Seeing and Looking


My grandmother had a large collection of 'fairings' which fascinated me when I was a child. Fairings were given away as prizes at fairs in Victorian times; they were literally two a penny, little china models that told a story, some were cheeky, maybe with a newly married couple climbing into bed, many featured animals such as a family washing the dog in a bath tub, there were mothers with naughty children misbehaving and women with new babies. Some were coarse and very badly made, others were completely exquisite, beautifully painted and definitely special. As a child I loved these little china ‘stories’ and characters, spending hours looking at them as they stood in a row on a low bookshelf in my grandmother’s house, my childlike imagination flying about as I secretly touched them with the tip of my finger, even though I wasn’t allowed to. They are all long gone now sadly but when I recently spotted one in a junk shop in Lyme Regis I knew everything about this tiny model as if I had seen it yesterday, and for £2.50 it was mine. I realise that, over time, objects in our everyday lives become almost invisible, over familiar maybe, and I wonder … is this because we stop ‘seeing’ them or is it because we stop ‘looking’?  This experience of seeing a fairing I knew so well made me look with fresh eyes at some of the most precious china I do have and by properly looking at these pieces I saw things I had never noticed before.  What I appreciate most of all though is the incredible artistry, craftsmanship and skill that has gone into each and every one.