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TRCH Classic Thriller Season

Object Walk: Martin Sommerville from By Our Hands We Make Our Way

21 July 19 words: LeftLion
photos: Fabrice Gagos

In a new regular feature, we’ve teamed up with the National Justice Museum to put objects from the past into the hands of people of the present.

Andrea Hadley-Johnson, the Artistic Programme Manager at the NJM, said: “Our aim is to share objects in the places where people are, to inspire curiosity and conversation. To amplify the voice and perspective of the people of the city in the exhibitions and activities we coproduce.” For the first edition, we met with Martin Sommerville, an artist and woodworker who runs By Our Hands We Make Our Way in Sneinton, to show him a set of three hand-carved soap figures that had been created by prison inmates in the past…

It feels very strange and eerie holding them. You wonder who made them, what they were thinking, who they were. If I was in prison, I couldn’t not make things like this.

Maybe I’m over-egging the pudding when I work. You see what people can do with no tools at all. There’s so much power in that, just using what you’ve got to hand. It’s inspiring.

You wonder if the same prisoner made these. The context is gone, so it’s hard to tell. The styles are different, but it might have been the same person experimenting, exploring and finding their own artistic voice.

They’re rehabilitating themselves in a way. That’s what we all do when we make art. It’s far more interesting and moving than anything I’d find in a gallery. There’s no artifice, it’s just experience. 

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