Featured Maker – Jean White

Published 02/03/24

Featured Artist Member, March 2024

Our featured Artist Member for March 2024 is ceramicist Jean White.

Jean’s drawings are used to carve and model her images in clay. She creates her own plaster moulds and slip casts in either porcelain or parian clay.

Jean’s current work highlights the existential threats to British bird life, combining sprigged work with clean contemporary shapes. The visual similarity of fossils to ceramic sprigs helps to inform the work by moulding both convex and concave imagery to echo fossils. This creates a metaphor for the threat to birds’ existence, conveying the presence of the threatened species, but also their potential absence. There is a recognised decline in a number of British bird species and Jean aims to raise awareness of the conservation status of these birds.

Above: Vessels by Jean White (Photography by Mark Reeves)

What inspires your work?

I’ve been bird watching for several years and have combined this interest with my ceramics. Red List birds became my focus when doing my Masters. My aim is to raise awareness of Red List Birds by using metaphors. I use sprigs because of their similarity in appearance to fossils to imply extinction threat birds. I make concave and convex shapes to echo the way fossils are when they are split open. The collection I have developed is titled “Future Fossils” and I see that continuing in different iterations long term.

Describe your workspace.

I work from a dedicated room at home. I like having the space inside so it isn’t too cold for either me or my materials! It used to be my work room when I was working as an illustrator and I have adapted it to work for using plaster and slip casting. My main adaptation is my work bench that has a toughened glass work surface to let everything be wiped clean. I have a kiln in my garage.

Below: Jean at work in her studio (left) and a page featuring pencil drawings of avocets and lapwings from her sketchbook (right)

What is your favourite piece or design you have made?

I particularly like my Dodo lamp. Porcelain and Parian clays are translucent and the light shining through my imagery really takes advantage of the material, a bit of a move on from a classic lithophane effect.

Who has influenced & inspired you?

I love Hitomi Hosono’s work, Nico Conti’s, woodworkers Eleanor Lakelin and Gareth Neal are also influences, and of course Wedgwood. My tutors and the technicians at both Manchester Met and Staffs universities have been great at informing and challenging me to make the work that I now make and allowing me the transition from being an illustrator to being a ceramicist.

Below: Swift Lamp by Jean White

A collection of pieces by Jean, including her lamps, are available to purchase in the gallery and via our online shop.