February 28, 2024

A Menopause In Majolica

I fell in love with the Italian Renaissance Maiolica style whilst on holiday in central Italy in summer 2019.  The bold colours, delicate and dense repeating patterns, the illustrative style of decoration transcribed with breathtaking skill onto myriad, elegant shapes with sinuous, twisting handles, all brought the past of hundreds of years ago right into the present for me – something that I feel handmade ceramics can do uniquely effectively, being as fresh and vibrant today as the day they came out of the wood kiln 500 years ago.

In the time since then I’ve made many visits to museums holding collections of Maiolica (especially the Courtauld Institute Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum); read books and researched online, and developed a particular passion for Maiolica pharmacy jars in their huge variety of shapes and uses.

In 2020 during the Covid lockdowns, I obtained a copy of “Primitive Physick” - a book of home remedies written in 1732 by John Wesley – and transcribed some of these fascinatingly archaic cures onto wet drug jars, bleeding bowls, posset pots and albarello jars.  I also made three sets of three albarello jars bearing the UK government slogans deployed as communication devices during the pandemic and Google translated into Latin as a tongue in cheek nod to Boris Johnson’s habit of sprinkling his speech with Latin words and phrases.

This work and my continuing research into the forms and decorative style of Maiolica made in the Italian Renaissance developed into a determination to push myself into producing larger scale and more ambitious works in terms of form and decoration – giving me an ideal platform with which to illustrate aspects of my experience of menopause, both positive and negative – and to link this with the lives of women 500 years ago.

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