Phone Box Artist – Sharon Foley – Ellwood

“I began working with glass in 1999. I started making stained glass panels and quickly used lots of different processes to obtain various effects. Once I acquired my own kiln I began experimenting with more 3-dimensional forms. I enrolled on the Masters degree glass course at Wolverhampton University which freed my thinking of glass being a “crafts” medium to one where I could begin to express my ideas in a more conceptual way combining kiln formed glass with other media. I have shown my work in various local and national exhibitions, jointly organized and curated a glass exhibition in a local venue as part of the 2007 International Glass Festival in Stourbridge. I have been artist in residence and conducted many glass fusing workshops at Gloucestershire’s Nature and Art Museum.”

I engaged with:

Ellwood School, Mrs Hanna Woodhouse, year 4/5 classes

Ellwood Nursery, Catherine Roberts Ellwood Nursery Manager and a group of 6 young children (aged 3-4 years)

Dean Writers Group

Dean Scribblers (Cheryl Mayo and Roger Deekes)

Ellwood Ladies Group and past residents of Ellwood (Wendy and Jo)

Research at Ellwood:

A phone box is the focus of a conversation. I wanted to work with a local school to begin the artistic process for this project, encouraging children to discover the intimate space and how it made them feel. I wanted to explore the differences in how we had a conversation in a confined space compared using digital technology and encompass these within the artwork. 

A phone box is the focus of a conversation. I wanted to work with a local school to begin the artistic process for this project, encouraging children to discover the intimate space and how it made them feel. I wanted to explore the differences in how we had a conversation in a confined space compared using digital technology and encompass these within the artwork. 

What I did:

I worked with both the primary and nursery school in Ellwood, visited the school numerous times and physically went to out with the children to explore the phonebox space. The interaction was fantastic and I played with the photo images whilst formulating the artwork. The connections around Ellwood began to expand, meeting with the Ladies group, Jo whose father was the head teacher at the primary school and Wendy who used to clean the phone box, all of whom had memories and stories of the phone box and how it was part of their lives.

Dean Writers and I began to collaborate and ran a morning workshop with Ellwood primary school in March 2020. This involved active role play with old telephones and interaction with some of the older generation, where they asked questions and were shown “old money” used in the phone box. These will then develop into the children writing stories which will be published into an anthology. Dean Scribblers have secured funding for this and will organise the publication. Once the artwork has been completed, I hope that the children would read out their work from the book on the weekend event.

My ideas have expanded since my original proposal and are beginning to crystallise on the theme of communication between the generations. 

Stories from my research:

CANOPY was contacted by a member of Ellwood community suggesting that the phone box might be dressed up like the DR Who TARDIS, apparently a Christmas special had been filmed in the village some years ago. I did some research and it was filmed at a local garage which was unfortunately demolished last summer. The garage owner has sadly passed away, but I would like to use the image somehow in the artwork as, I feel, it’s important that the artwork belongs to the local population as much as the phone box does.

The stories surrounding the phone box were shared. Wendy was delightful and said she was paid 2 shillings a week to clean the box and did not enjoy it! Jo used to have to run from the school to phone up for coal, “Push button A, push button B”!

The children’s imagination went wild. The children were very excited but when we opened the door, they saw the phone was missing. They were questioning where it was until a little boy suggested that “the wolf must have taken it”. Everyone was in firm agreement! Catherine and I had brought an old-style round-dial phone so we placed it inside the phone box and the children began to dial numbers and then speak to someone about the wolf and the missing phone. 

Collaborating with Dean Scribblers was exciting a success. The children seemed very engaged, learning from Roger’s excellent presentation and I too discovered facts that were unbeknown to me! Lots of questions were asked of Wendy and Jo and the children demonstrated very good listening skills, they were also delighted to look at the old pennies that Jo kindly brought along. Due to time constraints, the role play was a little rushed but most of the children had started unlocking their imagination using the various styles of telephones that Roger had brought and had begun to put pen to paper as a beginning to their stories. 

What I enjoyed about the research period and our hopes for future development:

I enjoyed “finding” the project. I began with some ideas but they were not set-in stone as I soon found out so many people in Ellwood had something to say or stories to tell about the phone box. It was an organic process which developed with all the people I met and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and listening to them all. 

I would like to engrave some glass panels of the phone box with images and words of the different generations of Ellwood. It is located close to the school and that relationship is important as is its history with the rest of the village. Although the phone box is not “functioning” it will still communicate to the local people. An enabler, a teller of stories, past and present. A local Storyteller where you can listen with your eyes inside and outside the phone box. For the weekend “phone box event” I hope the children will have written their stories, have been published and will read to everyone.

Email  Sharon_foley_glass@hotmail.com