Part Earth Part Flower is Installed

Painting with Plants and Porcelain, How the Exhibition will Evolve through September and October

Autumn brings rapid change to plant life; some plants coming into their ‘best’ with late flowering blooms, others dying back to nourish the earth for future generations or drying out to form seeds for next years’ plants. The display in the gallery reflects this process of change and variety in the surrounding landscape of the here and now. Materials gathered from local gardens reflect the season, our environment, and celebrate the beauty and bounty of what surrounds us. Throughout the course of the exhibition, rather than refresh the whole display, Polly will intermittently replace only some stems, leaving others to die back or dry out.

Photograph: Andy Hughes

The unstable nature of things can bring much joy – there is magic in the handmade. Rebecca’s pots bear traces of her manipulation of the material and refer to it in its soft state. Connections between people and materials across time and place are present in the objects, and the evolving nature of the flower displays in this exhibition reflects that. Perhaps the display will be become more dominated by dried or deteriorating flowers as time goes on, perhaps some areas will get fuller and others sparser, but this will depend on – and be influenced by – how the materials in the gallery and the gardens are behaving, much like the processes involved in gardening a garden or making a pot.

Rebecca’s pots invite the user to engage with the moment; the beauty of the objects are emphasised through their ability to reflect and absorb the changing atmosphere around them, porcelain enjoying a unique relationship with light especially. Their seemingly simple beauty can be brought to life through the introduction of plant material, however it is chosen or placed. An interaction is sparked between the two objects, facilitating the viewer to more easily observe and enjoy the simple beauty and subtle nuance in both.

Photograph: Andy Hughes

The interaction that the pots invite through use is one of ease and joy. Collections of small vases enable single stems to be chosen, placed and valued in and of themselves, but with associations between each other enabled, as with planting in a garden. Vases with indentations invite a looseness to placing the stems, an invitation to enjoy the informality of letting it be where it falls, and form the presence of a continued line where the stem meets the rim. Where flowers rest on the of edges pf vessels, there is further opportunity to enjoy the interaction between the porcelain and plant material. This continues as the plant material deteriorates. In the case of the works with the porcelain trays, the falling petals, pollen or seed are captured and become part of the display. These behaviours of the plant are not only beautiful to watch but remind us of the interconnection between plant and the earth; one cannot be without the other.

Photograph: Andy Hughes

Zen Buddhism encourages us to ‘see the flower in the earth and the earth in the flower’, as Virginia Woolf did in her revelation in the garden at Talland House, where she spent formative childhood summers in St Ives, and one of the gardens Polly tends. Another Buddhist saying: ‘no mud, no lotus’, describes the necessary inter-connectedness of earth and flower, reminding us of the role of imperfection and non judgement, things are as they are because of each other, although we may describe one thing as good and another bad.

“That is the whole… I was looking at a plant with a spread of leaves: and it seemed suddenly plain that the flower itself was part of the earth, that a ring enclosed what was the flower; and that was the real flower; part earth; part flower. “

Virginia Woolf, A Sketch of the Past, 1939

Polly Carter, 2019

Gallery installation images to follow 

Part Earth: Part Flower; Painting with Plants and Porcelain

PRESS RELEASE: New Ceramic and Plant Exhibition:

Part Earth: Part Flower; Painting with Plants and Porcelain
16 Sept – 7 Oct 2019, Belgrave St Ives
Private View Sat 14 Sept 6 – 8pm

Part Earth: Part Flower; Painting with Plants and Porcelain is an exhibition by ceramicist Rebecca Harvey and heritage horticulturalist Polly Carter. It explores the interconnectedness between earth and flower in the vein of Zen philosophy.

On entering the gallery during the St Ives September Festival, a series of especially made new porcelain works by Rebecca Harvey will greet you. Part of a site-specific installation of vessels, displayed with flowers by Polly Carter, these small vessels arranged on dishes will become interchangeable.

Part Earth, Part Flower, Rebecca Harvey and Polly Carter
Work towards Part Earth: Part Flower

It was a quote by Virginia Woolf that drew Harvey and Carter truly together. It is based around a formative experience that occurred in the garden of Talland House in St Ives where Woolf and her painter sister Vanessa Bell spent her childhood summers. Looking at a flower in a border in the garden she remembers thinking:

“That is the whole…. I was looking at a plant with a spread of leaves: and it seemed suddenly plain that the flower itself was part of the earth, that a ring enclosed what was the flower; and that was the real flower; part earth; part flower. “

During this summer Harvey has collaborated with St Ives based gardener Polly Carter to bring this exhibition to fruition. They have worked together to incur a deeper connection between the vessels and their intended or suggested use, which is that of displaying flowers. The collaboration extends to a creative and experimental approach to the display of the work; the relationship between the vessels and flowers and how visitors experience the gallery space has been considered using a Zen like approach.

Part Earth, Part Flower, Rebecca Harvey and Polly CarterWhilst Carter has been growing the plants used in the exhibition during the summer and autumn, Harvey has been ‘kinking’ the rim of her vessels by hand, creating offerings for stems to fall naturally in place without too much effort or thought and so each material connects. In addition she has been creating glazes, and with Carter, investigating plants and glazes so the viewer will have their senses stimulated.

Part Earth Part Flower, Rebecca Harvey and Polly Carter

Rebecca Harvey studied at the Royal College of Art. Her pottery has evolved from her interest in 18th century Creamware and Japanese ceramics. A warm, soft satin glaze envelops the calm but strong forms in a smooth, rich, tactile surface. She was honoured by a Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust in 2005 and is a dedicated teacher. She is also known for her publications on glazes and ceramic tableware. Her work can be found in both public and private collections.


Polly Carter has a background in curating contemporary art exhibitions and re-trained in heritage horticulture when moving to Cornwall from Brighton in 2013. She has planted a Tudor knot garden and Medieval herb garden at Pengersick Castle in Praa Sands, is currently renovating the garden at Talland House in St Ives and is the kitchen gardener for Porthminster Café St Ives. She also passionately gardens a few secret and special gardens in the famous town.


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For further information and images, please contact Richard Blackborow:

Belgrave St Ives, 22 Fore Street, St Ives, Cornwall TR26 1HE tel. 01736 794888