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GTC X LICA – Ceramic Exploration of Chronic Pain

Hi, I am Art-By-A-Vampire, and thanks to the Good Things Collective, I have been able to continue my exploration of chronic pain by experimenting with ceramics. I was introduced to Andy, owner of local art business Ram Ceramic and he mentored me in his studio, teaching me how to work with clay. This work has continued to help me explore materiality in relation to chronic pain.

Initially, I began using found objects from Morecambe bay to make impressions in the clay, from shells to driftwood to seaweed, however these did not create the desired effect. The impressions were too light and did not engage me as much as the found objects themselves. So, I decided to explore the idea of textures reflecting emotional experiences. I made a list of physical and emotional sensations, translated them into ink drawings considering how I would visualise them, and I began to explore them through clay.

Using several different kinds of clay, I created a series of pieces exploring these textures of pain I designed. With porcelain, I experimented with the concept of fragility, by making strips of the clay and attaching the randomly torn strips to a base – curling the pieces back to look like they were peeling away. This effect was designed to represent the idea of feeling as though your control over your body is being peeled away every time you have a flare of chronic pain – it looks beautiful but incredibly fragile, like so many people with chronic illnesses putting on a

brave face.

Andy also allowed me to use some local clay he dug out of his own garden: with this I created a bowl and a conical form. The bowl was one of a pair I made, the other being porcelain, that I glazed using raku and broke them deliberately. The bowl made from Morecambe clay, I decided to keep broken and frame, to highlight the experience of feeling shattered by chronic pain. With the porcelain bowl, I repaired it using red epoxy taking inspiration from kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing: in order to demonstrate the idea of a pain flare breaking you and having to put you back together again. I added lumps of clay to the conical form and carved into the piece, these were designed to reflect the sensation of being taken over by your illness.

This mentorship with Andy was a continuation of my Pain Portraits series, this time I was taking a more personal exploration of my own experiences with chronic pain, as a way of finding catharsis for myself. While this part of my series has been more self-reflective, I hope that this continued creation of a visual language for chronic pain can also provide some comfort to others who live it. Hopefully, I can set up an exhibition to display all of my chronic-pain-based works for members of the public, especially the disabled community, to see and be given a space to feel seen in the art world.

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