The Bowes Museum > Exhibitions > 2015 > Confected, Borrowed and Blue

Confected, Borrowed and Blue

14 February - 12 April

Blue and white china is often displayed at home for its decorative qualities, but in Paul Scott’s hands domestic ceramics mutate into subversive comments on our life and times.

Scott is an artist best known for his research into ceramics and print, creating highly individual pieces that blur the boundaries between fine art, craft and design.

In Confected, Borrowed and Blue, Scott – an expert on printed industrial tableware - turned the familiar into the alien, his expert manipulation of familiar motifs like the famous Willow Pattern giving his work a special significance and fascination. 

His appropriation of traditional patterns as vehicles for socio-political commentary has made his work unmistakable. At first glance, the fighter jet streaking across the sky, the radioactivity warning sign or the starkly rising drilling platform might go unnoticed among the tranquil rural landscapes. But as the subliminal messages impact on the subconscious the effect is unforgettable and certainly not what you’d expect to find on the average dinner plate.

Some pieces employ undecorated factory tableware, or ‘blanks’, which Scott overprints to dramatic effect. Take his Cockle Pickers Tea Service, which responds to the tragic drowning of 19 Chinese gang workers in Lancashire’s Morecambe Bay. The simple but effective images use elements from the Willow Pattern, showing the water unavoidably rising to engulf the scene. Made to commemorate the passing of the parliamentary bill to abolish the Slave Trade, it also acts as a reminder that slavery remains an issue in 21st Century Britain. 

A ghost factory, bearing the legend Spode Closed, overprinted onto a classic Spode Italian plate, laments the demise of the ceramics industry in Britain, with the exhibition featuring new work derive from a period of research in the Spode archive.

Scott’s work can be found in private and public collections around the globe, including the V&A in London; The National Museum in Sweden; The National Decorative Arts Museum in Norway and the Museum of Art and Design in New York, while his commissioned work can be seen in public places in the North of England including Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Gateshead, Carlisle and Maryport.

He is the author of several publications, including Horizon, Transferware and Contemporary Ceramics, to be published in January 2015. Based in Cumbria, he has ongoing connections with a number of universities, including Manchester Metropolitan, where he was awarded a PhD in 2010, and Oslo National Academy of the Arts in Norway, where he is a Professor of the Ceramic Arts. 

A founder member of AIR, the largest ever representative body for artists in the UK, he is also a member of the International Academy of Ceramics. Further details about his life and work can be found at

Related Events

Gallery Talk
18 February, 3 & 26 March 2015, 2.30

Join the Museum’s Curator of Ceramics, Dr. Howard Coutts, for an introduction to this exhibition.

Duchess, Dogs, Detroit and Dragons, Handles and Cherrypickers – patterned travels in the archives of an industry.
24 February 2015, 2.30, £11.00 Adult, £10.00 Concession/Friend of The Bowes Museum.

Join Paul Scott in examining some of the extraordinary journeys his work has taken, from dusty archives to museums, contemporary art collections, a sculpture park, architectural installations and other distant realisations around the globe. 

The Bowes Museum grounds are open!

Due to the government announcement on Thursday 17 December, that County Durham is to remain in COVID tier 3 restrictions, The Bowes Museum unfortunately will remain closed to all visitors. However, the grounds remain open to visitors from 10.00 - 4.00 daily, and we are currently hosting a woodland fairy trail, two spring trails and outdoor guided tours are available from 29 March 2021.

As we have already been shut for a number of weeks and there is much uncertainty around possible further restrictions, we have decided to use this period to undertake some work in Café Bowes, alongside performing some much-needed structural repairs to the building, notably to the windows. January and February are usually quieter times for the Museum, often due to severe weather, so we believe that this is the best time to carry out such works with the least amount of disruption to our visitors.

We have therefore decided to remain closed for a period of four weeks following any near-future tier 2 announcement from the government, as this will allow us time to deep clean the Museum prior to reopening our doors once again. We will, of course, keep you updated as the guidelines change.

Your ongoing support during these unprecedented times is hugely appreciated and we very much look forward to welcoming you back into the building as early as possible in 2021.

We hope to be able to offer a few COVID-safe outdoor events over the coming months, about which we shall make further announcements as soon as possible.