Julie Scott and the Fading Sisters

Ards Art Centre brings Seven Fading Sisters and one rising ceramic artist to Newtownards 

Christmas is the time of year when odd relatives turn up out of the blue and stay for the duration. Few, however, can boast quite as eccentric a family group as those in residence at the Ards Arts Centre for the festive season.  Seven Fading Sisters is an eerily beautiful exhibition created by 22 year old Bangor ceramic artist Julie Scott.

The seven, dramatically costumed ceramic figures posed in the Ards Art Centre’s Sunburst Gallery are a spin-off from Scott’s degree show. She recently graduated from the University of Ulster with a 1st class degree in Fine and Applied Arts. The original show consisted of 11 Fading Sisters, but a few of the Sisters have taken a leave of absence for this show.

‘I had a year to create the first show,’ Scott points out with a laugh. ‘And I sold a lot of figures from the original show. I actually still get calls from people interested in figures from that show.’

She has already sold a couple of the new Fading Sisters as well, one before the show and one on the opening night. ‘And that one,’ she points it out, ‘is for my mum so I can’t sell it.’

Most mum’s have to make do with crayon drawings for the fridge. The Scotts, however, do have an embarrassment of artistic riches. Scott’s twin sister Laurel is an accomplished textile designer (who will also be exhibiting in Ards Arts Centre in 2013) who has exhibited her fantastically eerie textile creatures widely. ‘And my little brother is going to be a painter,’ Scott adds proudly. ‘Although he’s a bit young for exhibits yet.’

The Fading Sisters are the product of two of Scott’s passions: ceramics and history. Inspired by Victorian pictures Scott creates the designs on paper and then transform them into their final ceramic form.

‘I love the translation from drawing to clay,’ she says. ‘It’s almost magical.

The hardest part of the creative process, she admits, is the point where she fires the clay. The Fading Sisters are elegant and amazingly detailed figures, with elegantly posed arms, waterfall ruffles and dangling sleeves.

‘The fingers are really delicate,’ Scott says. ‘It’s difficult to get them in and out of the kiln without damaging them.’

Although based on the original Victorian pictures, the final designs of The Fading Sisters have been given Scott’s particularly aesthetic twist. There are hints of dust and disintegration worked into the figures, the idea of beauty that has been left neglected and untended.

‘There’s something of Miss Havisham about them,’ Scott says. She uses the stiffly posed presentation of the dolls to make them look like taxidermied figures taken out of their glass cases. ‘That’s why I sculpt them without any hair. The effect is meant to make them just a little bit uncomfortable for the audience to look at.’

It works. The Fading Sisters look a little like fossilised fashion dolls, crumbling bone figures held up by their shiny ornate dresses. It is a distinctive and memorable aesthetic and one that is drawing quite a lot of attention Scott’s way.  In addition to her graduation exhibition and the Ards Art Centre show her work has been on display in the Naughton Gallery and SPACE Craft’s In the House, Out of the House exhibition – among others.

‘And Craft NI are taking Five Fading Ladies over to London in March 2013 for Craft Central,’ Scott adds.

Scott, though, admits that while she loves her Fading Sisters designs she is a little wary of limiting herself, since she still loves painting and drawing as well.

‘That’s what I loved about my degree,’ she says. ‘I could do both.’

Seven Fading Sisters is at Ards Arts Centre until January o4 2013. You can follow her other work on her website and facebook page.