During a period when people were not able to enjoy the clay landscape in person, we asked our social media followers to share their images and thoughts on what the landscape meant to them. This exhibition features a wonderful selection of over 200 responses.

The photographs were displayed around the extensive outdoor grounds of the museum, so audiences could explore and reflect on the exhibition at their own pace, whilst maintaining social distancing.

Colin Vallance, Managing Director of Wheal Martyn, said, “We are delighted to share some wonderful images contributed by our community during the lockdown, along with their personal reflections on them – together these really showcase how much the clay area means to people and how the landscape has been a symbol of hope and a place to escape during the pandemic.”

Now that lockdown is easing and you are all exploring this evocative landscape again, we encouraged people to share images of the landscape or their experiences within it – using social media with the hashtag #CelebrateClayCountry.


Don’t Install Outdoor Exhibitions in a Heatwave


I’m a trainee curator. The very nature of being a trainee means that I am learning all of the time.

For the last 8 months I have been learning as much as I can, as enthusiastically as I can, in order to produce the best work that I possibly can. I have done this for myself, to prove to myself that I am capable and worthy of this opportunity and also for my host museum (Wheal Martyn Clay Works) which I deeply respect and want to proudly represent.

The piece of work that I will no doubt feel the post proud of is my ‘Live project’ #CelebrateClayCountry: Landscapes in Lockdown. I started lockdown asking for members of the public to share their images of the Clay Country with Wheal Martyn. 6 Months and 250+ images later, it is now an outdoor exhibition showcasing the images and personal reflections from a number of people within the local community. I think I’ve learned a lot during this whole process and I’m thankful to everyone who has contributed in any way to this project and those who have taken the time to let me know their thoughts on it.


There are some things you can only really learn by ‘’failing’’. What is failure but a small part of the learning process anyway? And that’s what it is…small. When comparing my ‘’failure’’ to my ‘’successes’’ this year, it simply pales in comparison.

So, what is one thing I have learnt through ‘’failure’’ in 2020?

Do not, I repeat, do NOT try to install an outdoor exhibition in the middle of a heatwave. Especially if a primary part of that exhibition is the use of glass.

And CERTAINLY not if that glass is directly facing the sun.

I planned, collected the images, curated and installed almost entirely alone but I still received valuable and significant help from a number of people. Even when you work ‘’alone’’ in a small museum, everything has the potential to be collaborative. I love this. Another learning curve would be realising that although there was an expectation and a responsibility on me to achieve this goal, I could still expect help and support from colleagues.

My failure (and my learning curve) in the installation of my ‘Live Project’ was to juggle melted vinyl signs between my hands and red hot sun facing windows and to realise that probably wasn’t a very good idea. I also learnt that within a good environment I could have responsibilities but still not be entirely ‘’on my own’’.


What have my successes been?


The obvious success is that it eventually all got installed.

I physically carried an assortment of boards of varying sizes – some A0, some A1 etc across the 26 acre site at Wheal Martyn and installed them all bar a couple that had to be drilled into a wall. I did have help with that – thank you Wayne!

Although, after learning the proper technique of putting vinyl on glass, I installed the stickers myself, I certainly wasn’t alone on the ‘’practise day’’ with the heatwave. Instead, a wonderful volunteer helped me to plan where the images were going down to the very centimetre on the glass making the actual installation day much easier – thank you Helen!

I also owe a big thank you to the team at Wheal Martyn for guiding me on what may seem like simple things…which designers to contact, how to navigate the interpretation process etc.

I oversaw an exhibition from start to finish and for that alone I feel proud of myself.


It seems a bit grand to assume that a project I created will have a legacy that is long lasting, but longevity isn’t always the goal. I can say with certainty that this exhibition has been enjoyed by many people, especially those fantastic members of the community who actually contributed to it in the first place.

#CelebrateClayCountry was a love letter to clay country and it has been a real privilege and joy to connect to so many people from the community and to respectfully use their photographs and personal reflections on this often forgotten place.

I feel like I have done my hometown proud and reflected the wonderful and complex industrial landscapes that I grew up playing in.

Siân Powell

Siân Powell

Siân is from St Austell, Cornwall and studied BA Ancient History at Cardiff University. She has volunteered for Royal Cornwall Museum as a gallery guide, education facilitator and Citizen Curator where she co-curated a display that explored Cornwall's connection to China. She has also worked at St Michael’s mount as a Village guide and Conservation Assistant .
Siân is currently working on a part-time MA in ''Celtic Studies'' where she is primarily interested in exploring Cornish identity through heritage sites, landscapes, folklore and folk customs and hosts a podcast on myths and legends. Siân enjoys walking, researching, conservation and visiting historic sites and museums.

Since her Trainee Curator placement Siân has become Exhibition and Engagement Officer at Wheal Martyn Clayworks.