Tactile Heads – Ceramics

Ethical Making





Each head is a tactile 3D representation of a painting to enable a visually impaired person to understand a 2D work of art




Ceramics and pottery-making

General Technique

Forming and shaping
Surface modifying

Specific Technique

Press moulded generic head shape (for consistency in size), clay added to create features and then modelled back to resemble the painting.

Properties & Qualities


Sculpture Art



Sample Information

Date of creation



Width x 40cms Height x 44cms Depth x 28cms



Culture & Context

I am interested in exploring different ways to experience art, particularly for those with varying degrees of visual impairment. How can someone who is visually impaired understand a 2D work of art if they cannot see it and I looked at Museums and Galleries and the ways they address the issue of accessibility. I chose Francis Bacons portraits as an example but could have used any other artists paintings.


When we look at Francis Bacon paintings we are immediately captivated by the excitement and energy contained in these works of art. My project raised the question of how can someone who is visually impaired capture or experience that same excitement. You cannot be inside a painting but what I wanted was for people to be absorbed into a physical kind of mass, where the feel or the sound of the piece becomes the eye and therefore excites the mind. 

I focused on the portraits by the artist Francis Bacon because of his ability to express the ‘feeling of life’ through the possibilities of movement within the static medium of painting.

I re-created some of these portraits in 3D form to interact with rather than just to look at. I see them as a means to explore our own perceptual awareness and to be used as an educational tool to understanding Bacon.  

Process & Production

Each head was press moulded from a generic head shape. The head was manipulated to resemble the portrait, clay added to enhance features and then modelled back. Heads were first bisque fired to 800C,  sanded back and then fired to 1100C. A brick sealant was rubbed into the pieces while hot after firing and then the piece was buffed up to create a soft sheen. The heads are then water proofed and can be washed when necessary.

Recipe Details

Scarva ES40 hand building white clay


Craft Maker

Eleanor Swan

Library Contributor

National College of Art & Design Ireland


Eleanor Swan

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