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Figurative ceramic art by The Ceramicist

January 21, 2021 2 Comments

The Ceramicist VIvien Phelan Skylark Galleries' art blogger

The Ceramicist - Vivien Phelan - is an artist who enjoys working on the potters wheel, then reshaping and distorting the uniform shapes. In its finished shape, her original art is often a figure which based on the English language. At other times it will turn out into an animal. It’s  all about having fun and bringing a smile to the viewer. Vivien recently appeared on BBC One’s 'Home is Where the Art Is'. Her blog will give you insight into the work of a 3D artist.

Vivien Phelan Skylark Galleries art blogger 'The Ceramicist'

I’m a ceramic artist or a potter, which ever you prefer to use. Most of my work starts on the potter’s wheel, so maybe I should call myself ‘a potter’.  On the other hand, someone working on the potter’s wheel is also known as a ‘thrower’. I would get very strange looks from people if I said I am a thrower. They might ask me the weight of my discuss, what distance I can reach - even if I’ve taken part in the Olympics!

I have never ‘blogged’ before so please bear with me. When asked to, it took me back to my childhood and the realisation that I don’t remember my “amazing” artwork being pinned up on the fridge.  But I do remember having plasticine.

The past

I was mostly brought up in Belgium, where my father was from. Mum was from England. When I was 12, I won an art competition that my school in Bognor Regis entered me in.  I remember it was a painting of a Victorian building with ladies wearing crinolines outside. 

In brief, my parents vetoed the idea of art as a career. At 16, I left home and came to England and decided I would follow a nursing career as, in those days, pay was pitiful but I was fed, watered and had a roof over my head. And I thoroughly enjoyed my successful nursing career. When I became a working mum, I decided to have a couple of hours a week at my local ceramic class as “me time” and enjoyed the tactile nature of clay. This rekindled my love of art. When I retired from nursing I went to university and acquired a BA in ceramic and glass.  And there was no looking back!

The present

I joined Skylark Galleries just under 10 years ago. Being part of an artist collective, having the support and friendship of other creatives, has made me grow in confidence.

I think having met and nursed so many people of all shapes and sizes I still love to reproduce the human body.

Shape - I like figurative art, particularly the slightly oversized body, the curves and the rounded parts. Why? Because I work on the potter’s wheel I make a uniform shape and then, when the clay is at the right consistency, I like to manipulate, alter and push it to its limits.

Colour - I like colour; colour is joyful, colour brightens the mood, colour makes the wearer or art piece noticeable.

Message - I like the quirkiness of the English language. In many languages the message is more or less the same but you must be careful as sometimes it is totally the opposite. I bought my niece in the USA on her wedding day a black cat card to carry. Luckily someone stopped me in time as in America this means bad luck (the couple did divorce some year later). 

I digress.  What I mean to say is, if you look on my website you will see mostly my ladies and the occasional man with something on their head such as a fish = ‘fishing for compliments” or a dog = “barking mad”.

Other artworks are more involved and are a personalised representation of a person’s life. These pieces are commissioned by individuals and became very popular following my appearance last summer on BBC1 One’s ‘Home Is Where The Art Is’.

Stress relief - clay is a great medium to play & relax with.

A bit of fun & info -If you have an interest in ceramics a good programme to watch at the moment on TV is BBC1 One’s ‘pottery throw down’.  This will give you a little understanding of the material. I recently had someone tell me it was like using icing sugar for cake decoration!

Here is some affordable art by my Skylark Galleries colleagues who also are inspired by the human form.

Thames beach Lady 2 Ceramic figurine by Ruty Benjamini
Thames Beach Lady 2, a close look, by Ruty Benjamini.
Ruty Benjamini: "My nude figurines are informed by life drawing and inspired by the female form, trees, rocks and landscape. Semi abstract, the figurines are intuitively pinched squeezed and partially modelled to suggest and celebrate natural form, movement, posture and femininity. Some figurines are perched on brick fragments found on the beach, and sometimes a few of them sit together and engaged in conversation." 
Visage by Richard Dickson
Visage by Richard Dickson
Richard Dickson's work has been shown nationally and internationally. It focuses on human physiology and is often contrasted with natural textures.
Let Sleeping Buddhas Sleep Ceramic Art by Heather Tobias
Let Sleeping Buddhas Sleep by Heather Tobias

Porcelain and Oxides
27 x14 cms

Heather Tobias is a mixed media figurative artist whose practice explores the arts, mythologies and histories of many cultures.

And finally, an example of my own work.

Barking mad ceramic figurine by Vivien Phelan

Barking mad by Vivien Phelan
Ceramic figurine
29cm tall x 15cm wide approx.

2 Responses


February 22, 2021

I love your fun heads and would love to buy one. Do you have a studio I can visit after the lockdown?

Stella Tooth
Stella Tooth

February 04, 2021

What a fascinating insight into the inspiration for Vivien’s beautiful figurative art.

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