If you ever use the entrance to Seven Sisters station on Seven Sisters Road, you’ve probably noticed that the kiosk outside the station, which had been neglected for many years, has had a dramatic revamp.
Now named Clay Station, the plan is to turn the new space into a coffee shop. Clay Station was part of the Art on the Underground project by TfL. Art on the Underground was started in 2000 and aims to maintain ‘art as a central element of Transport for London’s identity and engage passengers and staff in a sense of shared ownership’.
They also collaborated with A New Direction and Create Jobs on another part of the project, to run two traineeships with young people from North London, Abigail Holsborough and Anthony Walsh, where they had the opportunity to take part in clay induction training and gain hands-on making experience.
DT managed to have a quick chat with Mat Leung of Assemble, the architecture firm behind the design, along with Matt Raw, the artist responsible for the eye catching tiles.
DT: Mat, how did you come up with the initial design and idea for the site?
Mat: The project was a bit of a slow burner initially and we went through a few different approaches before we settled on bringing the kiosk back in to use. Once we started to think about it, it seemed obvious that focusing our energies on this small corner of the site would have the most transformative effect. The kiosk had been derelict for so long that no one remembered it ever being open.
We felt like it was important that the remedial works were seen as an opportunity to create a more significant, more civic structure, so we added a tower and built out columns and seats. We wanted to make tiles which were clearly handmade and showed that time and care had been invested in to what is quite a modest… corner of the city.
DT: What part of the project are you most pleased with?
Mat: We’re really looking forward to the kiosk opening, but until then, it is great to walk past and see people sitting on the seats, the occasional quizzical look and the odd photograph being taken. If nothing else, I’d like to think it generates a sense of curiosity.
DT: What do you think the trainees gained from being involved in the project?
Mat: They certainly know how to roll tiles now! I hope Abigail and Anthony got a lot, not only from the process, but the research trips and mentoring that were part of the programme.
DT: Tottenham is an area rich with heritage, are there any other local buildings you’d love to work with?
Mat: We did have a brief conversation some time ago about the Seven Sisters Indoor Market which we didn’t pursue as production started up on Clay Station. It would be great to work with this building, although it’s obviously quite a contentious topic at present.
Once Assemble had made some progress on the initial designs of Clay Station, and had decided tiles were going to play a predominant role, they bought Matt Rew on board.
DT: What techniques did you use to make the tiles? How did you come up with the colours and pattern?
Matt: We hand-rolled every tile! Simply a rolling pin and some clay. The colours came from mixing stain into the clay body itself (rather than giving a coloured glaze to a plain white tile). We tested lots of colours and combinations and then chose our pallet.
DT: Did having a kiln on site change or affect your overall experience of the project?
Matt: No, not in the end. Complications in the build of the kiosk meant that we fired all of the tiles at Assemble’s studio in Bermondsey, and had help at the end of the production from Central St Martins University in Kings Cross. We did roll some of the yellow tiles inside of the kiosk though.
DT: What was it like working with the trainees?
Matt: It was a pleasure to work with Anthony and Abigail. They beat stiff competition to secure the two spots, and were enthusiastic from the off. Our team was a well oiled machine by the end!