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A ceramic trickster who makes witty versions of 1950s designs

Ceramicist Helen Johannessen, who founded her brand Yoyo Ceramics in 2003, often takes archetypal examples of 1950s design and gives them a fresh, witty, pop twist. If a trompe l’oeil image normally creates the illusion that a 2-D image is 3-D, Johannessen gives this conceit a further twist by creating trompe l’oeil pieces in 3-D. Take her ceramic Condiment Pot (second pictiure, £20 each) and Butter Dish (£26), which playfully masquerade as plastic Tupperware containers.

Her ability to create these optical illusions stems partly from having once worked as a model-maker in the film industry at Shepperton Studios. “This skill has influenced me to make things that aren’t made of the material they’re originally made of yet look as if they are,” says Johannessen, who mainly uses plaster moulds when making her pieces (and who has a sideline creating moulds for other designers).

Rather than simulating the pearly pastels of frosted plastic 1950s Tupperware, her versions come in opaque, juicy pop colours: orange, sunshine yellow, mint green or dark blue. Another trompe l’oeil piece is her Sink Tidy (for sponges, say) shaped like a rumpled Marigold washing-up glove (£20).

Johannessen also puts her contemporary twist on 1950s retro with a plate that parodies Enid Seeney’s classic 1950s Homemaker crockery but is decorated with images of post-1950s designs such as Philippe Starck’s Juicy Salif lemon squeezer, popular in the 1990s (£22.50).


Other pieces – such as her fruit-shaped dishes (first picture, £14.50 each) – have a purely fun, more generically retro vibe.

Overall, Johannessen’s forte is creating pieces that faithfully mimic other objects. “Some of my Tupperware-like pieces have lids turned up at the corners in the same way that plastic warps over time,” she says. Indeed, it’s often her incorporation of well-observed details that allows her to pull off her illusionist’s tricks so convincingly.


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