Design a site like this with WordPress.com
Get started

overview

Welcome to my digital portfolio.  Click on the blue titles on each post to see images, inspiration, materials and dimensions of each series of work

In this digital portfolio I provide images of the many different projects I have developed. I approach society and science in a questioning way using sculpture, photography, film and sound. The starting point of much of my work is contemporary society’s relationship with world changing events such as climate change and pandemics – through history and now. The aim has always been to communicate these ideas in the most accessible and humorous way possible. Much of my inspiration comes from the strange forms found under the gaze of the microscope, but the quirkiness and energy of 1960’s design also excites me and I strives to harness this dynamism whilst commenting on our own altered world. This is art that will make you smile and always make you think.

I use hand building techniques to create hollow bodies, spikes and decorations which then emerge as dynamic ceramic sculptures. Materials such as rusty metal wires, coiled telephone wires and found objects are incorporated into my work to enhance the designs.

In 2020 I hand built 130 life size ceramic hands in a work called TERRA FIRMA Leaky Boat which explores our troubled relationship with climate change in the most vivid way. This work can be seen on my  YouTube channel

I was the winner of the Victoria & Albert Museum/Morley Gallery Ceramic Prize in 2018, and have sculptures in the Victoria Gallery Liverpool’s Permanent Collection and works on permanent display in the Liverpool University School of Engineering.

Notable exhibitions include the Gordon Pathology Museum, Guy’s Hospital London; the ARB Gallery Cambridge and the World Museum, Liverpool which paved the way for exhibition at ARTBOX, Basel, Switzerland. I have also exhibited twice in Athens. Since then I have exhibited in the Science Tent at Glastonbury Festival and in Spitalfields, London, in 2022. 

Contacts 

Website:  helenbirnbaumceramics.com/

Instagram:  instagram.com/helenbirnbaumceramics/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HelenBirnbaumCeramics/

Twitter: twitter.com/HelenCeramics

Advertisement

outbreak games, 2015

Outbreak Games introduces viruses and their exciting shapes through some familiar games. Ten brightly coloured Pop Art pieces look as delicate as coral, but as dangerous as sea mines. This exciting work has become all the more relevant as we fear that antibiotics can no longer help us.  Audiences are invited to play microbial games and help white blood cells fight infection and also look at the ceramic pictures that accompany the work.

Animation of game of chess

Materials

Ceramic stoneware glazed in Zircon White, Red Hot Tamale and Basic Bronze.

Dimensions

Chess and Draughts Boards measure 70 cm x 70 cm. The sizes of the other pieces range from 25 cm x 25 cm to 50 cm x 30 cm x 40 cm.

OUTBREAK Chess
Outbreak chess

OUTBREAK Game of Jacks
Outbreak game of Jacks

OUTBREAK Draughts
Outbreak game of draughts

ceramic transmission, 2020

Ceramic Transmission considers the transmission of disease. Electronic sound components have been integrated into four sculpted ceramic forms that can be activated by touch. Through touch, the sculptures enable greater understanding and interest in theories about disease and transmission.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the spreading of the disease via touch, the interaction with the sculptures now takes place by scanning QR codes and the playing of sounds via smart devices such as mobile phones. Since the pandemic CERAMIC Transmission has been re-imagined as a commentary about a Liverpool community during the 2020 pandemic.

Materials

Ceramic stoneware, glazed in Zircon White glaze. Small electronic sound components fit inside the sculptures which are activated by touch or QR Code.

Dimensions

Three smaller sculptural pieces measuring 30 cm x 30 cm and a large ceramic hand installation measuring 2.5 m x 2.5 m.

Divine Judgement
Divine Judgement with electronics exposed

Bad Air
Bad Air
Web of Causation
Web of Causation

anti-bacterial animals, 2019

Humanity is living at a time of enormous risk. Years of excessive use of antibiotics means that we are becoming antibacterial resistant. My contribution to this exciting collaborative project between Liverpool University and Liverpool John Moores University was to communicate life changing ideas about how we as a society combat disease at a time of antibiotic resistance – in ceramic. These antibacterial animals, with their exaggerated antibacterial textured skins were purchased by Liverpool University for permanent display.

materials

Ceramic stoneware clay and a variety of bright glazes.

dimensions

The Geckos each measure 27 cm x 20 cm, the Komodo dragon is 70 cm long whilst the shark is 22 cm x 15 cm .

Gecko family
Gecko family

Komodo dragon with MRSA on its tongue
Komodo dragon

Sharks
Shark

significant bunch of viruses, 2017

Significant Bunch of viruses is a collection of sculptural works celebrating the strangely beautiful world of microbes. It also celebrates pioneering individuals who lead the way in medical science, sometimes without even realising the impact of their work – and those ordinary people who suffered. 

Amongst these works Memorialising Disease depicts the viruses as ceramic bouquet installations; as single viruses or bacteria and finally in poignant photographs of sites of tremendous significance in the UK and Ireland.

Quarantine Boxes are wooden caskets decorated with blue cyanotype print fabric and packed with dainty ceramic bacteria.

 OUTBREAK Games depicts our battle with infections as a series of colourful games such as chess, draughts, bar billiards and more. 

The later works such as CERAMIC Transmission incorporates touch sculpture and sound installations to an exciting range of sculptures. Finally, the 2020 Pandemic is commemorated in two ceramic and metal sculptures. 

These ceramic sculptures, inspired by medicine and society, are currently finding their place in an artistic environment that explores and supports science-based art.

Materials

Ceramic stoneware, found objects and cyanotype print (Quarantine Boxes)

Dimensions

Virus sculptures measure 40 cm x 20 cm and the Quarantine Boxes measure 30 cm x 20 cm.

Slipping through the net
Slipping through the net

Coronavirus, 2020
Coronavirus, 2020

HIV
HIV
Tuberculosis Quarantine box
Tuberculosis quarantine box

terra firma leaky boat, 2021

Terra Firma Leaky boat
overview of entire work

In Terra Firma Leaky Boat 130 ceramic hands gather around hoping to get onto a rusty and leaking boat. This work was made in response to the eco refugee crisis that the world faces.

A film of Terra Firma Leaky Boat

The installation was exhibited in central Glasgow during Cop 26 at a climate change exhibition organised by Project Ability.

Materials

The majority of the hands were made in unglazed single red borne, black and white clay, but a few are taller and glaze in a mixture of white colours – these hands represent hope. The boat is a reclaimed wheelbarrow from a local wood in Lancashire, UK.

Dimensions

2.5 m x 2.5 m in the format shown in the images, but the hands can be organised according to the exhibition space available. The much smaller work shown below, has been exhibited in smaller spaces.

Detail of hands from TERRA FIRMA Leaky Boat
Smaller scale sculpture – Terra Firma Leaky boat