Lockdown Vases

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The Lockdown Vases are a large art project I created to deal with the overwhelm of the Corona pandemic and the lockdown in Ireland.

For 100 consecutive days, I fashioned a vase a day, using different techniques, experimenting with various clays and colours, and exploring new shapes and designs.

 

Some of the vases reflect experiences I’ve had during that time, others mirror news items broadcast throughout the pandemic.

 

As a collection, the Lockdown Vases represent my three-dimensional pandemic journal; each vase is date-stamped with its day of creation, starting with the first vase on the 26th March 2020, and finishing with the last one on the 3rd July.

 

The Lockdown Vases are a large art project I created to deal with the overwhelm of the Corona pandemic and the lockdown in Ireland.

For 100 consecutive days, I fashioned a vase a day, using different techniques, experimenting with various clays and colours, and exploring new shapes and designs. Some of the vases reflect experiences I’ve had during that time, others mirror news items broadcast throughout the pandemic. As a collection, the Lockdown Vases represent my three-dimensional pandemic journal; each vase is date-stamped with its day of creation, starting with the first vase on the 26th March 2020, and finishing with the last one on the 3rd July.

Documenting the pandemic in vases – a different type of time capsule. At a time we were urged by historians to keep journals for future generations, when many put together time capsules to reflect our life during the Corona pandemic, Ella Szczerbak has found a different way to capture this historic event. Ella, a mother-of-two who runs a thriving                    ceramics business together with her husband Lukasz, as well as working as a full-time chef and teaching ceramic classes, found herself with a lot of unexpected time on her hands when Ireland went into full lockdown. “Around the 10th March this year, we heard that the schools were going to be closed for a couple of weeks. All our ceramic courses were cancelled, and the tourist and gift shops we usually sell stock to closed down. All of a sudden, I had more time than I could previously have dreamed of, along with a fully equipped workshop right next to my house and lots of clay. So I set to work.”

Ella explains that she didn’t start out with a big art project in mind. “I only meant to take my mind of things. The bad news streaming in from all over the world overwhelmed me, and working with clay is incredibly therapeutic. I simply wanted to focus on something else but the Covid crisis, so I started experimenting with a few different techniques that I had always wanted to try, but never had time for before this.”

“Clay is a fascinating medium – it really works like meditation for me, it lets me leave all my trouble and bad thoughts behind. Within a few minutes of getting my hands on a bowl of clay, I escape into a different world; a bubble that no one else can penetrate. Working with clay is a never-ending journey, there are so many ways to explore it. When I started working on the vases, I had no great plan, I just went along with where it took me.”

Ella date-stamped the vases from the start, just as a reminder of the time she created them in. Starting with slip casting techniques, she moved on to slab building and coiling, fashioning different shapes and designs. “Making a vase every evening very soon became part of my daily routine. My husband asked me many times why I was making them – some days, I even asked myself the same thing, but I just wanted to be creative during these strange times.”

Soon the vases took on a life of themselves. From the beginning, Ella posted pictures of her creations on Instagram, and the reaction to them was so positive, that she gave her Lockdown Vases their own account (@lockdownvases) and the hashtag #onevaseadaychallenge. “One evening, I realized I had made over 33 pieces. I couldn’t believe it – and I decided to keep going until I had made 100 vases.”

The designs of the vases document Ella’s lockdown experience in detail. Some reflect news items, like the Italian balcony singers – others form their own small cycles within the bigger collection, like a series of faces covered in masks. The Easter vase shows a Corona virus chain, disposable plastic gloves and Easter bunnies wearing face masks, alongside the more traditional flowers and colourful eggs.

“When we heard that Ireland was taking steps to reopen again, and we knew that the lockdown was coming to an end, my mood lifted – I felt relieved and hopeful, and I think that reflects in my vases, too”, Ella says. She continued and reached the goal she set herself, finishing her last vase, the 100th piece, on Friday the 3rd July 2020.

Overall, Ella used over 150kg of 5 different types of clay. “It was a journey – or maybe a journal, really, a diary – my three-dimensional pandemic journal.” Each vase is unique and different from the others. While Ella started exploring one shape in particular, an organic, flowing shape she loved working with, she experimented with different colours and glazing. In her Lockdown Vases, we encounter shades we don’t usually see in her Mood Designs creations – earthy tribal colours as well as airy shades of spring and summer.

Each one of the 100 Lockdown Vases is date-stamped with its day of creation, from the first one on the 26th March to the last one on the 3rd July 2020. Because there was no initial plan to create a project of these proportions, the Lockdown Vases developed quite naturally. “They are one large piece of art, and I would love to see them exhibited as a whole before they are sold.” However, demand for vases created on certain dates is high already, so that Ella is taking pre-orders for a time when the Lockdown Vases will be released for sale.

How does Ella feel about the vases finding new owners? She replies: “I was reluctant to agree to sell the vases, but I will always have the memory of this time; and I wouldn’t miss that for the world. I learned so much about ceramics, but even more about myself. This is my lockdown story, a journey I travelled, and I am proud of my achievement.”

Vases by number (1-100)

and date (26/03/20 - 03/07/20)

Irish ceramics pottery County Mayo collection 100 vases Lockdown Va

© 2020 The Mood Designs.