Sculptures created from the milk from an organic dairy herd are the latest innovative offering from a Scottish initiative to make contemporary artworks available at affordable prices.

The pieces, each of which will be unique, are made by British-Brazilian visual artist and designer Tessa Silva and are the latest development in a project exploring “feminised protein”.

Her work includes functional and sculptural objects, much of which is sold through the Culture Object gallery in New York, and is the latest example of a centuries-old tradition of transforming surplus milk into other products.

In medieval times it was used in concrete-type flooring materials and later for a form of plastic.

Right now SPG Club, a scheme run by the Glasgow-based Sculpture Placement Group (SPG), is commissioning her to produce around 20-30 sculptures, which can be bought through a monthly subscription.

The club gives people the chance to own limited edition or unique sculptures by established and early career artists at a cost far below what they would normally pay in a commercial gallery. It also guarantees the artists a fair fee for their work.

Tessa’s process involves taking the unmarketable skimmed milk left over from the making of butter and mixing it with chalk from a mine in Hampshire. The mixture is then poured into specially sewn linen forms.

The results are highly curved and curling pieces that seem almost alive.

Tessa, who studied at the Royal College of Art, said: “I try to live and work in a sustainable way, in this case taking a raw material that would otherwise be thrown away and giving it a new use and value.

“The material I use, ‘chalk and cheese’, is an evolution of one used in medieval houses. Milk and milk products have helped shaped cultures and Western civilisation as we know it. Some of the earliest human artefacts containing residues of cow’s milk.

Tessa’s Feminised Protein project has been in development since 2015 and celebrates the history and mythology of milk

She also wants to raise awareness about the amount of waste generated by some farming practices – and by society as a whole.

The term “Feminised Protein” was coined by Carol J. Adams in the 1990s to describe the exploitation of female animals’ reproductive cycles for the mass production of food. 

The milk Tessa uses is from a raw organic dairy farm in Sussex which has a very small herd that are individually named, grass fed, and milked considerably less than the typical dairy cow. 

SPG approached Tessa because they were impressed by the quality of her work and the way she creates unique contemporary artefacts by reforming ancient techniques.

Michelle Emery-Barker, SPG Co-director, said: “SPG Club is all about making work by exciting and innovative sculptors available to the public at affordable prices, while ensuring the artist is properly paid.

“One of the things we aim to do is deepen the relationship between the viewer and the object – connect people to the ideas and materials that the artworks are made of.    

“Tessa’s work is a perfect example. She not only creates superb artworks but she also reassigns value to a discarded and disregarded material; milk – the very elixir of life.”

The sculptures will be designed “table top” pieces that will fit easily into people’s homes.

Anyone joining SPG Club member will have benefits such as access to their own online portal with further information about the artist and the chance to take part in behind-the-scenes events.

The sculptures (and SPG Club membership) can be made through a subscription of £35 a month for six months or as a single purchase of £210. 

  • To sign up or find out more contact
  • Alfriston Clergy House, a medieval building in Sussex which is cared for by the National Trust, has one of the few remaining examples of a chalk and sour cheese floor.
  • In the early 20th century a plastic called Erinoid was made from milk. It was popular in the fashion industry for items like buttons as an alternative to ivory, horn and bone.

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Notes to editors

About Sculpture Placement Group

  • SPG is a not-for-profit Community Interest Company formed in 2017, to address the practical and economic challenges of working in the arts – particularly with sculpture, to diversify audiences to contemporary sculpture and to find ways for the arts to work more sustainably.
  • SPG Club is supported by the Henry Moore Foundation and Creative Scotland.
  • To sign up or find out more contact [email protected]

Previous SPG Club artists

Artists whose work has been made available through SPG Club in the past include:

  • Joseph Buckley (b. 1990, Ellesmere Port, England) is black British artist of Irish and Caribbean extraction who currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. His work is informed by grief and postcolonialism, manifesting in a range of forms including sculpture, video, and writing. Using a myriad of techniques, these themes are alternately reified or obfuscated–mobilized to rhyme or repel each other.
  • Andy Holden (b. 1982, Bedfordshire, England). Andy’s practice involves sculpture, installation, painting, pop music, performance, animation and multi-screen-video. He also makes music with his band the Brubby Mitts and runs his own gallery, Ex-Baldesarre in Bedford. His work has been shown at Kettles Yard, Tate Britain, the Venice Biennale and Spike Island. For SPG Club, Andy riffed on his animated avatar popularised in his Laws of Motion in a Cartoon Landscape film and Structure of Feeling. The avatar has become a digital and physical composite, a vehicle to explore how we perceive and interpret the world. 
  • Holly Hendry (b. 1990, London, England). Her work looks at what lies beneath the surface, often embedding waste products that don’t break down and can be rediscovered during excavation processes. Casting is central to her large site responsive sculptures. She works with a range of materials from classical sculptural materials like jesmonite and silicone, to the everyday like lipstick and soap. 

About Creative Scotland

  • Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland on behalf of everyone who lives, works or visits here. We distribute funding provided by the Scottish Government and The National Lottery.

To find out more

For media information contact Kate V Robertson at [email protected] or Matthew Shelley at [email protected] or 07786704299.