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A Magazine for Sheffield

Material Voice: What is the Matter?

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The art scene in Sheffield continues to flourish, with more and more people coming together to create, make and innovate. We chatted to Gillian Brent of Material Voice to find out more about the recently formed women's art collective and what we can look forward to at their upcoming exhibition, What is the Matter?

Firstly, can you tell us a bit about the Material Voice collective and who's involved.

Co-founded by myself and Sarah Villeneau in 2018, Material Voice is a collective of Sheffield based women sculptors: Gill and Sarah plus Heliya Badakhshan, Mandy Gamsu, Seiko Kinoshita, Kate Langrish-Smith and Clee Claire Lee. We are a range of ages, backgrounds and career stages, from emerging to well established artists.

Between us we work with and combine a variety of processes and different materials, including clay, metal, wood, concrete, plaster, textiles, installation, painting and drawing. The aims of the collective are the continuing exploration of the language of materials, investigating our position as women makers and providing mutual support through peer mentoring.

What's the inspiration behind your upcoming exhibition, What is the Matter?

We were keen to use artefacts and stories from Kelham Island Museum's displays and collections to explore ideas about the resonances of Sheffield's material history in the globalised and digital world of the 21st century, and how the voices of women contemporary artists working in Sheffield could be understood through our responses.

Each artist is making new works to be placed amongst the Museum's displays, giving visitors new perspectives and interpretations, be they visual, historical, ideological, material or personal.

You're running two workshops in September. What can people expect at those?

Crochet A Wire Vessel is on 22 September from 11am-4:30pm. It's a chance to learn from sculptor Claire Lee about how to create a wire vessel for your home or garden, perhaps to hold a treasured object. With the opportunity to explore the museum, find something of interest or with a personal connection, the group will weave a narrative together about the stories and objects chosen as they crochet.

Clay Lamination is on 23 September from 10:30am-1:00pm and will be led by sculptor Sarah Villeneau. Using a museum artefact as the starting point for the exploration of materials, participants will use different coloured clays to create marbled and laminated effects for vessels and sculptural jewellery. There will also be an opportunity to have the work fired.

Workshops can be booked through

What do you enjoy most about being an artist in Sheffield?

Sheffield's vibrant and varied arts scene means there are lots of places to visit and artists to meet and work with. Its history of materials innovation and making mean that there is a positive attitude to people who make things and explore different materials and processes.

Finally, what are you most looking forward to showing people at the exhibition?

How the ways in which we work with materials and ideas may give a fresh insight into the stories behind museum artefacts.

What is the Matter will take place from 12-29 September at Kelham Island Museum. Find out more and book workshop places at

Flick Jackson

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