About my research


My art practice and research is socially-engaged, often exploring the complex relationships between museum collections and their associated communities of interest through a variety of media, including ceramics and printmaking. I was awarded a PhD in March 2015 for research undertaken as part of an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award based at the University of Sunderland and Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens. This project developed innovative ways of engaging the wider community with the Museum’s nineteenth century Sunderland pottery collection. As part of this, I worked extensively with members of the local community, ranging from school children to young offenders and British Army soldiers, to create new work and museum displays inspired by the collection.

In addition to an awareness of historical and contemporary issues in fine art, I have an interest in archaeological and anthropological approaches to material culture due to my background in these disciplines (BA, MPhil). The archival potential of fired clay appeals to me and I often use digital techniques to incorporate photographic imagery into my work. Influenced by recent archaeological studies of the contemporary past, I regard my creative practice as a proactive intervention, where ephemeral or otherwise unconstituted aspects of memory, identity and narrative can be materialised through the creation of enduring art objects.

Research interests

  • Collections-based/ site-specific art projects
  • Artist-led museum engagement 
  • Working with historical archives
  • Historical pottery collections
  • Ethnographic and archaeological collections
  • Contemporary ceramics practice
  • Printmaking


Doctoral research

My PhD thesis was submitted to the University of Sunderland in September 2014. I passed my viva voce examination on 6 February, 2015 and my doctoral degree was confirmed by the University of Sunderland on 19 March 2015.

Research title

‘Community in Clay – Towards a Sunderland Pottery for the 21st Century: Approaching Museum Collections and Communities through Creative Ceramics’



The result of an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award, this research focuses on how the author, as a ceramic artist ‘embedded’ in the Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, has reinterpreted its collection of nineteenth century Sunderland ‘lustreware’ pottery in order to engage and reflect the local community through creative ceramic practice. A series of ceramic artworks and museum displays have both responded to, and initiated, a range of person-object engagements linking the collection, the associated archive, and the contemporary community of Sunderland.

This research contributes to knowledge by developing an approach to collections-based community engagement which may be relevant to other contexts, including those where there exists an extant originating community. As such, it may be of wider interest to creative practitioners and museum professionals, and is timely as it follows recent calls from theorists and government alike to place engagement at the core of museum activities. It is novel as it adapts existing museum engagement practices, notably object-based focus groups and reminiscence activities, in order to develop alternative interpretations of the collection, which are then addressed through ceramics. This adaptive approach offers an alternative to the pervasive model of the artist as a ‘disruptive difference’ within the museum.

A range of archaeological and anthropological theory is deployed in an original way to interpret and contextualise the ceramic art work produced. Aiming to remedy the ‘forgetfulness’ often ascribed to modernity, ceramic objects are construed as forming ‘micro-local sites of memory’ which have the potential to become activated as dynamic loci of creativity and remembrance through display and digital social networking. Taking inspiration from recent archaeological approaches to the contemporary past, ceramic practice is regarded as a ‘creative materialising intervention’, where ephemeral aspects of memory, identity and narrative can be materialised and transmitted inter-generationally through the creation of enduring forms of ‘external symbolic storage’. Re-accessioning the Scott’s Pottery Archive (1788-1896), a significant collection of paper ephemera relating to the running of this Sunderland pottery, provides a further contribution by making an underused resource more readily accessible. The approach is tested in a substantially different context during a placement at the National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, and in subsequent research in the UK, where the changing role and status of the historical George Brown Collection of Oceanic objects is investigated.

Research team

Director of Studies: Prof. Kevin Petrie, PhD, University of Sunderland
Supervisor: Dr Andrew Livingstone, Reder in Ceramics, University of Sunderland
External Supervisor: Shauna Gregg, Keeper of Art, Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens

Research question 

How might an artist-researcher use a collection of ceramics with a contemporary audience for mutual benefit? 


Research aims 

This research aims to: 

  • explore how an artist might use the Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens’ collection of Sunderland lustreware pottery to engage and reflect the contemporary community; 
  • and, in doing so, create a new body of artwork in ceramics which engages and reflects the community through reference to the collection. 

Research objectives

As such, the objectives are to:

1. explore how current practice in museum-based community engagement might be adapted by the artist in order to engage and reflect the community through reference to the collection;

2. develop associated imagery and thematic content based on SMWG’s lustreware pottery collection which engages and reflects the contemporary community of Sunderland (and further afield if applicable); 

3. materialise marginal and potentially ephemeral aspects of memory, identity and narrative in ceramics using form and surface decoration;

4. deploy ethnographic and archaeological conceptions of material culture where appropriate in order to interpret the collection and community and contextualise the creative output;

5. and use museum display to engage and reflect the community.

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