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Thrown Canopic Jars

January 19, 2013

Recently, my ideas and thoughts had been with death and memory. Death is always a taboo subject or at least one that is difficult to talk about or understand. On a trip in the summer to Ibiza, I went up to the old part of Ibiza town and saw the graveyard there. The majority of the graves are cremation remains, but they are all in window box displays, and I remember being struck by how beautiful they were.

Ibiza Town Memorials DSC_0346 DSC_0347 DSC_0349















I love the way they are looked after, with flowers and photographs and small statues. My Granddad died when I was six and his ashes are in my Nan’s back-garden  I remember finding this a comfort as a child, that I could “Go outside and see Granddad”, and that he could still watch us playing in his garden. I had ideas of making urns, but I thought this was too morbid, especially for people who are still alive, and the people I asked who are close to me weren’t so keen on the idea!

I had also been looking into Ancient Egyptian cultures and rituals, as they have always interested me – the way in which they mummify the deceased and create a whole tribute to their life –  burying them with their possessions and things that they loved. I researched a little into canopic jars and decided to make a set for myself. But I didn’t want them to be for my organs (As they are traditionally used for) – I wanted them to represent the parts of my life that could need protecting or nurturing. I chose the four aspects of me and the four people I felt guarded  them.

  1. My Artistic Self- My Dad, as he is an artist and ceramicist and has always helped me develop my art and supported me in it. He encouraged me to do the art I loved and to always go for it. He could not go to college or uni at my age, but now in his 50’s he is in his final year at university studying a similar course to me. He is my artistic inspiration.
  2. My Physical self – My Mum. In a girls life I think it is usually her mum who explains about the body, advises on clothes and make-up, and I’m lucky enough to have a very supportive mum who has always had those discussions with me. The Mother is usually the one to nurse a child when sick.
  3. My Mental self – My Boyfriend Jackson – He is one of the few people in my life who have wanted me to feel better about myself, to be who I am and to help me through when I feel at my most fragile. We have discussions about many things as he is very intelligent and likes to debate with anyone, about anything. I feel he guards my mental well-being as especially at uni with family so far away, he has become that family.
  4. My Spiritual Self – My Granddad. He was the first and closest member of my family to pass and I have always felt a spiritual connection through that. He was not a religious man, but he was gentle and loving and everything you could need in a grandfather. I was holding his hand at six when he died, so I feel like when I had spiritual turbulence a few years ago, he was there to guide me a little.

The vessels themselves are thrown in a mix of two clay bodies – Crank and Keuper Red (To see why, and to see how I threw them, check out my post “Throwing Sessions”).

On Egyptian canopic jars there are hieroglyphs, which I obviously cannot read.  I decided to make small images to represent each person rather than just writing on the jars, to form a new language about the person. I carved 16 images in a four by four grid of black slip (Four layers thick) on each jar of things that the person represents to me – for example Jackson has the symbol of Ibiza (the salamander) as he grew up there as well as an image of Italy (His birthplace) and a brain as he guards my mental self. My Dad has a West Ham insignia as they are his team and we used to watch them play football together, as well as paintbrushes and a pan as he likes to cook.

The insides of the jars are glazed using my own from the tests and are chosen as they also represent the person whose jar they are in. I only glazed the image panel on the outside as I wanted them to have a rustic, tactile feel, as original canopic jars would have had.

DSC_0421DSC_0424DSC_0423Canopic Jars


Canopic Jars, glazed insides



One Comment leave one →
  1. February 3, 2013 10:24 pm

    A Nice post to read Rachel! I’m glad to see a new post from you, even more glad that you are still coming up with ideas that are thought provoking and not just the run of the mill stuff! I hope to see some more in the future 🙂

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