It seems that not a few modern ceramists have been drawn down the slippery slope to working in clay by looking at their auntie’s collection of china pugs or the neighbours’ Beswick Siamese cats. Incidentally, how I craved these latter as a child but was never allowed one because my mother considered them ‘nouveau riche’ and ‘common’. Now I have both the china pieces and the living felines, as well as the unfortunate addiction to ceramics.
The contemporary ceramist Richard Slee remembers ‘I had two spinster aunties. They lived in a terraced house that was full of pottery…. terrific. I was fascinated with their knick-knacks…. but I’d gone to art school and had been imbued with Modernism, so that one felt almost guilty looking at this stuff.’ I often wonder about this; after all I’ve been to art school too (although I don’t think I have been imbued by Modernism). So it seems I’m far from being alone in my penchant for a ‘dainty rogue in porcelain’ – just as well – my mantelpieces are littered with the evidence of my weakness. I have serially collected ceramic fish, teapots, frogs, birds and anything glazed in green.
As for the Beswick cats – they reign triumphant on my mantelpiece, I guess I’m just common.