Michelle Erickson 2013-2015
Sgraffito decorated wood fired earthenware.
Indigenous North Devon “Fremington” clay and North Devon ball clay slip.
Fired in Clive Bowen’s St. Ives Studio, Cornwall, UK.
H. 17”

During an exciting week as guest artist at the North Devon Festival of Pottery Michelle Erickson created VANITAS. Erickson’s combines her first-hand study of archeological 17th century North Devon sgraffito excavated in Jamestown Virginia and premier extant examples of ‘Harvest Jugs’ in British Museum collections, in a themed commemorative jug with the most famous/infamous British potter since Wedgwood as the royal subject. Given free rein to explore the use of North Devon’s indigenous Fremington clay and the wealth of historical, traditional and studio pottery in the area the development of the jug was an organic process that took on a life of its own.

Erickson had described using the communal form and commemorative tradition of North Devon Harvest Jugs as a potential project during her tenure as artist in residence at the V&A Museum in 2012. The idea really came into full realization in September 2013 during the symposium ‘A New England Cargo.’

Erickson’s work is often a juggling act between the age of information and pre-industrial pot making, so while in her temporary digs at Bideford Art Center she began to develop the idea. Gathering up images off Google of Grayson Perry himself and his artworks along with paintings of Queen Elizabeth l, and Sarah Bernhardt as Hamlet, whom Michelle discovered is, ironically, a dead ringer for Perry’s female persona. Other imagery including royal coats of arms, memento mori, and modern iconography were printed, sized, transcribed, and scratched into a North Devon portrait jug of the ‘Queen of Clay’.

Michelle adapted designs used in Elizabethan and Georgian archetypes to create a fictitious coat of arms and emblems made up of Perry’s own works including the famed Alan Measles. On the reverse, she couples the event of the birth of ‘Baby G’ creating the Prince’s imagined coat of arms. A cherubic St George and the dragon at the center of a BP ‘Helios’ logo is flanked by the lion and dragon Erickson resurrects from Elizabeth the first’s reign. This satirical and playful history references both Perry’s and Erickson’s predilection toward transmuting ceramic and art history through a modern visual landscape.