Fantasy, Fiction & Fun

By Louise Irvine

Heidi Warr is a dynamic ceramic artist from the UK who was drawn to all things artistic at an early age.  She visited WMODA in 2015 when she demonstrated her wheel-throwing skills at the International Ceramics and Glass Fair. During her visit, several of her works were acquired by Arthur Wiener for the museum collection and they are showcased in the Contemporary Gallery.

Heidi grew up in the sleepy Somerset village of South Petherton in England and at the age of 16, she began studying art and design at Yeovil College. An opportunity to work at the Dennis Chinaworks in Shepton Beachamp close to her home introduced her to the traditional techniques for producing art pottery and she gradually built on her skills and expertise. Over the years, Heidi was responsible for decorating many of the larger pots designed by Sally Tuffin for the studio’s collection.

Heidi’s ambition to design and decorate her own pottery prompted her to buy equipment and materials to start experimenting at home. She discovered that the tall tower shape, with its large surface area, was perfect for presenting her design ideas. She makes the tower vases in two sizes, 17 inches high and 9 ¼ inches high and each design is limited to an edition of 20.

Every one of Heidi’s pots is unique and handmade. She kneads and slabs the clay, rolling it into flat strips and assembling the towers. After making the raw pot, Heidi inks the design and transfers it to the surface. She has honed her decorating style, including slip-trailing, incising, and various painting techniques with underglaze colors, stains and oxides. The decorating process for each piece is labor intensive and there are subtle nuances in the construction, decoration and glazing as the raw materials react in an individual way.

Heidi has always loved visual illusions that trick the mind, and she particularly admires the graphic art of M.C. Escher (1898-1972.) Her black and white Butterflies vase was inspired by an Escher design, which was challenging to adapt to her tower shape. Heidi also made the design work for a much smaller bulb-shaped vase, which can be held in the palm of a hand. The organic shape symbolizes new growth like the butterfly developing inside its nurturing cocoon.

One of Heidi’s striking towers demonstrates the Café Wall geometrical-optical illusion first described in 1894 in which dividing lines between staggered rows with alternating black and white "bricks" appear sloped, not parallel as they really are. As Heidi explains, “the grey mortar line has to be just right or the illusion loses its strength.”

Heidi has always been intrigued by Celtic artwork, which she studied at college, particularly the intricacy of the knot patterns and their meaning. She wanted to convey the journey of life with her intertwining Celtic Dragon design and reflect the creature's mystical and spiritual origins. She also created a Celtic Bird design with knot work that incorporates a fantasy bird and symbolizes new beginnings and the birth of spring.

Heidi’s visit to Florida in 2015 coincided with the museum’s Seduction of the Flower exhibition and she designed three beautiful wall chargers for the occasion. Each design depicts a woman mesmerized by the seductive scent of flowers, including roses, orchids and honeysuckles, conveying the all-consuming nature of love.

Heidi often delves into magical worlds of fiction and fantasy and uses the four sides of the tower vase for the narrative to unfold. In Shakespeare’s love story of Romeo and Juliet, she portrays the balcony, the wedding, the duel and the suicide in remarkable detail. In her Dragons and Fairies design, Heidi tells the story of dragons and fairies uniting for a common cause to save laughter and song stolen from our world by a wicked witch. Unicorns and castles in the clouds add to the magic of this imposing piece which can be seen beside Josephine Wall’s Dryad and Dragon painting at WMODA.

Read about the art of Josephine Wall and the Dennis Chinaworks at WMODA.

The Fantasy Art of Josephine Wall

Through a Window · Sally Tuffin and the Dennis Chinaworks