Chris Tipping, well known for his contribution to public realm projects in the UK and with a background in ceramics, was appointed for the sculpture commission.
The first part of Chris's '1479 plates' project was a 9m x 5m map of 788 bone china dinner plates which explores the relationship between present day engineering and mining technology, stone mines heritage, natural history, and two 18th century entrepreneurs: Ralph Allen and Josiah Wedgwood. The work was created in collaboration with Autonomatic - 3D Digital Research Group at University College Falmouth, Oxford Archaeology, Hydrock, Scott Wilson and the project team, and was manufactured by Digital Ceramic Systems of Staffordshire. An exhibition of the '1479 plates' installation was shown at the Octagon in Bath in 2009 and will eventually form a large-scale permanent installation in Combe Down village. Chris also worked with Combe Down Primary School during which time 400 individual ceramic figures of miners were sculpted by pupils, then glazed and fired. These figures were displayed at the Octagon before being placed in a permanent location in Combe Down.
The second part of the '1479 plates' project was the gifting of a plate to 615 households affected by the stabilisation works - one small part of the map representing their individual property and the mining underworld beneath it.
Dr Katie Bunnell of 'Autonomatic' worked closely with Chris Tipping on the '1479 plates' project:
"We were excited and enthusiastic about the project from the start. It presented us with useful challenges from a number of perspectives: the technical demands of working on a vast scale with huge amounts of digital data; the complexity and sometimes seemingly contradictory requirement for the design to work at scale, but also for each plate to have an aesthetic quality and clarity of its own; the need to experiment with new drawing tools and develop innovative qualities that would enable us to realise Chris's ideas; and finally the need to produce these qualities in a digitally printed ceramic form.
Much of the quality of the line imagery results from using Chris's fine hand drawings as the starting point. The consistent challenge with all the elements we worked on was to get them working across the whole image and with the right level of detail and aesthetic quality for an individual dinner plate. Colour relationships, translucency and line weights all became increasingly important as the map progressed."
The piece combined layering of digital data from engineering drawings, bat routes and Ordnance Survey maps, with hand drawn elements derived from archaeological finds. The map image in its entirety brings the deepest underground elements to the surface: the mine roadway creates a connecting arterial pathway through the remaining columns of rock, creating an 'island' through which the houses of Combe Down, patterned with domestic blue and white ceramic motifs, remain visible. Thickets of leeks represent the Welsh miners whose presence was significant both below and above the surface, and the island boundary is surrounded by flora and fauna, such as rabbits, deer, bats and birds, of significance to Combe Down.