About Water Cans

Water Cans

Thin Objects can be vessels containing a weave of stories, focusing points that encourage imagination and a re-imagining of the familiar. Often they are objects resonating a strong sense of the past into the present.

For me, the boatman’s decorated, galvanised Water Can (sometimes called a Buckby Can) is more than just a covetable piece of nostalgic ‘Roses & Castles’ folk art, it’s a Thin Object.

The Water Can has potential. They can encourage the journey.

I’d like to get beneath the surface of the Water Can.




Man v Can

Learning the skills of traditional Water Can painting

Enter Here

Journey Cans

Phil Smith on pg. 116 of his book ‘Mythogeography’ states that in seeking to re-imagine and re-interpret the familiar we should try not to:

‘discriminate between respectable and non-respectable types of knowledge’ but instead insist ‘on the presence of popular, trash, pulp layers, and the foregrounding of […] autobiographical and non-rational associations…’

so, in working to better understand the motivation underlying the work of the boatman painters I’ve begun to ask questions:

  • Why, as an art form, did canal ware painting not evolve beyond it’s original narrow frame of reference?
  • Why are the same images replicated again and again with varying degrees of skill or conviction?

And I’m beginning to re-imagine the Water Can.

  • What would happen, for example, if I didn’t try to emulate what had been done before, but took as a starting point my own roots and visual culture?
  • What would happen if I reinterpreted the traditional ingredients of canal ware painting – the castles, landscapes  flowers and flourishes – through typography or cartography, through folk art, children’s book illustrations or line drawings etc.

My particular take on the canalware of the boatmen painters probably won’t find favour with the purists, after all what I’m exploring, whilst nodding respectfully to tradition, is not a slavish adherence to the past. Rather than making a rather stilted copy of someone else’s style I’m heading off on my own, and working towards something I can call my own – a Journey Can perhaps?

Enter Here

Journey Can Heroes

Inspiration & Ideas from Folk Art and Painted Wares

Enter Here