On any given day, you’re likely to find British illustrator and ceramicist Polly Fern in her studio happily painting with her canaries Olive and Morris nearby.
Her birdie friends appear in her work, along with other domestic animals, garden flora, and winsome figures from halcyon days, who seem to thrive on the simple, everyday pleasures of rural life.
Polly grew up in the Norfolk countryside, but now lives in Norwich City, which is the most complete medieval city in the United Kingdom. She earned her BA in First Class Illustration in 2015 from Norwich University of the Arts.
Her charming folkloric style is detailed and delicate, inspired by history, local places and childhood stories. Her ceramic vases and platters, which are modern takes on traditional shapes, are all handmade and bisque fired. Her vessels are dipped in a tin glaze before the designs are painted on with oxides and pigments.
I hand paint all of my decoration. I paper-cut a lot of my illustrations and then use the paper resist technique on raw ceramic, painting upon them with slip and peeling away the paper, then working back into the resist shapes with glazes and oxide details. It’s quite a labour-intensive process; with each piece I make taking a lot of time. But the process is important to my work and I wouldn’t enjoy it as much if it were straightforward.
Polly likes browsing antique shops and museums, wandering around market towns, and discovering gardens and buildings with a rich history of craft. Some of her ceramic pieces do look like things you’d find in a museum, and it’s fun to study the scenes she’s painted to ponder the stories taking place.
Her clients include Marks & Spencer, the MET Museum (NYC), Osaji, Pavilion Books, CARAMEL London, Home and Antiques Magazine, and Little Thing magazine. She’s also designed a line of products for Tonkachi Japan, which includes tumblers, handkerchiefs, notebooks, and iPhone cases. Her work has been displayed in various world-renowned international galleries.
In addition to her illustration work, Polly enjoys cooking and dressmaking, and hopes to someday design fabrics and create children’s books. She’d also love to have her own aviary. Her favorite foods include chocolate, figs, and pasta.
Enjoy this short video of Polly painting dogs with canaries Olive and Morris singing in the background:
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