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  • Writer's pictureKiri Self

So what’s in your head?

Updated: Jun 9, 2023


This isn't written as a blog post - it's the evaluation I hand in at the end of every project. Too tired to rewrite, so here you go!


My project concept was as follows:

"I want to explore the concept of how to show visually what we experience internally in our minds. This will build on my work from last term in the Vessels project, where I explored “how we view ourselves in the world and how we hold ourselves or others”.

I have an initial idea of showing the fire in my head in a glass form, really capturing the reds and yellows and oranges of flames in a beautiful way. Fire – although deadly and often violent, also has a fragility (it can easily be snuffed out given the right circumstances) and a beauty that I’d really like to capture. Again this strength vs fragility of fire being shown in glass echoes the reasons for my use of porcelain in the last project.

I’d like to research artists that use simple forms to create beauty and fluidity in their work and I will look particularly at artists that produce series of forms – I’d perhaps like to bring in this into my work to reflect the different versions of ourselves that we express in different circumstances."


I have not enjoyed this project in the same way that I enjoyed the first ceramics project. It has been difficult for me for a whole range of reasons, not least because I chose to capture something of myself in my work (again!). As my emotions have been pulled this way and that, as they have this term, it has inevitably led to those dark emotions being reflected in my final pieces.

Rather than only having one final piece (my glass head) I have produced a series of heads based around different moods or emotions being expressed:

Flame – Fire within

Black – Mute

Blue – Depression

Gold – Hiding oneself

Initial project phase - Flame

I started my project with a clear idea (and a lot of enthusiasm!) that I would like to explore the concept of capturing the flicker of flames within a glass head. The rationale behind this was that I often envisage myself as being full of fire and flame – sometimes this is because of passion, sometimes anger or hatred, sometimes love, and sometimes fear.

I experienced a large degree of pushback on this idea from staff, and it is ironic that I have actually produced something very close to my original concept. I feel that it would have been far easier all round if I had just been left to get on with the glass making, as once I started understanding how the process worked, I found that I naturally developed my ideas and thoughts within the bounds of what was logistically possible.

The glass head sits within the ‘Flame’ series which I expanded with two ceramic masks and a selection of concepts and ideas around this.

Flames burn and are destructive, but they are also cathartic, and they purge. Once the anger and fear and hatred burn away – you are left with nothing but the bare bones of what you actually are.


It was a difficult experience for me to feel that my ideas were being dismissed and criticised by staff that I looked up to, and it has expressed itself in my work in the idea that we are often muted in society for a wide range of reasons. The Venetians have a concept of the Servetta Mutta in their masquerades – the muted servant. I took this idea into my ‘Black’ series of heads.

I used a variety of different techniques here – not just the clay mask that I moulded from my face-cast, but also a chicken wire maquette covered in mod roc, and two clay head sculptures.

One of my paintings also belongs in this series, the painting of how I visualise the inside of my mind.

In contrast with my usual painting style, the colours here are very muted and I use a lot of black and dark tones. It’s strange, because in my head everything has the normal hue and vibrancy. But for some reason, when I paint what I see inside, I lose that and the world seems to fade.

I found particular resonance with Marc Quinn’s “Self” Series of heads where he used his own frozen blood to sculpt his head. He captures the grotesque and the real truth within ourselves, those parts of ourselves that we often turn away from. When you are muted, you have nowhere to look but inside yourself. You have no voice, you are hidden, and therefore you have to look into the darkness within. What you find might not be pretty but it is true.


I used a very bright blue for this series – I think that a lot of people who suffer from depression or anxiety can often mask just how deeply their feelings run inside them. And the world will accept you if you are just a bit depressed, or only a little anxious. No one likes the full on range of actual human emotion at its rawest. Few will stand by you as you scream into the void.

As long as you pretty it up – you’re allowed to be a little bit broken.

I felt very inspired by Frieda Kahlo for these pieces – she knew a lot about hiding ones rawest darkest emotions and pain from the world, and how much it cost her.

This term has been really hard for me as I discover more about myself, and I try (and fail) to communicate that to the world around me. I have felt very adrift and alone and quite scared a lot of the time. I have lost the little trust that I had built up with those around me, and I’ve shed a lot of tears.


For my final series, I looked to the work of Gustav Klimt. He did a lot of work directly with gold leaf, and I was very keen to try out various techniques to see what worked for different surfaces and with differing mediums. I would love to have explored his use of gems and coloured glass but I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked for this.

This series is all about how we put a ‘shiny face’ on for the world, where we go about our daily life with glamourous untruths written across our faces. We say things that we don’t really mean, and we are drawn in our turn unto the tangled webs of those around us. Some of us do this dance gracefully, and for some of us the papier mache underneath shows through. For some people they are covered in the real gold leaf – for the rest of us, we make do with the false and we hope that no one around us notices.


This has been a very uncomfortable term for me, and have felt very alone and misunderstood a lot of the time. The constant drama and tension has definitely impacted on my work and I hope that things will be calmer going forward.

In terms of the impact on my work the last minute change to access to the college during our reading week was a blow – I had expected to be able to use the time to finalise my pieces – especially the ceramics. I feel that I made the best of it however, and I have used cold finishes instead.

I am very very pleased with the way my glass head has come out – it is so close to what I wanted. If I had the chance to take this concept further, I would cast the back of my head and then fuse the resulting glass piece to the original face, thus making a whole head.

Overall – I am incredibly pleased with what I achieved in extremely tough circumstances, and I hope that the next few weeks are a lot quieter and kinder.


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