Exercise 7 – Ceramics

Exercise 7 – Illustrations for ceramics

From the research

From my earlier research, Ai Weiwei and Grayson Perry were the better examples found for contemporary ceramics that could function as the object intended.  From my extended research, I’ve found that many ceramic artists tend towards the weird and wonderful and play on sculptures in ceramics that conflict with the senses.  They opt for materials that are hard and constructions that imply soft textures.  They’re wonderful, but not for this exercise.

The blue willow patterns

During the 17th, Orientalism was a popular form of study, and the designs and patterns became popular in design.  During the 18th Century, trade between Europe and East Asia meant that the popularity of objects from these areas became more commonplace.  Coupled with the Industrial revolution of the Victorian period and increase of mass produce goods, hand-painted objects were suddenly converted to printed forms and glazes, and as such were more affordable than the originals.  They became popular household objects.


The pattern is very distinct.  It has a scene depicting a willow tree and a number of symbols and events occurring around it.  Each section details a part of the story. 

google sourced image of blue willow pattern story –

The blue on white porcelain pattern which was extremely popular during the 18th century, was hand-painted and extremely expensive.  However, as mentioned, glazing processes and printing forms meant it could be reproduced in a cheaper context and thus sold at a fraction of the cost of the original.  People felt they had a sense of design in their home.

google sourced image of blue willow pattern


Following on from my research into Ai Weiwei and Grayson Perry, I wanted to create a very basic mimic of a blue willow pattern within the context of a story or setting that is modern.  Grayson mentions in his interviews from research, that he uses the radio and listening to the news as a source of inspiration for images.  Ai Weiwei has used current situations on migrants and refugees as a way to depict stories on plates that mimic the blue willow pattern but reflect modern society.

I wanted to see what a pattern with this consideration might look like but without going into a commentary on social or political issues.  My main focus was on how I could put an image on a plate and use my research effectively.  For this exercise I chose to focus on a seasonal aspect so chose ‘Halloween’.  This was in part because it is September while doing this exercise and already there is a sense of a change in the weather.  October is soon, this month has a magical quality to it and it often has a sense of mysticism and other-worldly about it.


From word associations with ‘Halloween’ I  created some sketches, then jotted down some focus points and how I’d consider seeing these patterns in the future.

The pumpkin is in a ring around the plate as it is the key vegetable that is linked to October.  They also grow extremely big and can take over the garden, so by having them packed around the plate you get a sense of this. 

The house is implied to be a Witches home, with a broom outside and a hat, leaning on the side of the house.  There are more pumpkins outside and the circle is echoed throughout the image.  I’ve put the image a little to the left as to indicate a slightly ‘off’ setting.  Putting it in the centre is too organized and I wanted a slight discordancy to the layout.

I’ve kept it in a blue tone but it is definitely more in a grey and muted blue scheme.  The stars are laid out to bring your eye across from the ghost to the moon, which then leads you down to the cat, down to the broom and hat and then over to the pumpkins and steps and finish at the last pumpkins.  The idea being that it wisps you down like magical smoke.

The bats are faint as they’re far away.


As an exercise in illustrating for ceramics it was interesting. 

You have a few things to consider:

  1. Size of the plate
  2. Colour of plate or design
  3. Texture
  4. Whether it is part of a set

Based on the size of the plate, this design was for a plate size of 10-12inches.  It could be used as a side plate but the assets created can be isolated and put on smaller plates or saucers.  This would wrap around a mug too, and a ghost could be printed on the interior of the mug.

I’ve made a good start, I’d probably go back and do a higher resolution illustration.  These were done at 300dpi in Procreate but for printing purposes, I’d have to use vector images to ensure a cleaner finish, unless I was going for a particular style of finish.


Image of Blue Willow China (2021) Wikipedia

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Chinoiserie (2021) Wikipedia


[accessed 28.09.21]

Willow pattern (2021) Wikipedia


[accessed 28.09.21]

Llyod-Smith (2021) Contemporary ceramic artists breaking the mould


[accessed 22.09.2021]

20 artists shaping future ceramics (2017) artsy.net


[Accessed 22.09.2021]