I started working with found ceramics a number of years ago, mainly out of frustration at the fact that I didn’t know how to make my own ceramic pieces. Working in an unfamiliar material makes me think in an entirely new way about a theme or a problem, and I end up with very different solutions as a result. Working with materials in which I have little (or no) skill is now something that I really enjoy and I’m always looking for the next process that I can turn my hand to.
I decided that until I had time to learn how to make my own ceramics, I would work backwards to learn about the material, taking second-hand pieces and reworking them until I had something new. Mass-produced figurines seemed the perfect place to start, since there were plenty around and I’d always felt irritated by the idealised feminine image they portray.
To begin with I broke figurines apart and remodelled them, getting to know the character of the fired bone china. But then I began to paint directly on to the ceramic, mimicking the glazes. The figurine pictured here is special as it is one I made for my dad. All of the detail in the painted tattoos are family references, birthdays and portraits, so it is just about the most personal artwork I’ve ever made. It will sit within my mum’s collection of Royal Doulton ladies quite nicely, I think.
Jessica Harrison studied sculpture at Edinburgh College of Art, following this with a Masters in Fine Art and a practice-led PhD in sculpture. She was elected to the RSA earlier this year. Working with ceramics, marble, paint and digital collage, she explores the mechanics of perception through an examination of the interaction between the visual and the tactile. Her work can be seen this month in Maastricht, alongside works by Picasso, Rodin and Ai Weiwei. She is currently undertaking a residency at the European Ceramic Workcenter in the Netherlands, creating work for exhibition next year.