Tessa Peters

Research Profile

Curator Profile


Tessa Peters employs insights from critical theory to explore the narrative and emotional charge of art and design artefacts. Working in partnership with Janice West, their touring exhibition The Uncanny Room (2002) drew on Freud’s discussion of the ‘unheimlich’ to challenge conventional views of craftwork as essentially decorative and innocent. Instead, the exhibition revealed the capacity of many contemporary works to create unsettling ideas of estrangement and loss. For Memoranda (2011), Peters and West invited four artists to make new works inspired by artefacts in the collections of the Crafts Study Centre in Farnham. The exhibited works demonstrated the transfer and recreation of memory through artefacts, and the accompanying book included texts by Daniel Miller and Glenn Adamson bringing further insights from the fields of anthropology, craft theory and the philosopher Maurice Halbwach’s concept of collective memory.    

More recently Peters was curator of the conceptual jeweller Laura Potter’s exhibition Fictional Final Goal (2015) at Marsden Woo Gallery. This show presented a material portrait of a disillusioned woman who uses forms of handicraft to channel her anger and frustration, creating subversively expressive artefacts from the everyday materials she obsessively collects. The project was developed with reference to the theory of psychoanalyst Alfred Adler which suggests that, in the case of mental disorder, a person’s expectations of a happy, fulfilled life can be based on unrealistic - and therefore unattainable – goals, formed due to childhood feelings of inferiority.

In addition to editing/co-editing books to accompany her exhibition projects, she has contributed articles and reviews to publications that include Craft Research, The Journal of Modern Craft, Interpreting Ceramics, Ceramic Review, Studio Pottery (UK), New Ceramics, Keramik Magazin (Germany), and Revue Céramique & Verre (France), and written essays for exhibition catalogues and leaflets.

Her curatorial collaborations with artists and designers, along with a concern to present contemporary artworks in a relevant interpretative framework, have led to a more recent research interest in modes of participatory art. The development of participatory strategies by artists is the focus of her chapter ‘Ceramic Art in Social Contexts’ in the publication Contemporary Clay and Museum Culture (2016).