© Claire Lovett 2009/2010

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By Claire Lovett, May 31 2015 07:40PM

Life and death Pompeii and Herculaneum

28 March – 29 September 2013

The British Museum's major exhibition Life and Death Pompeii and Heculaneum is the first ever held on these important cities at the British Museum, and the first such major exhibition in London for almost 40 years. It is the result of close collaboration with the Archaeological Superintendency of Naples and Pompeii, and brings together over 250 fascinating objects, both recent discoveries and celebrated finds from earlier excavations. Many of these objects have never before been seen outside Italy. The exhibition has a unique focus, looking at the Roman home and the people who lived in these ill-fated cities.

Back in May 2012, I was approached by a Buyer from the British Museum Company and asked if I would like to produce a collection of ceramic pieces inspired by Roman urns and the wall paintings and frescos of Pompeii and Herculaneum, to be sold in the Grenville room shop for the duration of the exhibition. This is an exciting opportunity and I feel honoured to have been asked to create work for such a prestigious institution.

Adapting my existing moulds and using new screen-printed patterns, I have produced a collection four different pieces:


Inspired by Roman urns and the wall paintings and frescos of Pompeii and Herculaneum, this decorative vase is press-moulded from paper clay. The layered peeling edges are screen printed with sections of the Garden and Doves Fresco discovered at the House of the Golden Bracelet, on the western edge of Pompeii. They become deteriorated during firing revealing glimpses of a mosaic pattern underneath - this piece is reminiscent of the archaeological relics excavated from Pompeii.

Executed upon freshly laid plaster, the Fresco paintings of Pompeii became an integral part of the wall with the setting of the plaster. In a similar way, this vase has been created on plaster moulds and built up in layers. Once the moulds are removed, the result is the impression of having been ripped from a wall, and the firing process fixes the print onto the clay.


Inspired by the deteriorated wall paintings of Pompeii and Herculaneum this double-sided shallow vase is imprinted with textured wallpaper and reveals fragments of a face taken from a wall painting.


These teacups are inspired by a cup found preserved after the volcanic eruption and featured in the Life and death Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition.

Made from stoneware paperclay, the extended layered edges are printed with sections of fresco and mosaic patterns, which deteriorate during the firing process.


These hanging bird decorations are inspired by the birds featured in many of the Pompeian frescos (painted walls) of garden scenes, including the one discovered in the House of the Golden Bracelet.

For more information visit the British Museum website here:


By Claire Lovett, May 31 2015 04:18PM

"Faded words, decaying surfaces, peeling wallpaper, and flaking paint - history is richly documented all around us, often in the most overlooked of places"

My love of ageing surfaces often lands me quizzical looks when I'm caught taking snaps of rusty metal, flaking paint and other crumbling derelict stuff! Images of urban deterioration, weathered and worn surfaces, the collections at the British Museum and the V&A, as well as Cities such as Paris and Barcelona particularly inspire me.

My work encompasses my interests in nostalgia and the power of time. The effect time has on our surroundings and surfaces, as well as the change and progression caused by its passage is particularly intriguing. It creates beauty in the old and abandoned, and locks history into our surroundings.

This idea of history being ‘locked’ in our surroundings is unmistakable in old houses, where layer upon layer of wallpaper, plaster and paint is often found; the present generation literally papering over the past. Peeling back those layers reveals this history, uncovering secrets and memories from those that lived there before, much like an archaeological discovery. These concepts prompted me to begin researching my own ancestry and family tree.

The idea of archaeology became another key interest of mine, and this quote by Julian Thomas (Professor of Archaeology) who ironically was born in my home town of Epsom, Surrey is particularly inspiring:

‘[Archaeology] evokes notions of the repressed, the lost and the forgotten, and the drama of discovery which are often spatialised in terms of the relationship between depth and surface.’

The ceramic pieces I make draw inspiration from these notions of ancestry and generations. My collection ‘Uncovering my Roots’ is based upon three generations and individuals from my family: Thomas born in 1881, Charles born in 1844, and Mary born in 1810. My aim was to create a ‘family’ of objects, each one representing one of these eras, and collectively documenting the passage of time. When stood in sequence, the deteriorated surface of each piece peels to reveal the surface from the generation before.

These three pieces in particular celebrate British history and my heritage. They induce memories and a sense of nostalgia. They are reminiscent of archaeological relics, using historical British wallpapers, and forms to reveal the past and expose history. Each piece is unique evoking an emotional response from those who encounter them.

Claire Lovett - head shot