The Big Head

The Big HeadWow, what a day! It’s half term week and South Kensington is awash with families and small children, most of them in the ceramic studio at the V&A. What a great week to host my swan-song public event, the group modelling of ‘The Big Head’. 131 visitors throughout the day contributed their enthusiasm, imagination and modelling skills to a weird and wonderful portrait head, christened ‘Albert’ by one of the children. It’s always a joy to see young children revelling in the direct tactile experience of handling wet clay, and some of today’s helpers were barely out of their push-chairs.

The head itself is four-faced, each one facing towards a point of the compass, north, south, east and west, again reflecting the multi-cultural ethos of the museum and its collections. I think I’d expected it to evolve into a robust and earthy, Easter Island kind of a head, but early on it began to take on its own identity, more akin to cartoon, graffiti and street art. The head is modelled over a plaster armature, designed to shrink and crack as it dries, and to break up into manageable/fireable pieces. I’m not sure how this will work now, with such a rich, complex and detailed surface, but it will be an interesting experiment whatever happens.

The earlier part of this penultimate week at the V&A had been spent finishing off a number of studio jobs in hand – casting and cleaning up plaster moulds, packing and unpacking the kiln, and applying ceramic transfers to various pieces. Another head, based on a Japanese No Theatre mask, was modelled and a cast taken. Once again Lisa’s help was invaluable.

I’ve also started another series of collage drawings, this time combining elements of my own drawings of the V&A heads with the self-portrait drawings of the studio visitors. This gives an interesting mix of the historical and the contemporary, of ‘high’ culture and popular culture. Perhaps I should now model and cast some of the visitors’ portrait heads too? This project could run and run!

The Big Head

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