NEW ARRIVALS ARTICLE
Helens ceramic figurative sculptures are both endearing and intriguing, seeming to have their own personal character and mannerisms.
Recent work features animal and human figures wearing ‘dress-up’ costumes or ‘onesies’ and sometimes wearing hooded tops or masks. The artist is fascinated by the idea of disguise or incognito. The figures are often an analogy for how people often hide a fragile self-esteem behind a robust façade or disguise, often pretending to be what they are not.
Some figures have narrow openings literally cut into their bases like scars. The viewer is invited to peer into them to slowly reveal sentimental objects or details and décor on the walls of the interior, revealing the ‘beauty within’.
Helen works from
home in a small studio near the historic South Wales town of Merthyr Tydfil.
She has a background in window dressing and figurine painting and taught
Secondary Art and Design. She studied Ceramics at UWIC in Cardiff where she
achieved 1st class BA Hons Degree, graduating in 1997.
Ceramics has been Jon Barrett-Danes’ family for at least five generations. The earliest records show a pottery at Hoo in Kent dating from 1834, and Jon’s great-great-uncle Edward Baker worked at the well-known Upchurch pottery in Kent from 1909 (and later owned it). Each generation has produced their own particular style of work, and Jon’s father, Alan, was the first to break with tradition by leaving the family pottery, undertaking a formal college training and entering the pottery industry as a designer. He later taught ceramics at Cardiff College of Art and worked collaboratively on work with Jon’s mother Ruth in the 1960s and 1970s. Some of their joint ceramic work is kept in the permanent collection at Aberystwyth University.
Jon completed a degree in ceramics at Bristol in 1985, having specialized in thrown ware and glaze development. While at college he was inspired by the pages of the Wedgwood Creamware catalogues from the late 19th century, and – in stark contrast their classical lines – cartoon drawings.
He also spent time building kilns and experimenting with wood-fired salt glaze. He used these glazes to good effect on the teapot forms that became an obsession for many years.
'My sculptures have an element of storytelling, they borrow from my love of the absurd and surrealism.
I see my work as a cross between Ceramics and Fine Art, I love building, carving, modelling.
The attention to detail came while travelling in Africa and India and admiring their lovingly crafted utensils for everyday use; a carved spoon or an intricately pierced vessel, a flight of fancy candelabra. I feel as if I have somewhere in my mind a repository of images gleaned from cultures other than my own. I continue to draw inspiration from other lands which still have a strong tradition of making.
The jugs I make are little clay canvases, it is almost irrelevant that one can use them. For me they marry the love of making and the love of painting.'