The fireplace, a chipped mug, faded photos, a gift box from years ago – at first glance, I look around my flat and see a collection of things. Things that exist – mostly with some sort of purpose. Things that live in my home.
But they’re more than just things. I’ve shared a great deal of my life with these things. They have history and each one tells its own story. And it’s the same for all of us. When we get back late, tired, it’s not the house that tells you you’re home, it’s the familiarity. The knowledge that at some point, everything you share your home with, also shares a part of you. The smells, sounds, touch.
When the pages are falling out of your favourite book, why do you keep hold of it? Why not buy a new one? When you lose your favourite ring, why do you feel sad?
For artist Marion Stuart, capturing the messages that are locked away inside the simple things that surround us, forms the very basis of her work.
“I love the stories that different things tell,” says Marion. “The things that people have used and how communities are formed around them. Then sometimes how they disappear.”
Since finishing her degree in Fine Art Ceramics at Bretton Hall, West Yorkshire, Marion has always found clay to be the most logical medium for her work.
“It feels like you’re leaving a trace of yourself in each piece. I think a lot of artists want to be remembered and leave an impact on the world,” she says.
Using white porcelain clay, Marion molds meaning and stories into her bodies of work which include tools, houses and vessels – boat-like sculptures which she says are inspired by “tooth-like shipwrecks” and represent elements of both journeys and grief.
Precariously balanced, indented and slightly worn, Marion’s work echoes the fragility of life, which in turn brings our attention to the closeness between life and death.
Carefully glazed, Marion imprints messages in the form of words across the clay in a striking cobalt blue – which also reflects her passion and interest in coastal life.
“Sometimes I select words relating to my own life, sometimes they relate to other people’s worlds,” she says. “Writing is a drawing tool, an expressive tool – words can be gestural too. I do a lot of writing, thinking about things, scribbling away. Sometimes I make it so you can read the words, sometimes I obscure them.”
For Takeaway Art, Marion has created a selection of individual houses which have been imprinted with ceramic ink using a method known as silk screening.
“It’s like I’m sending them a home from my space to their space – like the pieces are returning home to their new owners,” says Marion. “I love architecture and I love temporary houses – like houses next to rivers and tidal houses on stilts.
“The writing on the houses is slightly obscured and each one is different. I then glazed them to make the wording stand out. You can peer inside them,” she says.
The delicate pieces seem warm and inviting yet absent, with each one missing its roof.
“It’s part of the fragility of a home that’s there, but not quite there.”
As well as teaching art and design at Norwich City College, Marion runs her own ceramics studio with her husband Scott called Studio Do, where she holds evening classes and also welcomes ceramists looking for a space to work.
Passionate about keeping the art alive, Marion uses her work to challenge people in their preconceptions.
“When I create, it’s like I disappear. Nothing exists except the artwork. You’re no longer there because you’re in the piece.
“I like to challenge people and make then identify with their own memory, make them listen and understand the fragility of the work – and some of it is very fragile, but that’s the beauty of it.