Currently, the vibrantly colored pieces are scattered around Sandy Brown’s studio, a former sailmaker’s loft in the North Devon shipbuilding town of Appledore.
In a few weeks, they will be transported to a town in Cornwall and put together to become the tallest ceramic sculpture in Britain, possibly in the world.
Earth Goddess will soar 12 meters high above the city of St Austell and become southwestern England’s answer to the Angel of the North.
It is hoped that the sculpture – made from materials as diverse as Appledore muzzle and Cornish porcelain – will attract tourists and give a further boost to the area’s growing reputation as a place to see and make art.
“I’ve lived with her for two years,” Brown said as she gave the Guardian a sneak peek at the nearly-finished work. “It will be sad to see her go. The place will feel a little empty without her.”
Earth Goddess was commissioned as part of an art and regeneration project celebrating the fantastic history of china in St. Petersburg. Austell.
The discovery of the material used to make products, including paper, rubber, and paint, made St Austell Silicon Valley in the 18th and 19th centuries. It created thousands of jobs and a striking addition to the landscape – the bright white and sharp-tipped prey peaks nicknamed the Cornish Alps.
Earth Goddess is to be the center of a ceramic sculpture trail in the city. She began with what Brown described as a “doodle” in clay at his desk in the corner of her studio.
“I did not think or plan, just tingled, but as far as I am concerned, this is where the best things come from.” What emerged was a “vague female form” – and the idea of a giant earth goddess.
Brown took advice from an engineering friend, who pointed out that the original shape she had imagined was not practical because flat pieces sticking out would catch the wind. Then a slimmer, curvy shape emerged.
A limiting factor was the size of the study oven. Brown has one of the largest in the UK, but she had to make the body into 15 separate pieces in order to fire them.
Brown said she was confident Earth Goddess would become the largest ceramic sculpture in Britain, and she has yet to find a major one in the world. “I keep expecting people to tell me there is one, but they have not yet.”
In addition to being large, the sculpture is also very light – a revolt of swirling red, yellow and cobalt oxide blue. Like the great Cornish potter Bernard Leach, Brown studied in Japan.
While Leach is better known for more muted tones, Brown went a lighter route. “When I started 50 years ago, there seemed to be a belief that studio ceramics should be brown. I preferred color. “
The sections are decorated with circles. “I call them rounds,” Brown said. “The circle is a symbol of unity, harmony – so it feeds into the idea of the earth goddess.”
She has used porcelain brushes as a base. “It’s an extremely fine material and shows the bright colors beautifully – it makes them shine.”
Brown is currently working on tiles made of china to be used to create a base around the statue. They are covered with Appledore mud, which she scoops from the river right in front of her house.
“It’s creamy and buttery, it feels like you can butter it on toast,” she said. When burned, it gets a nice rusty color with golden spots.
Earth Goddess will be presented to the world in early April. “I can’t wait to see her installed,” Brown said. “I have no idea what people will think of her. I hope they will be proud.”