Artist In Residence: Magdalene Odundo

Wedgwood’s Artist in Residence programme invites creatives to work alongside the craftspeople within our factory in Stoke-on-Trent, England, allowing them to express their creative vision through new manufacturing techniques and ceramic materials.
Magdalene Odundo’s residency explores the abolition of slave trade and Josiah Wedgwood’s contribution as a ceramicist, but also a humanist.

A Moment Of Reflection

This one-of-a-kind creation speaks to both the past and the present, utilising jasperware’s universal capacity for material storytelling.

One Of The World’s Most Revered Ceramic Artists

Magdalene Odundo is one of the world’s most eminent and admired contemporary ceramic artists working today. Celebrated for her hand-built vessels which often speak of her cultural heritage but without having to copy it, managing to make the pieces of-the-time, akin to the approach of Josiah Wedgwood.

“I wanted to deconstruct and reconstruct something that would be spectacular and totally contrasting to my own work. Because this was a residency, I was mindful that I would never get another chance to make work that was different from my personal ceramics, work that challenged me and that might challenge my co-collaborators at the Wedgwood Factory”.

“I wanted to reflect on the history that is past.”

The piece is inspired by Magdalene’s admiration of Josiah Wedgwood’s creative and artistic sensibility, and reforming attitude highlighted by his advocacy of the abolitionist movement. The design concept took inspiration from Wedgwood’s rich archive, namely the historic anti-slavery medallions as well as Wedgwood's correspondence with anti-slavery campaigner Olaudah Equiano a freed slave dating back as early as 1745.

Crafted of the Mesmerising
Jasper Material

The large-scale, towering centrepiece was created using historic moulds from the Wedgwood library, Magdalene then turning them upside down to change the emphasis of the classic Borghese mould. The piece is made of the iconic Jasperware material in Black and Cane (gold) colours, which was first developed by Josiah Wedgwood in the 1770s. The contrasting jasper materials chosen require precise and exacting care with refined skill and, techniques honed over years by Wedgwood craftspeople.

A Contrast of Beauty and Brutality

The tiered surfaces are adorned with decorative jasper ornamentation with scenes that explore the legacies of slavery while demonstrating the urgency of contemporary political advocacy and protest.

“We live within this contrast of beauty but brutality as well. Today in 2024, we are surrounded by the real brutalities of what we can do to each other: through the wars going on and, through poverty. At the same time, we do have this beautiful world to live in. The fact that we still see beautiful things happening is a contradiction at the same, a reality. I want the piece not to necessarily just be negative; I want the piece to contain both.”

A Storied Exhibition

This unique piece is on display at the esteemed Houghton Hall in Norfolk, England through the end of September 2024. The exhibition showcases existing and new works spanning Magdalene’s 40-year career, with her Wedgwood Artist in Residence masterpiece a highlight of the presentation.