Studio HOTmess are two young spatial designers, Charlotte Moore from Cornwall and Maria Saeki from Japan. Both Royal College Of Art postgraduates, they focus on community engagement, ecology and ceramics in their work. The HOTmesses have been part of exhibitions at Dutch Design Week (2020), the V&A (2019), People’s Kitchen Day of Design (2019), London Design Festival (2019) and Palermo Manifesta Biennale (2018). Working between research and design, Studio HOTmess are developing a spatial ceramic response to the façade of Café Tengo, 1 Fore St, entitled ‘Edible Hinterlands.’ The proposal draws upon the idea of the tiled façade – a historic technique present in St. Austell’s conservation area at the time of the façade’s construction – and brings it into the contemporary era by enabling it to support plant life, greening the town centre.
Over the course of the last few months, they have undertaken a series of research trips in different seasons around the area to understand the façade’s position within the town of St. Austell, it’s history and china clay heritage, its relationship to local landmarks, plant-life conditions, gather mineral pigments, but most importantly its position within the surrounding clay and wildflower landscape. Upon realising the wide variety of edible wildflowers growing abundantly in the area, they used the Whitegold festival to begin compiling a local community foraged recipe book which they will aim to distribute at the next festival. They also used this opportunity to speak to local foraging and landscape experts such as Duana Pearson, Emma Gunn and Darren Hawkes to learn more about clay pit wildflowers with an unique Cornish connection to figure out if any of these could grow in the conditions present on the façade of Café Tengo.
They will be running trials with Garden Curator Darren Hawkes from December 2020 onwards, to rigorously select hardy species that will thrive in these conditions. Using this research they are currently detailing, costing and prototyping materials and designs to craft a tiled façade contoured and informed by the shapes and colours of the clay landscape – pits and tips –, and the plant life that survives on it. An example of the prototyping process was filmed and shown at the virtual festival this year. Working closely with the Townscape Heritage Initiative, the tenants and St Austell BID, the design process centres on how to utilise the façade to maintain the plant life growing upon it, from detailed, practical considerations such as sunlight and irrigation, to aesthetic considerations such as sculptural form and colour palette.
Over the next few months they will be in the production phase of the project, checking the details and trialling plant species within the tile designs. A key feature of the project is to include hidden symbols of St. Austell to populate the tiled façade that is representative of clay country topography. COVID-permitting.