27 Dec Marvellous Miniature Ceramics
In recent days, miniature ceramics have been flooding my social media accounts, I had already seen tiny bowls and pots in the context of doll’s houses aimed at children, however, whilst watching several time lapse videos of potters making tiny vases, I felt totally awe stricken and drawn into the exquisite detail and craft of such small creations. The world of miniature ceramics is so alluring, addictive and heartwarming, taking us back to the feelings of our childhood, when we felt we had more control.
The feeling we have when met with tiny objects is backed up by science. In 1943, German ethologist Konrad Lorenz coined the term ‘Baby Schema’, an effect that helps us understand why we perceive a baby as ‘cute’, because of their large eyes, and round face. This effect calls for adults to feel more parental, with an urge to take care of that small baby. When we come face to face with these adorable things, a hormone called oxytocin is released which makes us feel love, yet it’s not exclusively for babies, kittens and puppies, but pretty much anything tiny, like the things that fit into one hand. We simply cannot resist the urge to cuddle and nurture it.
In February 2021 in Madagascar, scientists discovered the world’s smallest reptile known to man, a chameleon with a total body and tail length of 22mm. People from all over the world were moved by this finding. I love reading about these discoveries because it reminds me of the extraordinary beauty and power of nature that lives in such a small package.
When it comes to miniature ceramics, our childhood memories kick in and we think about our doll’s houses, and our lego creations – the thrill and excitement of building, designing and controlling a little world before our eyes is very powerful and continues to make us feel happy now. When humans feel in control of small objects, it can help their confidence to perform activities with less stress. Imagine the feeling of tidying and reorganising your entire home, but on a miniature scale, you have the power to influence everything in front of you with so much ease, due to the reduced size.
Artist Tilly Slightly (@fifty_shapes_of_clay) creates miniature ceramics handmade in London, UK. Her tiny vases are full glazed and functional, most of her work fits in her hand. Another miniature ceramics artist @wodeceramics uses a rainbow of coloured glazes to decorate her work, creating a highly sensory collection that looks like candy!
But is the process of making miniature ceramics any different to regular sized work? Here is a 10-minute Youtube video that shows the creation of a tiny vase from start to finish using a miniature potter’s wheel! The artist uses only her thumb, forefinger to form the cylinder, then uses a wooden tool to shape the clay into a beautiful little vase. You can see how volatile it is to work with such a small amount of clay, the slightest pressure on the walls of the clay seems to manipulate it very quickly. A lot of practice is required to transition from larger works to miniature ceramics, mostly because our hands are so much larger than the piece itself and we can often feel very clumsy when creating fine, intricate pots of this scale.
If you wish to try miniature ceramics yourself, Amazon currently sells an affordable small pottery wheel that is powered by USB, it can give you great practice to create your own miniature ceramic collections and test your wheel throwing skills!
137° Ceramic Art Studio has an intense Wheel Throwing and Slip Decoration workshop on January 15th, 16th, 22nd & 23rd 2022. These four sessions of 3 hours each will teach you the fundamental skills for wheel throwing, ideal for beginners and experienced potters. Head to the workshop page on our website to view the details and book your place!
We can easily get addicted to collecting miniatures, you can’t just have, or make, one! I think that miniature objects tend to bring us back down to earth, they ground us and offer the perspective that we often put to the back of our minds. These small, tiny ceramics can remind us of how miniature we are in this vast, ever expanding universe.
Written by Freya Saleh