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Coronavirus Temporary Closure: Please note that Kettle’s Yard House and Gallery will be closed from 17 March 2020. You can keep up to date with the latest information here.

Café, galleries and shop: Tuesday – Sunday 11am – 5pm

House: Tuesday – Sunday 12  – 5pm

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Last entry to the House is at 4.30pm

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What are artists thinking and doing? We hope you enjoy the seventh in our series of ‘Reflections from Home’. No.7: Jennifer Lee, Peckham, London.

Studio window

Jennifer Lee: ‘I rearranged my rust collection on my studio wall. The exhaust pipe was found in a derelict farm in the middle of Spain, spade in the Thames, and most of the rest brought back from Scotland.’

Smashing up coloured clay

Close up drying coloured clay

‘The last event I attended before lockdown was the opening of Edmund de Waal’s deeply moving “library of exile” at the British Museum. Later that evening I heard that the World Health Organisation had declared Covid-19 to be a pandemic. I always work from home, so in many ways my situation is unchanged, but the reality is different. I’ve found lockdown an incredibly hard time to focus. Making pots can ground me but at the moment it’s almost impossible to find the focus to begin. I’ve thought about my own mortality. I’ve only twice felt this way before. The first when I was near Mount St. Helens when it erupted in Oregon in 1980, and second, last year, during the typhoon when I was working in Mashiko, Japan. The day I left there was an earthquake. Everyone stood stock still, waiting to see when it would be over.

The importance of my childhood and roots in Scotland flood back. My mother is 91 and lives on the family farm in Aberdeenshire. Arranging care for her from afar has been emotional. At times I’ve felt melancholic – I long to go north.

Practical jobs are easy: mixing clay, making test-tiles, reorganising coloured clay batches. I made a broom from bamboo and old sheeting the way my father would make a rope and binder twine hearth brush on the farm in my childhood. Drawing has been the best way for me to immerse myself back into work. I feel a sense of heightened awareness and look more closely at what is here in front of and about me. Everything seems exaggerated. A plane crossing the sky sounds and looks alien. The light is brighter, more intense, shadows more memorable, skies clearer, sounds elevated, magnolia leaves enormous, a dandelion stalk the longest I’ve ever seen, jasmine more prolific and almost intoxicating. Banana leaves unfurl as I gaze through the window. I have watched cut avocado stones magically change colour. The pace of lockdown life feels different. Time slows down, yet it’s always midnight and days slide by.’

– Jennifer Lee, June 2020

Drawing a stone

Jennifer Lee, Aberdeenshire stone, pencil on paper, 22.8×26.8cm, 2020. Drawn for “Masks for Scotland” charity auction.

Jennifer Lee: ‘I’ve been looking at avocados. When cut through the stone the colour of the stone alters and discolouration happens fast. It’s possible to mark the stone and also when the flesh is removed allow the skin to dry into forms.’

Cross section of an avocado

Photograph by Jake Tilson

Image Top Left: Studio shelves, eucalyptus leaves from India


Andrew Nairne, Director of Kettle’s Yard, writes: ‘we are asking artists we have worked with to offer their reflections from home, at a time when millions around the world are homebound.

Jim Ede, its creator, described Kettle’s Yard as “a space, an ambience, a home”. For Ede, the home was a social place in which art and life might become inseparable. As the artist Anthea Hamilton has observed, the Kettle’s Yard House can also be understood as ‘a state of mind’. Of course, for many the concept of ‘home’ is also deeply personal, and often economic and political too, as our recent exhibition ‘Homelands: Art from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan’, explored. For Jim Ede, who never forgot his time in the trenches in WW1, Kettle’s Yard was a welcoming sanctuary, a place of renewal and insight which could sharpen how we engage and act in the world’.

More about Jennifer Lee

In 2019 we were delighted to welcome Jennifer Lee to Kettle’s Yard for a solo exhibition, Jennifer Lee: the potter’s space.

Jennifer Lee: the potter’s space, Kettle’s Yard, 2019, installation view. Photo: Stephen White

Jennifer Lee: the potter’s space, Kettle’s Yard, 2019, installation view. Photo: Stephen White

The exhibition was accompanied by a new publication which you can purchase here.

Listen to Jennifer Lee in conversation with Helen Ritchie (Associate Curator, Fitzwilliam Museum) and independent curator Sarah Griffin here.

Visit Jennifer Lee’s website here.

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