Found Ceramic Fragments

by Lucy Elsie Harvey

Intended as a ‘kind of portrait’, Pitzhanger Manor-House was designed by the architect John Soane in 1800. It accommodated a growing collection of paintings, books, architectural drawings and fragments, later to form the collection which you can now see at Sir John Soane’s Museum at 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

In 1810 Soane sold the House. With remarkably little alteration, it passed through a succession of owners until 1901 when the building was sold to Ealing District Council. You can read more about the history of the House here.


From my recent visit to the Soane Museum I came to realise that Sir John Soane and myself not only share a passion for collection and presentation but a mutual interest in broken figurative examples. I was drawn to the more extreme examples of this in the museum, the uncanny limbless and headless forms lurking from the dark nooks and crannies of the Crypt area, intended to educate Soanes students in sculpture repair. Out of context however they seemed darkly humorous and rather surreal.

I was immediately drawn to the carved stone leg hanging lackadaisically against a wall from a crude wire support. An odd juxtaposition of careful repair work with an unskilled and purely functional approach to it’s display chimed in with my own research into repair processes and the role of function in craft objects.

Study from the Sir John Soane Museum

Soane opened his collection to educate ‘amateurs and students’ but the appeal of the collection’s multitude is universal. My collection of ceramic shards and figurative fragments, found on walks around farm land, functions as my own personal treasure trove of narrative. Finding and acquiring these ambiguious objects allows me indulge the follies of my imagination. The acts of ownership – plucking them from the soil, cleaning, displaying and storing them – allow me to reflect ideas and rework versions of the world around me. I am quite sure John Soane would have empathised.

Stairwell at Pitzhanger Manor

In using these finds for my response to Soane’s collection at Pitzhanger this September I hope not to educate but to inspire a flurry of narrative and challenge notions of repair.


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