• The Past and the Present: Reflections of Everyday Life in English Ceramic Figurines

Kim, Sun Ae, 2014, Thesis, The Past and the Present: Reflections of Everyday Life in English Ceramic Figurines MPhil thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

The practice‐led research in this thesis investigates narratives of
everyday life captured through ceramic figurines. This is informed
by the history of the English ceramic figurine, which pertains to a
long tradition of reflecting scenes of everyday life and social
concerns particular to the time of their production. The aim of this
thesis is firstly to examine the ways in which English ceramic
figurines captured images of everyday life throughout history, and
secondly to explore how contemporary everyday life can be
interpreted visually through ceramics. This thesis addresses the
relationship between the research carried out by historians and the
work of practitioners on figurines. Moreover, the thesis considers
the history of figurine production and its impact on contemporary
practice. My research methodology relies on original archival
materials and museum collections, which enables me to frame my
practice within the literature on the subject of figurines. Many
aspects of these remain overlooked in existing scholarship.
The thesis is divided into two chapters. Chapter 1 comprises three
case studies, which examine the socio‐historical significance of
eighteenth‐ and nineteenth‐century English figurines. My
investigation includes materials, makers, sources of inspiration,
conditions of production, the cultural background and
the ceramics market. Case Study 1 examines the culture of
pastimes and the theatre in eighteenth‐century England by
focusing on one particular piece, The Music Lesson (1765). The Teetotal
and Ale Bench figurine group (1835) in Case Study 2 is an
example through which the relationship between drinking culture
and ceramics in early nineteenth‐century England is investigated.
Case Study 3 examines Victorian china fairings and their
manufacture in Germany through the example of Before Marriage
and After Marriage (c.1860). All the case studies have been
conducted to support the view that English ceramic figurines were
cultural products of their time, integrated into everyday life – that
of both the upper and working classes – and thus provide unique
insight into the social and cultural issues that concerned English
society. Many of the examples considered in these three case studies stem from my research trips in the UK and elsewhere,
including the Harris Museum in Preston, and in Germany the
Meissen Factory and Museum in Dresden and the Nymphenburg
Palace and Porcelain Manufactory in Munich. These case studies
were crucial in informing new approaches to my practice, and are
important in understanding its development.
Chapter 2 focuses on my studio practice. This consists of wall‐based
and freestanding figurines based on my own observations of British
culture, collected during my time living in the UK as an ‘outsider’. I
highlight four key issues from the case studies examined in Chapter
1 that have influenced my own practice. These include an English
perspective; encounters and exchanges; multiples; the relationship
between drawing, and the figurine. My subjective observations and
understanding of the historical framework surrounding the field of
figurine making have thus informed this series in a new body of
It is a poignant time to examine this fast‐disappearing aspect of
visual culture which used to be so vital in British economy and
society, as the demand for, and production of, figurines is
decreasing. This thesis hopes to revive an appreciation of the
ceramics with which we are so familiar in terms of practical use. By
documenting everyday life through a material which quietly
surrounds us every day, for instance in the kitchen, dining room,
bathroom, and human-inhabited space generally, I hope to
challenge the viewer to respond to this material in a new way.

Qualification Name: MPhil
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W700 Crafts > W750 Clay and Stone Crafts
Date Deposited: 14 Oct 2014 09:52
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2018 15:45
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/1647
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