Although the puff adder cannot fly it has caught the hornbill - Gillian Lowndes

Although the puff adder cannot fly it has caught the hornbill, Gillian Lowndes, 1986. Image © Nick Moss

Object Details

Date of making
Date of acquisition
Ceramics: handbuilt
Nichrome wire, clay, Egyptian paste
H290mm x L860mm x W420mm
Collection Number

Maker Details

Cheshire, England
Place Trained
Central School of Arts and Crafts, London, 1957-1979; École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1960


Gillian Lowndes (1936-2010) challenged the traditional notions of the vessel form in ceramics, and through her non-traditional experimental methods of incorporating found objects and materials from everyday life such as wire and tin cans into her ceramic work, she continually challenged the orthodoxy of pure ceramics. She also exerted a powerful influence on ceramics during her time teaching at Camberwell School of Art and Central St Martins College of Art and Design between 1975 and the early 1990s.

This work was the most important piece in a group of work produced over a year for her solo exhibition with the Crafts Council, entitled ‘New Ceramic Sculpture’ opened in 1987 by Marina Vaizey, journalist, art patron and mother of current Minister of Culture Ed Vaizey. More recently, another of Lowndes’ works from the Crafts Council Collection was shown in the 2008 touring exhibition ‘Deviants’.

Read more about related loans and exhibitions

Amanda Fielding

“Gillian Lowndes’ puff adder intrigues me because it attracts and repels simultaneously. Sombre, craggy, and whiskery with wires, its nichrome tail spirals away like a nonchalant scribble. Knowing that the bricolage sculpture was unwieldy and fragile, Lowndes instructed: ‘Pick up from main metal body. Don’t wash’.

Thoughts of snakes and urban decay lurked at the back of Lowndes’ mind, but she was more excited by the process of working with an unorthodox mix of materials and their transformation in the kiln.

Lowndes' practice of collaging materials and found objects was rooted in her experience of Africa in the 1970s. The combination of different materials in a head-dress or mask changed her way of looking at ceramics, taking her beyond an exclusive use of clay.”

Amanda Fielding

Amanda Fielding, Camberwell/Victoria and Albert Museum Research Fellow in the Crafts. Curator of the Crafts Council Collection, 1989-2006.

From the Archive

Exhibition leaflet for Lowndes' 1987 solo exhibition at the Crafts Council: 'New Ceramic Sculpture'. © Crafts Council

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