates two of North Wales’s iconic cottage industries.

Thirty-six children aged between seven and 11 from Ysgol Pant Pastynog, Prion, along with their counterparts from five other schools in the county, have been playing a hands-on role in creating a ceramic tapestry.

The design is based on scenes from a typical dairy farm, as well as Welsh woven fabrics.

The artwork will be exhibited at venues across Wales and will later  take pride of place in Llaeth y Llan Village Dairy’s new production unit at its base not far from Pant Pastynog, in Llannefydd, near Denbigh.

Leading the ambitious project is professional Denbigh-based artist Katie Scarlett Howard, who specialises in ceramics.  She is passionate about keeping memories of the tapestry garment industry alive through her work.

Katie studied fine art at Liverpool’s John Moores University and achieved her Masters in Ceramics at Cardiff’s UWIC University.   She was partnered with Llaeth y Llan, whose fruit yoghurts are sold throughout Wales, by Arts & Business (A&B) Cymru.   The charity specialises in promoting, enabling and developing mutually beneficial partnerships between the two sectors across the country.

Through this new project, Katie is working with Ysgol Llannefydd, Ysgol Henllan, Ysgol Melyd, Ysgol Bryn Clwyd, Ysgol Pendref and Ysgol Pant Pastynog to create the tiles, which will eventually be linked together to form ceramic wall tapestries. The co-ordination with schools has been supported by Sian Fitzgerald, from  Denbighshire County Council..

All six tapestries produced by the school will be exhibited at the Pierhead Building and Craft in the Bay in Cardiff and before going on display at  the Q Gallery in Narberth, Pembrokeshire.

The works will then go on display at the dairy at Llaeth y Llan, along with ceramic sculptures commissioned from Katie to complement the children’s work.

Katie said: “This project, which I’m very excited to be part of, is a collaboration between wool, in the form of the tapestries, milk and the clay of the ceramic tiles.

“The design of the tiles draws inspiration from the traditional and highly colourful tapestries created by the factory girls who once worked at the Welsh woollen mills such as Jon Ro in Love Lane, Denbigh, up to the 1960s.

“Llaeth y Llan uses these tapestry designs from Welsh blankets, or `carthens’ on its yoghurt pots and in its marketing materials, so there’s already a link there with the company.

“Each of the children involved in the project has been working with clay to create their own take on the dairy or tapestry theme, which means every tile is unique and will show either cattle, people or a tapestry.

“All six  schools are following the same format but they will each produce their own results.”

She added: “To complement the work done by the children I’ve also been commissioned by Llaeth y Llan to create large-scale ceramic figures of a female dairy farmer and cow, which will be displayed alongside the tapestries at the dairy.

“This has definitely been my favourite project by far because I’ve had full control of how it all works.”

Llaeth y Llan Village Dairy, which is based around the 50-acre family farm, was founded in the 1980s by Gareth and Valmai Roberts.

As a young man Gareth was forever thinking of ways to experiment with the farm.

After experimenting with different products he and Valmai launched Llaeth y Llan Yoghurt in 1985 and still use wholesome local milk in their products.

Gareth’s youngest son Gruff, who takes care of performance and marketing for the dairy, said: “We’re currently in the middle of a major expansion plan, which means moving into a larger dairy on the same site where we have always been based.