'Silhouettes' - Constructions of slabrolled, waterjet-cut bone china.

Materials:- Bone china.
Dimensions:- ‘Shape No.39’ – w19cm h39cm d19cm , ‘Shape No.1251’ – w15cm h39cm d15cm.

Re-imagining the classic forms of an historic English ceramics manufacturer.

For this project Royal Crown Derby granted special access to their archives – dating back to 1750 – where production forms recorded as flat ‘pen and ink’ outlines in leather-bound ‘Shape Books’ were the inspiration for the ‘Silhouettes’.

Two shapes titled “Shape No.39” and “Shape No.1251” lent themselves to a contemporary artist’s re-interpretation – the former a ‘neo-classical’ inspired shape and the latter a ‘Sèvres-style’ shape itself imitating forms developed and mastered nearly 100 years earlier by the French Royal manufacturer Sèvres. There is a long history of ceramic artists looking to the past when creating something new.

In the Royal Crown Derby museum a number ‘silhouette’ portraits of dignitaries and company grandees, precision cut by hand in paper – black-on-white and white-on-black – certainly helped in naming my sculptures. However, the simple ‘slot-together’ construction method I used stems from a love of creating miniature cardboard theatres when I was a child – something which by coincidence was very popular with the Victorians where stage scenery designers would layer ‘theatrical flats’ to create the illusion of three-dimensions.

Motifs and ornamentation from Victorian-era ‘Pattern Books’ were translated into the filigree-like ‘inner cuts’ of the ‘Silhouette’ components with waterjet cutting. This is a process fraught with the risk of shattering the most delicate internal areas of the sculpture’s components with the ‘violence’ of the 60,000psi waterjet. I will be adding a ‘Making’ page to the website soon, which will include some video of the waterjet cutting process.

New larger versions of the ‘Silhouettes’ were made especially for the ‘Sans les mains!’ exhibition curated by Michael Eden for French luxury porcelain manufacturer Bernardaud in Limoges. Visit my Press page to learn more about this exhibition and to download a free catalogue.

During the project with Royal Crown Derby I had the unique opportunity of using a material exclusive to them – ‘Black’ bone china. I was given a small quantity of slip (liquid clay), which I converted back into clay in order to slab roll my ceramic sheets from which components are cut with the waterjet. After nearly twenty years of working only with white to make something in a new colour – though only black – was nonetheless a very exciting prospect. Royal Crown Derby stopped using black bone china around this time due to difficulties in attaining consistency in slipcasting, its volatility in firing and the expense of its ingredients. However, having used it once I was smitten and driven on to develop my own recipe. The images above capture some of the process involved in creating my own black bone china clay.

There are a number of posts and videos detailing aspects of my making process for other projects over on my Instagram feed. To visit, click the icon below.