ceramic sculpture
UK's tallest ceramic sculpture to be erected in Cornwall Published

The tallest ceramic sculpture in the UK is to be erected in Cornwall later this year, the BBC can reveal.

Earth Goddess, by the artist Sandy Brown, will be 10.5m high – bigger than two double-decker buses on top of each other.

It is part of a project to regenerate the town of St Austell, which used to have a thriving china clay industry.

Brown says her creation, which won’t look like a conventional human figure, is designed to celebrate being a woman.

“I really wanted this sculpture to make an impact and I wanted her to be female and making an impact,” she told the BBC’s arts correspondent Rebecca Jones.

Artist Sandy Brown alongside Earth Goddess, which is currently work in progress
image captionArtist Sandy Brown alongside Earth Goddess, which is currently a work in progress

“We all have all these sculptures by well-known male artists who are doing really powerful work. Let’s have some presence of the female as well.”

Technically challenging, Earth Goddess is made of a series of five huge circles of clay, each built in three sections, placed on top of each other – a bit like giant ceramic beads on a metal pole.

With enormous outstretched arms, about 6m wide, she will be decorated with blobs and bands of bright, bold colors.

When asked exactly why she wanted to make a giant female form, Brown replied: “Because I don’t think we have one, actually, do we? And it sort of took me right back actually to my mother – my mother was criticized by her parents for being a girl.

“They were farmers, they wanted sons. And so my mother was never able to celebrate being female, so I think it’s about time that we did.”

Once complete, the sculpture will be displayed in St Austell this autumn
image caption Once completed, the sculpture will be displayed in St Austell this autumn

Brown said she agreed with Jones that ambitious projects by female artists are often overlooked and tend to create less fanfare than those made by male counterparts, such as David Gormley or Anish Kapoor.

“I think probably only when my work became much much bigger and much more ambitious, then I could say that, ‘Yes, it’s not a level playing field in the same way,” she said.

“When I’m making pots, that hasn’t been a disadvantage at all. It’s the more ambitious I’m becoming in terms of size and scale, then I can see exactly what you’re saying.”

Think differently

The sculpture, which will be unveiled in the autumn, is one of 18 public artworks commissioned by the Austell Project to celebrate the Cornish town’s history of china clay production and promote pride in the local community.

“St Austell is famous for its china clay and has been since about 1840, but St Austell as an area has seen a decline in its economic fortunes due to lower demand for china clay, and that’s led to unemployment,” Curator Alex Murdin noted.

“So the whole purpose of what we’ve been doing has been about encouraging people to think differently about their place and see it differently as well.”

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