Jan Beeny - Animals from the decorative arts

We have been very quiet with our blog. Partly through furlough during lockdown and also because of the gallery's new website, which we are populating with new work each week - please check it out! https://www.contemporaryceramics.uk/ 

The gallery  re-opened at the beginning of July and at the time of writing (towards the end of August) it is nice to see people beginning to venture into central London again. The British Museum opens on the 27th August https://www.britishmuseum.org/ and if you have booked tickets to visit the BM please pop in to the gallery, it will be lovely to see everyone.

Jan Beeny is taking part in the previous Bi-monthly display which was sadly disrupted as a result of lockdown. Her amazing animal sculptures are on display in the gallery and we spoke to Jan about what lies behind these benevolent animals.

Jan Beeny

"I studied ceramics at the former South Glamorgan Institute of Higher Education, Howard Gardens, Cardiff in the mid 1980's. For a year after my BA (Hons) degree, I worked at Cardiff City Farm, as an illustrator, also assisting with the educational tours and school visits. I returned to Howard Gardens to complete my MA ceramics.

For many busy years I combined my studio practice with teaching ceramics and art. Working with very many different people and groups who wanted to experience or study ceramics to a variety of levels.

Teaching, is very important to me, although a smaller part of my work-life at the moment, as I return to focusing on developing my own ceramics.

My peices are hand-built from sheets of clay. The sheets are wrapped and manipulated when they are dry enough to withstand handling. Basic forms emerge. I dissect, alter, rejoin, expand or contract areas by removing sections, all in order to achieve the desired animal, its position, implied movement and character.

Now the making process can slow down, as I work on and add the head, ears, a tail etc. Surface details such as colour and texture have always been important to my work. Lately, I have enjoyed using sprigs, depicting flora and fauna which I add to the piece in an attempt to integrate features of the surrounding natural world with the animal. Embedding leaves and flowers into the skin of the animal piece, as a kind of relief-tattoo.

At present my work is finished with metal oxides which highlight the distinctive features, sealed under a semi-opaque glaze and fired to a high earthenware temperature.

I am fascinated by and passionate about the decorative arts and locate my work as a ceramist within this tradition. I derive inspiration from historical and cultural objects made from a wide variety of materials, via the knowledge, skill and creativity of the maker. Specifically, I am influenced by and enjoy, 16th century embroidery, particularly stumpwork, it's so joyous and humorous, also18th century printed chinoiserie designs, Staffordshire flatback pottery and mid-20th century design, such as textile designwork by Enid Marx and ceramics by Rut Bryk. These are just a few of my points of reference.

Often I'm told that my work is humorous. I don't necessarily set out to invoke a laugh, but I would certainly be pleased to inspire a smile. "


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