Sleep exhibition set to awaken the senses at Staithes Gallery

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Sleep, such a fundamental aspect of human experience, so vital to our well-being, is the subject of an exhibition currently on show at Staithes Gallery.

Ceramic artist Emma Parker’s decorative clay sculptures celebrate slumber in a variety of forms.

“I think everyone can identify with being desperate for a good night’s sleep,” she told the Whitby Gazette, “and dealing with the unbidden and unsolvable thoughts that occur whilst half awake or waiting to finally drift off.”

The sleeping figures are made hollow from flat slabs of clay that are then shaped and modified. Each is covered with a blanket or quilt, richly decorated using both colour and texture.

“Some of the decoration is applied while the clay is still wet and before the slabs are shaped,” says Emma.

“Then I add to the surface with vitreous slips and oxides after the first firing.”

Although she starts out with an idea in mind, Emma doesn’t resist when the forms turn out differently during the making process.

“I find that I work better when I go with the changes.

“Sometimes new ideas occur to me as I’m modeling the pieces or the clay responds differently to how I’d expected.

“I really enjoy both the modeling and the process of decoration. Both give me a great deal of scope as there are so many permutations for how the figures might look.”

This variety enables Emma to portray sleep in all its aspects and stages.

“Odd dreams can provoke both comforting and disturbing feelings. Some of the figures are relaxed and lying in big padded duvets while others are constrained by their blankets and look restless or troubled.”

Emma’s passion for art began at a young age.

“I always had an urge to make things out of whatever I could find at home. I also really enjoyed looking at paintings and sculpture.

“I loved going to galleries – the Laing in Newcastle, my home town, or bigger galleries on trips to London or abroad.”

She studied at Newcastle College and then university in Cardiff. She has been teaching Ceramics and Fine Art at Eton College since 2003.

Sleep Deep: a collection of ceramic figures by Emma Parker is currently on view at Staithes Gallery.

Visit to see more; call 01947 841840 or 07972 012464. Or you can email

The gallery is open Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday from 10am to 5pm.

Other times can sometimes be arranged by appointment – please contact the gallery.