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Alex Sickling’s ceramic elephants are the decorations your shelves need right now…

Each of Alex Sickling’s elephant sculptures has its own distinct expression. The Newcastle-based illustrator and ceramicist has created a herd of personalities using the smallest details: eyes that are just dots of black, yet that are able to convey so much; tiny toes; apparently swingy tails, and a real sense of movement in the legs.

Elephant has commissioned these ceramic pieces as part of a brand new open edition of elephant ornaments. Sickling was determined the work should be simple, yet she has produced an energetic herd, each member displaying its own unique facial and bodily characteristics. “Starting out with some simple sketches,” she explains, “I knew I wanted to make the elephant as simplified as possible. With a lot of my ceramic work I try to keep the shapes minimal and add in details that are only necessary, allowing there to be an element of humour and naivety to the object.”

Humour plays a significant role in Sickling’s wider practice. “I’ve always wanted to make work that feels accessible,” she says, “and naturally humour seemed to be the way I was most comfortable in doing this.” However, Sickling doesn’t deliberately set out to include humour in their work, it’s just part of the process of creating. “The element of humour isn’t something I often think about whilst making,” she says, “but I become more aware of it when people comment at fairs and I guess it feels nice to have made something that makes people laugh or smile.”

“It feels nice to have made something that makes people laugh or smile”

A graduate from Leeds College of Art in 2012, Sickling’s practice explores the process of image-making through hand-painted ceramic objects. Illustration skills are evident in the detailed finish of their pieces, drawing is also vital to the genesis of each item. “I never get bored of opening the kiln and seeing what started out as a quick sketch or merely an idea come out as a physical object,” Sickling says. “To me, it feels really special to be able to have something tangible and real that you can hold.”

Elephant’s commission isn’t the first time animals have appeared on Sickling’s creative radar. She has used ceramics to represent specific people and animals. “A lot of my work is focused around nature and animals in one way or another,” she explains. “At the moment I’m very interested in folklore and history and will pull elements of these themes into my work with some added gentle humour and silliness.”

“I knew I wanted to make the elephant as simplified as possible.  With a lot of my ceramic work I try to keep the shapes minimal”

As all artists know, ideas can strike at any time. “Sometimes inspiration can come from an image from a book,” Sickling says, “or, more often than not an idea in my head just before I fall asleep, making it worthwhile having a notepad nearby.”

Sickling’s work has been featured in an array of publications including The Guardian, Wrap magazine, House & Garden, Design Sponge, and Shortlist. She particularly enjoys working on commissions. “My favourite projects are often making specific pieces for people, which could be anything from a custom vase to a ceramic ornament of their pet,” Sickling says. “It feels special to be part of making something for someone that holds meaning and could possibly make them smile or lighten their day.”

Created by hand, Alex Sickling’s mini ceramic elephants are available exclusively from Elephant Kiosk.


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