"Heirloom" Collection: Medical Wonders

Cancer from the Heirloom collection

Tamsin van Essen's ceramic apothecary jars are diseased - by design. Some are suffering from cancer, some from osteoporosis. One is burdened with a bad case of acne.

She locates her work “at the interface between design and art”, and rightly so. The work is richly layered with meaning. Each piece is unique, made through a process that she develops specifically to recreate the desired symptom. Most are impossible to manufacture, like the one that requires a coating of mayonnaise before baking.

The resulting surface textures are surprisingly repulsive. Baked clay has always had a tactile appeal to me, so I never expected that it could make my skin crawl. It’s great to experience the dark side of a medium, and Tamsin’s work does just that.

Psoriasis (detail) from the Heirloom collection

Because her designs are based on extensive research, they can also function as educational tools that communicate real information about the diseases. Doctors and medical advocacy groups, seeing the potential, have already started contacting her for images. I imagine her on the phone with an interested doctor, describing her work to them as she did to me: "Oh, and I also have Syphilis" :)

Tamsin van Essen: http://www.vanessendesign.com

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