Friday 22 March 2013

Mo Jupp

A ceramics day at the Ashmolean in Oxford, where ceramicist Mo Jupp talked about his work.  
He talked about his obssession with making helmets even though he does not know where that obssession comes from. We saw photographs of lots of his work, including a series of sculptures of women that expressed some of the misogyny that is rife in our society: a woman with a bag over her head articulating one of the expressions that boys use about women:  'she should have a bag over her head'; another one with a bird's head, denoting the way women are referred to as 'birds' by some.
I thought that some of his female forms looked a bit like the work of Louise Bourgeois, while others were clearly influenced by Giacometti - these forms were so big that he could not get them into his small kiln, so he cut them in sections and after firing he assembled them using car body filler which he made no attempt to hide.
A lot of his figures don't have heads and this is because he wants to avoid people wondering 'who is this?'
He talked about an exhibition he went to where he was really taken by a tiny Giacometti head that he liked it so much that he put it in his pocket. He said: 'it was so beautiful, I just had to have it'.  On the way out he thought 'what am I doing here?' and put the head back.
He also made quite a few female forms with glass breasts because breasts are women's most vulnerable body parts, and when feeling under any threat women's first instinctive reaction is to put their hands over their breasts.
His work started fetching such a high price that it got to the point where he could not afford to buy his own work, so he made cast figurines that he could sell for £25 so that people could afford them.  He also went through a period where is 3-dimentionalised his favourite paintings.

We then went to a demonstration where he showed us how he makes the small forms that are for sale at the Oxford Ceramics Gallery at the moment. He showed us how he uses a stick to cut through the clay, using it as an internal rolling pin and this is the basis for the legs and torso of the figures.

He showed us how he uses a toothbrush to stick various bits of clay together - none of the scoring with a knife and then applying slip with a brush that I was taught to do: this method is so sensible and easy, why has no one thought of it before? If he has to use slip, he bisquet fires the piece first before applying the slip.

We then went to the Oxford Ceramics Gallery to see the work that is exhibited there:

When a piece has been fired and is finished, he polishes it with beeswax.

There were also some helmets in the exhibition, a form that he has returned to, this time inspired by the film Ned Kelly.

But, it was the large figures from the middle years that I really liked. I have downloaded some from the internet:




and two more from the exhibition catalogue:

 A pear, another favourite motif.
In the afternoon we attended a 'conversation' between Mo Jupp and Walter Keeler, another ceramicist. A very 'light' conversation and I wish they had talked about their work more. One thing that Mo Jupp did talk about was the importance of repetition - making a whole line of similar things, as, as you go on, you get bolder and the work improves.
A most enjoyable and instructive day.


  1. A very sad day for me to have a father mentor teacher friend someone who gave me some facts of life that made me who I am I will miss you my uncle much loved much appreciated always respected and always remembered love and peace forever Stephen

  2. I am so sorry... All the best...