Louise Daneels began creating her signature ceramic replicas of everyday objects during her master’s degree in illustration at KASK School of Arts in Ghent, Belgium. She tells us: “My first contact with clay was during my Erasmus year in Leipzig. In our illustration class, we were set a project around space. I wanted to recreate the inside of the international space station bathroom, because I find it fascinating how astronauts do their personal hygiene in space. I had to find a material to make ‘space hygiene tools’ with, and air-drying clay seemed the nicest and easiest material to work with.”
Having taught herself – via YouTube tutorials – how to use a kiln, how to achieve different glazing and colour effects and how to handle different types of clay, Louise now makes 3D illustrative works that focus on the paraphernalia of personal hygiene, as well as the items that we handle on a daily basis. These are objects that we often give little thought to beyond their functional uses: bottles of moisturiser, sponges, toothbrushes, tampons, nail clippers, washing up liquid, mouthwash, cartons of juice, bottled water and packaged foods. They are disposable, perishable things, immortalised in clay. Indeed, Louise playfully points out the mundane nature of the objects she chooses to render in clay, emblazoning some models with the word “everyday”.
Most recently, Louise focussed her practice on crafting objects that hold personal significance for her, to create a kind of store-cupboard installation filled with ceramic replicas that, for her, refer to specific memories and feelings. She tells us: “I made a selection of objects that play an important role in my memories and my personal life story. By being the archaeologist of my own memories, I tried to bring the memories back to life in ceramic sculptures. The work brings up a memory-game of associations and stories.” By taking intangible memories and externalising them as material objects, Louise connects viewers to her personal experiences through the surroundings and things that give a visual, tactile context for that which cannot be perceived directly.
Recreating these everyday things in an artistic medium also brings a new dimension of intrigue to objects of utility. In fact, they lose their utility entirely, instead becoming purely ornamental. In this sense, the world Louise creates is not without humour. There is certainly a tongue-in-cheek element to the rendering of functional objects, tools and foods in a medium that completely cuts them off from their intended uses – or from their edibility. Of her process, Louise says: “I usually refer to the real object, although for my Memory Shelves project, I had to use my imagination and memory to construct the object. But if I make something organic, such as sausages, lemons or apples, I usually do it by imagination. I think that makes everything slightly more playful.”
Louise tells us: “The passion for ceramics came from my grandmother, who makes porcelain dolls. I’ve seen her making them since I was born. I was always fascinated when I entered her workspace and saw all the porcelain heads, bodies and her huge collection of old fabrics. My dad, grandmother and I developed the tradition of going to flea markets – somehow we all like to collect stuff, from coat hangers to vintage packagings and plastic scoubidou bottles. I’m always surrounded by my collections and they keep inspiring me every day.” Louise’s veneration of “stuff” resonates with her work, where the emphasis shifts from the everyday uses of objects to their material and aesthetic presence, their decorative appearance and the sentimental value that they carry.