I have recently started making ceramic pet portraits, and after some reflection I think I have worked out what it is that feels so good about it. It offers a link between what I believe, what I make and what will find a home – not dissimilar to the combination of ‘head, heart and hands’ often spoken about by crafts people. I had no idea how much I was going to enjoy making sculptures of pets, but in a lot of ways it adds up.
Pet portrait commissions are an opportunity to make something that has an immediate home. I have known for a long time that as a ceramicist, I didn’t want to make tableware, but it is important to me that some of what I make has a clear requirement or purpose. It is also an opportunity to connect with people, which is important for solitary studio dwellers like me!
My regular morning walks around Alexandra Palace have shown me how much love there is for dogs, in particular. After years of making elephants (I do love elephants – you can read about that here if you feel inclined) it has become clear to me that not every one loves them as much as I do! For me, elephants represent goodness, kindness and compassion; not being obsessed with competition and comparison. These are all good things – in theory! A trusty and loyal pet offers an antidote to a cruel world, and one which is accessible and always pleased to see you. A furry and welcoming embodiment of an ideal, perhaps? Take away the big ears and the trunk, they represent the same thing…
Making portraits of beloved pets requires a good level of accuracy. Since I started making them, I have become a little obsessed with the coats of cats and dogs, and how to go about replicating them with an appropriate combination of clay, slip and glaze. I am enjoying this scientific side to ceramics – the one that requires testing and meticulous note taking in order to copy a colour or texture. I am also excited about making large and colourful sculptures of elephants, and some little subversive ones too! So artistically, it feels as though making pet portraits has freed me up to make the sort of elephants I want to make. Win win!
If you are interested in commissioning me to make a sculpture of your pet, please visit my commissions page.