House & Garden | Need To Now

Bid for a one-off blooming bargain

The Ceramic Gardener’s online auction blossoms

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Bid for a one-off blooming bargain

February 01 2012
Vicki Reeve

Seed pods, poppy heads, ranunculus, garlic flowers, banksia and even beefwood are among the subjects of Frances Doherty’s beautiful – sometimes curiously so – ceramic sculptures. Working from her studio in Normandy, The Ceramic Gardener is inspired by the minutiae of flora: “I particularly love the secret worlds inside these flowers, the patterns and textures hidden away that give a continuing sense of promise and renewal.” It’s this interest in the inner workings of plants that has inspired Doherty to create oversized blooms and seed cases: “I like to imagine the size that a plant must appear to an insect… What is it about the flower that attracts or repels?”

All Doherty’s stoneware sculptures are first thrown on the wheel, and she then models onto them. Importantly, they are high-fired so that they can all be displayed indoors or out – which is great news for those whose gardens need some colour at this time of year, or some fascinating new focal points, such as the sea-urchin-like Blue Seed Case, the fabulous Pineapple Lily or the voluptuous Lime Green Dahlia. You will want to touch all of them – even the spiny-looking Thistle (second picture).

Great news also is Doherty’s latest initiative: a monthly online auction of sculpture that is either a prototype, slight seconds or has “simply been sitting in my studio with no home to go to”. As she says, some of these might have small firing faults, but she will photograph them clearly and describe them exactly.

This month’s item is another gloriously intriguing piece, a plaque-style, circular Ranunculus Centre (first picture) in aqua-green and cream whose petals – almost like rows of teeth – draw the viewer further and further into the centre. Simply drop Doherty an email stating your bid, and she’ll update her website every time she gets a higher offer. The winner will be informed by the end of the month. There is no reserve price, so a real bargain could be in the offing. January’s iridescent prototype of a Green Seed Case (third picture), for example, went for just £125 (plus p&p).

If what’s on offer isn’t quite what you wanted, Doherty’s sculptures can be seen at The Affordable Art Fair in Battersea from March 15-18 – and she also works to commission. Naturally.