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  • Roger Law in his studio in China, 2011

From puppets to pots

Spitting Image co-creator Roger Law discusses his upcoming exhibition with Sarah Brownlee

Out of all the work shown at his first ever solo ceramics exhibition, Roger Law is most excited about the massive pots. ‘If I had any brains I would draw and do 2D shows because I’m actually quite good at that, but it’s not as challenging as the six foot pots,’ he laughs. ‘I like the excitement. I don’t really get that upset when they don’t work. It’s not life or death…’

Co-creator, along with artist Peter Fluck, of the legendary satirical puppet show Spitting Image, Law has a good sense of humour. And having been driven to breaking point by the show’s punishing work schedule, a sense of perspective. ‘We were very well known,’ says Law of Spitting Image, ‘but we didn’t make a lot of money. To be brutally honest it was a nightmare, in terms of work.’

Rising Crab vase, Roger Law

Law and Fluck both also dabbled in pottery, largely as a distraction from the madness of producing brilliant puppets at short notice, and also with the intention of making some extra cash. The Margaret Thatcher teapot and Ronald Reagan coffee pot, now collectors’ items, didn’t prove very lucrative at the time, but Law still looks back on the enterprise fondly.

Now his life is less frantic and more happy, in no small part thanks to his rediscovery of ceramics and a passion for China –the place, that is. The show will include around 30 pieces all produced in workshops in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi Province, over the last 10 years. Expect the big pots (actually called Paradise pots), small pots, vases, plates, and a cauldron big enough to hold a gaggle of children. Most items are finished with a celadon glaze and feature beautiful, bizarre Australian sea and freshwater creatures.

Law ‘transported himself’ to Australia to recover after Spitting Image ended in 1996 and began to study and paint the exotic marine life. The designs found their way onto ceramics after Sydney-based Chinese artist Ah Xian introduced him to the pottery workshops of Jingdezhen, and while Law now lives in north Norfolk, he still travels to China each year staying for a few months at a time to get making.

Children sit in a pot at Roger Law's studio in China

At first, Law modelled with the porcelain, but everyone else in the workshops was carving, with better results, so he followed suit. Weedy seadragons, mud skippers, long-necked turtles, sea horses, varieties of seaweed, blue paddle crabs, crayfish and octopuses can be spotted in all their weird and wonderful glory – no caricatures required.

For now, everything is hidden away in the Fens, and Law can’t wait to reveal them. Particularly the big pots. They are an astonishing three inches thick and – while at 72 he is realistic about what he can yet achieve, he’s delighted to be showing these pieces. ‘One wonders how many more times you can do something like that,’ he says with a friendly growl. Certainly, he will continue with his ceramics adventure. ‘When you open the kiln and see what you’ve got that’s as exciting as it gets and that’s exciting enough for me these days.’

The Genius of Roger Law – From Subversive Puppets to Exquisite Ceramic Pots is at Sladmore Contemporary,  from 29 October to 15 November.