Sussex, England-based ceramicist Helen Burgess asserts, “Animals rule ok,” and we can’t argue with that. In a bid to celebrate all of the weird and wonderful creatures of our world, she recreates animals in clay. Burgess’ company, nosey mungo, is named after what her mom would call her as a kid if she was being “a bit too inquisitive,” and the artist never lost her childlike curiosity. Her playful sense of wonder shines through in her work today. Each lovingly handcrafted creature looks like a character from a kid’s book that you can hold in your hands.
As a child, Burgess spent most of her time either immersed in an art project or outside, exploring nature. “My favourite things on TV were David Attenborough documentaries and everything by Aardman,” she reveals. “I was convinced I was going to be the next Nick Park.” These influences helped shape the distinct aesthetic Burgess captures in her clay animals. Each character has its own, kooky personality, complete with funny, cartoon-like expressions. There’s a grumpy, bloated frog, a hilarious blobfish, and a group of surprised-looking chickens. Some of the animals are even designed to hold flowers or plants.
Although each piece is like a caricature of its real-life counterpart, Burgess maintains a lot of love and respect for the animals she recreates in clay. Her love of nature was developed during university, when she studied for a masters in Biodiversity Surveying. The artist says, “This eventually led to an amazing job at the Sussex Wildlife Trust where I deal with biodiversity data and the geeky side of nature conservation.”
Burgess discovered clay in 2010, when the onset of a condition called fibromyalgia forced her to work less hours. “I needed an alternative focus and clay was the answer,” she recalls. “After several pottery classes, I was hooked and what started as a hobby quickly turned into a business when people liked my work enough to want to buy it.”
Since then, Burgess has continued to work part-time to make her ceramic creatures. Each one takes countless hours to design, sculpt, fire, and glaze, so she’s only able to make a small batch at a time. If you would love one of these clay critters for your home, keep an eye on Burgess’ Etsy store for new releases. Discover some of her work below.