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A Garniture of Beauty and Decay – from Tamsin Van Essen to Miss Havisham

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I have found a new {to me} designer to crush on, Tamsin van Essen  a British designer based in London, who specialises in conceptual design. She has recently been using the medium of ceramics to explore scientific and medical themes. Widely exhibited since 2006, her most recent being at RCA in June and July this year with two new upcoming  – Bone  at the Florence Nightingale Museum, London 19 July – 30 Aug 2012, and When I Woke at  Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre, Wales 6 Oct – 17 Nov 2012.

Tamsin also has several permanent collections , the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Wellcome Collection, London, UK and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Museum also London.

Three of her projects particularly appealed to me.

Ornamental Metamorphosis

“This project is about metamorphosis and aesthetic ambiguity: a future rococo paradise where beauty and ornament become sinister and destructive…   Elements of decoration come alive and burst out from the confines of the vase’s form, impinging on the surrounding space. A gothic vision where everything is in flux: the static becomes dynamic; the inert, active; and the everyday, extraordinary.”

 Medical Heirlooms

Which explores the stigma of diseases, questioning contemporary obsessions with perfection and beauty.

”  I have been manipulating the ceramic material in a way that emulates physiological processes, deliberately encouraging ‘faults’, ‘defects’ and ‘blemishes.’  Based on 17th -18th century apothecary jars, the forms have strong historical and medical links, as well as providing the metaphor of vessel as body: they become containers for disease, rather than holding the cure. As family heirlooms, the jars can be passed down through the generations in the same way as hereditary medical conditions.”

Psoriasis 1Psoriasis      Acne (pocked) Acne

Vanitas Vanitatum

A garniture of beauty and decay

This project is the one which appeals most to me , she has designed a collection   influenced by  17th century dutch vanitas paintings, by using an etching tool to remove material from the slip cast porcelain forms and a sandblaster in its bisqued state, the decoration becomes part of the ceramic structure. during the last kiln firing, areas of the vases begin to peel, representing  and capturing the moment of decay.

All images and quotes © Tamsin van Essen via her website

It is something about the objects in this project that makes me think of  Miss Havisham, especially in the recent adaptation with Gillian Anderson, the ceramists description of  her work as A garniture of beauty and decay  perfectly evokes how I feel about the image of the ageing bride surrounded by the faded grandeur of her lost dreams.