Delicate porcelain vessels and stuffed animals may not seem to have the most obvious connection, but the art of taxidermy is where ceramic artist Brittany Delany found inspiration for her first collection of functional porcelain pieces. Her work caught my eye last year at the New Designers One Year On Show, and then again last month at the new CRAFT section of the HOME Show at London’s Earls Court. I was struck by the deceptive simplicity of the pieces she creates; simple, clean shapes reveal subtle detailing – surface texture and seams, tiny metal stitches and intricate glazes. I was particularly intrigued by her source of inspiration for the Taxidermy collection, so I asked Brittany to tell me more:
The inspiration for this range originally came from a collection of my drawings of animal skulls and jawbones. Taking this as a starting point I then began looking into taxidermy and the techniques used within it. I became interested in stitching and began applying this to my ceramics using different materials.
I was also looking into how pieces could be altered during and after the casting process. Most of my work is made by slip casting, a process that involves pouring liquid clay into plaster moulds. As the clay dries it takes the shape of the mould. My moulds are made in two parts so create a seam on the cast clay which I choose to exaggerate then stitch in to.
Laser cut leather tags hang from each vessel. Inspired by cattle tags, they are engraved with the individual casting number of each unique piece.
The close-up images above show the wonderful colours and shading that Brittany achieves by using different metals during the firing process; here she describes how she developed this technique:
My final degree year allowed time for testing how different metals could be combined with porcelain and what effects would be produced. I now know which metals I like to use and how they behave and I do refer back to my samples a lot when creating new work. Because of the high temperatures in the kiln, many metals melt and some burn away completely. There were of course a few complications (and ruined kiln shelves) in the process but it was an important step in my development.
Brittany’s Taxidermy range also includes delicate, wrapped vessels with a woven fabric textured surface in two sizes, shown below. The smaller ones are perfect as nightlight holders and when illuminated the details are strikingly highlighted.
Brittany studied BA (Hons) Decorative Arts at Nottingham Trent University. Since graduation in 2012, she has set up a studio in Stockport, Cheshire where she makes her pieces and continues to develop her range. In contrast to the earthy tones of the Taxidermy range, her latest work, the Seasalt collection, embraces brighter colour with its calm and serene ocean-inspired palette, and here Brittany explains how it came about:
The Seasalt collection is inspired by trips to the seaside and the feeling of salt on your skin. I spend a lot of time on the coast in North Wales and enjoy wakeboarding, similar to snowboarding but behind a boat.
The particular inspiration for this project came from a long day at sea when the saltwater began to dry on the surface of my skin. I reflect this in the ‘salty’ frosted whites which are visible in the blue and green glazes. The smooth outer surface of the vessels reflects your smooth skin and the tactile colours inside imitate the sea-salt drying on your skin.
It sounds like this year is going to be a very busy one for Brittany. In addition to her time in the studio and travelling to shows around the country, she was also chosen to participate in the Crafts Council Hothouse programme which supports new designers and makers with a six-month programme of business and creative education and support. I asked her what her plans were for 2014:
I plan to spend this year developing my business from the training I receive. I have been busy sketching and working on new ideas in the past couple of weeks and my main aims for the year are to work on a larger scale and incorporate more colour.
Bigger pieces and more colour – we can’t wait! Many thanks to Brittany for generously making the time to answer our questions and, as ever, we’ve been inspired and uplifted by the colourful, beautiful things she creates.
Images: Brittany Delany