Sian Hughes studied English Literature and African studies and whilst on a scholarship in Ghana became fascinated by their rich textiles. On her return Sian took a PGCE at Bangor University and taught Literature before becoming self-employed to explore textiles full-time. In 2008 Sian saw a demonstration of Cyanotypes by Alex Hamilton in his Edinburgh studio and was captivated by the process and immediately set about exploring its possibilities. Sian focuses on the Cyanotype process in her professional work still exploring its potential through layering, text, photography, fabric and bookmaking.
This alternative photographic process was invented by John Herschel in 1842. paper coated with light sensitive solution changes to a rich indigo blue under ultra-violet light. Objects placed on the paper leave behind a precise photographic image.
Sian says of her work “My current focus is porcelain paper clay, using its strength and apparent fragility, to work even more directly with text and narrative. A family archive of airmail letters from the 1960’s circulated to relatives in Britain describing life and culture in the Far East, forms the focus of this new body of work. These letters have been laser etched into wood, and pressed directly into the clay . Some remain as porcelain letter fragments, others are embedded in structures that make connections with family objects – tea spoons, tea caddies, bowls and cups – and the far east.
The blue underglaze which I have used variously as wash , monoprint medium for handwritten text and freehand painting, connect with the blue and white ware of my grandmother’s dinner service and also recall the blue of my cyanotype work. Indeed the folded ceramic pieces emerged from exploring form and shape using cyanotyped paper – thus not only taking the porcelain pieces from functional to abstract shapes but also taking my paper based work into new 3D sculptural forms.
I also work in the wider community running projects within the arts in health field. These include working with people living with dementia – the Lost in Art project run by Denbighshire County Council – and with Creative Alternatives for people with mental health issues run by the Alef Trust. I use a range of processes – not necessarily those related to my own practice.
I have also taken part in several Outreach projects and Residencies organised by the Bluecoat Display Centre where the focus has been Cyanotypes. Groups have used this technique to create outcomes ranging from bookmaking to framed work for the Radiology Waiting Room in the Royal Liverpool University Hospital – a project that won an award for the Radiology Department: Every One Matters: Staff Engagement and Empowerment National Pioneer Programme Team Award 2013
The positive outcomes and sense of achievement that emerge from all these creative and social engagements are clear and include change of mood, a more positive outlook, a sense of well-being and increased self-confidence and self-worth.”