Three Things: Flashback Friday – Sue Barnes’ Ceramic Corset

Sue Barnes' Ceramic Corset

Flashback Friday today sees us looking back to 2009 and Sue’s Ceramics and Sculpture course at Wirral Metropolitan College. Sue created this stunning corset based on the Lady of Shalott.

Sue Barnes ceramic corset front

The corset is made from fired ceramic and is quite heavy and sturdy despite being fragile. It has four sets of laces which are fastened with leather thongs.

Sue Barnes' ceramic corset back

Sue was inspired by the poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson which I will briefly paraphrase below (you really should read the original though).

The poem is about a young lady who must stay in her tower or else be overcome by a curse. The Lady of Shalott must not even look directly out of her window, she must instead view the outside world via a mirror.

She sees the brave and handsome knight Sir Lancelot and decides she doesn’t much fancy staying alone in the tower forever and decides to row down stream in a boat to Camelot to find Lancelot.

Unfortunately as she drifts down the river a trance overcomes her and she dies. As the boat drifts into Camelot Lancelot happens to see her and muses that she is quite pretty, despite being dead.

Sue Barnes' ceramic corset detail

The decorations Sue has placed on and worked into the clay are inspired not only by Tennyson’s words, for example ” long fields of barley and of rye” decorating the back of the corset, but also by the painting of the Lady of Shallot by John William Waterhouse. The boat Sue has depicted on the lower left portion of the corset references Waterhouse’s work with the shape of the prow and the candles.

Incidentally Laura completely loves Tennyson and this poem in particular and did some further research into the Lady of Shalott and found she is referred to in several other works as Elaine the Lilly Maid of Astolat.