Contemporary Fine art Gallery in South Devon

Caroline Mercer

Caroline came to Devon in 1992 to study Art and Education at St Lukes School of Education, Exeter. Since then she has been a Primary School teacher for twenty years and more recently was Head of the Plymouth School of Creative Arts. She has now decided to follow her heart and has given up teaching in order to work as an artist full time. Caroline now works out of Ocean Studios, at the Royal William Yard in Plymouth. She lives in Salcombe.

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I always wanted to be an artist and a primary school teacher and I have been fortunate enough to be both. My maternal grandfather, John Ellerton, was an English teacher and took us on loads of exciting adventures, told us stories. He bought me art books, paints and brushes and always encouraged me to walk my own path. He came to my art shows and bought my work, he was my best collector.

I was also inspired by my paternal grandmother, Joan Mercer. I have kept her name as my artist name. She was a painter and ahead of her time. She used to make clay busts of people and then use them to paint from. I remember playing with clay in her studio as a very small child. We made models of our family dog, I can still smell the oils and turps in that room.

I have always been fascinated by the human face and particularly what the face can tell without words. Perception and assumption. Also, how people can put on a mask to show what we want people to see or to hide what we don't want people to see.

I didn't know I was going to make ceramic portraits but as I did I started thinking about both my grandparents and their talent for collecting stories and describing things in words, clay, paint. I hand-build. I cut and roll pieces of clay into different textures like hessian. These pieces are like the experiences and memories that make us. I build intuitively. Sometimes I know the "look" I want to show, sometimes I know the feeling, or moment I want to share... Sometimes I have a drawing to follow and sometimes it just happens. I enjoy that process.

Original ceramic portraits by Caroline Mercer