Artist Martha Tayler on reinventing commemorative pottery

Commemorative plates, which almost exclusively recall royal weddings, coronations and jubilees, are often associated with dusty charity shops or antique dealers. Manchester School of Art graduate Martha Tayler subverts these expectations in her ceramic artworks, replacing royal babies with imagery that reflects modern pop culture such as Stomzy’s Heavy is the Head album cover and the reality star Gemma Collins.

I spoke to Tayler about her exploration of British taste and culture and her desire to encourage viewers to question their attitudes towards ‘low culture’.

Ceramic artwork courtesy of Martha Tayler

Her art connects past and present cultural trends and she takes inspiration from “whatever the current big thing” on social media is. Tayler also tells me that her Nan’s house has been a major influence on her artwork and that she is keen to explore generational differences in an increasingly pop-culture focused society.

“For many of us, commemorative plates might be a symbol of times gone by, a tacky reminder of your Nan’s house or a relic found in a charity shop from the era that taste forgot,” she says.

We talk about the impact a city can have on an artist’s work. Tayler is originally from near Stoke-on-Trent but she stayed in Manchester over lockdown. “I love Manchester and I think there’s a lot to be said for the effect that living somewhere you love has on your art and your creativity,” she says.

“This city is so culturally diverse but also has a culture of its own,” she says.

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When I spoke to Tayler last year, she said that lockdown pushed her to be creative in different ways: “I’m enjoying having more time to create work that isn’t part of my degree and get back to painting and drawing.”

“It’s encouraged me to go back to basics with my work and think more about the concepts behind it, what it’s really about and what I want to get across,” she says.

Ceramic artwork courtesy of Martha Tayler

During multiple lockdowns, galleries were closed and many degree shows were cancelled or held virtually across the uk. “I think it’s massively important to physically experience art,” Tayler says. “We spend so much of our lives looking at things on our phones or computer screens, I think if that’s the way we begin to view art as well it becomes mundane and forgettable.”

However, she recognises that “there is value in sharing or viewing art online as it’s completely accessible to everyone anywhere in the world and we can discover artists we might never have otherwise come across.”

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The Manchester School of Art Instagram account, for instance, enables the wider public to experience and engage with new artwork and see the development of artists throughout their careers. It was there that I first came across Tayler’s work and was struck by the subversion of what I had come to expect from commemorative pottery.

“I think the Instagram page is a really good way for art students to get their work out there and to get the ball rolling in terms of making some connections in the Manchester art scene as well as sharing their work with other people who might want to collaborate or exhibit together,” Tayler says.

You can see more of Martha Tayler’s work on Instagram