Text Box: Helen Nottage

I graduated from the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff in July 2002, with a BA (Hons.) Ceramics. I have since completed a MA at Wolverhampton University.


I have used my MA to develop my professional practice and to branch out into developing work to be encountered in areas such as public art and gallery pieces. The work I have created has been united by the theme of mental health, evolving from my previous work. I have produced apothecary jars inspired by the elegant shape of traditional glass pharmacy jars and bell jars which were a popular form of presentation exemplified by Victorian anatomical displays.

Visual motifs such as the beetle, head and brain slice developed initially from looking at inkblots and my personal interpretation of them. I chose to use the process of Raku and smoke firing to give an archaic quality to the final pieces and the iridescent quality of raku glazes is also characteristic of beetles.


I have used the motif of the scarab beetle, appropriating its Egyptian significance and visual link to the thalamus in the brain. I have referenced phrenology heads in the style I use to incorporate a figurative element into the work. These are displayed both as part of the inkblot and as separate pieces. The individual heads are displayed in the style of medical models but also involve text to give a usually clinical object a personal context. I read a variety of memoirs, poetry and fiction based on the theme of mental health and was particularly inspired by the work of Sylvia Plath. Her use of the bell jar to represent the alienation she experienced has inspired my use of that form.

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