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Amy Douglas 

Artist & Restorer 
Brighton, UK 

When looking for artists to approach in Brighton, I came across the work of artist and restorer Amy Douglas, and was immediately intrigued by how she brilliantly infuses new life into porcelain figures from a bygone era. 

Because Amy makes her living from restoring ceramics and other decorative art pieces, it’s easy to overlook her Staffordshire figurine creations. Take a closer look and you’ll realise that things are not as innocent as they seem. Her whimsical creations have titles that allude to our current times because they’re made up of conversations she picks up on and things that are happening in the world today. {There’s even one called “I will be phenomenal to the women”.)

Salmagundi— (old French, Middle English): a heterogeneous mixture, or a miscellany of things.

Amy started her project, “The Art of Salmagundi” in 2010, reimagining broken and damaged Staffordshire flatbacks, knick knacks that would have been typically found on the mantelpieces of 19th century British homes. She lays out specific boundaries for her art work, choosing only to intervene and restore from the existing breaks in each figure. This adds a hint of serendipity as well as a level of difficult to her work. “[Setting such strict parameters to her work is] to my own detriment,” she says with a laugh, before adding: “but I think it makes for a more interesting result.” 

When I visited her home studio earlier this year, my eyes were immediately drawn to her shelves which were full of her reimagined figurines, all neatly displayed. This project of hers started as something she did for herself, aside from her restoration work, and it didn’t have an audience for years. 

I love that while her work retains its rather dated appearance, Amy boldly gives it new life by infusing it with subtle irreverence and tongue-in-cheek humour. By giving them titles that reference modern day slang and scenarios, it’s almost like she’s linking the past and the present with her witty art pieces. Some titles are inspired by current events, for example, “Zuckerbergic Hellmouth” and “Our Dating Profiles Matched”, while others are overheard anecdotes that stand out to her. 

During our conversation, I was taken aback to find out that Amy’s first exhibition for ‘The Art of Salmagundi’ consisted of 5 years’ worth of her art work. There isn’t any way to rush her process or to mass produce, and she isn’t looking to do so. To me, her project goes against the grain of how we would create and consume art today in the best possible way.

Instead of art at an instant, which we are prone to forget just as quickly; Amy’s reimagined victorian knick knacks invite the viewer to slow down, to notice the beauty of brokenness and to appreciate the new meaning imbued in each piece. It is also the result of a slow process that she has thoughtfully and carefully undertaken. To me, it is certainly worth the wait.

Visit Amy’s website to view more of her project or see what she’s up to on Instagram (@amydouglas71).  

Visited August 2019, published October 2019.

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