© 2018 Anna Whitehouse Ceramics

In early 2016 I was asked to produce a collection of work for Swarm, an exhibition that focused on the decline of the honey bee - using visual art as a way to communicate a serious ecological issue and engaging the audience by suggesting ways in which they could help.

I decided to investigate the seasonal forage available to bees, contacting local bee keeping associations and the North York Moors National Park Authority, as well as scouring the extensive RHS bee friendly plant list.

Using an online database of images from a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) for reference, I hand carved and modelled porcelain specimens of larger than life pollen grains, allowing the viewer into this beautiful and hidden microscopic world.

 

Even though there were hundreds of different flowers, trees and shrubs to choose from, I was surprised to see how similar the textures and structures of the pollen grains were, also a prevalence for 3 and 6 fold symmetry became apparent. After looking at over 200 SEM images of pollen grains I finally decided on 21 specimens that were visually different from each other, flowered in the right season and could be grown in the garden at home.

 

I created 3 large wall pieces, Spring, Summer and Autumn, which show what bees are foraging on at different times of the year and, importantly, what you could be growing in your garden to help stop their decline.

Individual framed specimens, £160

Seasonal frames: 9 specimens, £1200

 

How are they made?

Each piece starts life as a flat circle of clay.

Over the course of 3 days the geometrical structure is built up and I add as much of the detailing as is possible in a 1 part mould - the joy of undercuts! This flat piece is then cast in plaster to create a 'stamp' and after a week is dry enough to use. Porcelain is pressed into it, then removed and draped over a hump mould to create the convex pollen form. This is when the surfaces can be honed, elongating spikes, deepening textures and adding in details that the plaster stamp could not produce, such as the hundreds of needle holes on the Thistle specimen.

 

The plaster stamp allows production time to speed up, making the pieces affordable, but by working into the texture of each press I am able to ensure the highest level of detail and finish, producing a truly unique porcelain specimen every time.