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Curlew | Hand Painted Tray



Curlew | Hand Painted Tray


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Product Details

A large, oval hand painted tray by Denise Allan.

Size: 16" x 12" ( 41cm x 30cm)

MATERIALS: Gouache paint, gold leaf stencil, vintage tray, Water-based hard varnish. Signed on reverse, initialled on the front.

The trays arrive boxed with a makers card and hook which gives the option of displaying on a shelf or wall. Not recommended to display in a wet area such as a bathroom. The trays can be cleaned occasionally with a lightly damped cloth.


A new collection of hand-painted antique and vintage papier mache trays by Denise Allan, artist and co-founder of The Shop Floor Project. The collection features native British birds seen along the Levens estuary and its woodland edge, an environment the artist explores daily.

The collection is imbued with the quality of light and restricted pallet of the North West seascapes and bird life, softly blended to carefully merge together the painting with the trays. Painted in water-based gouache and sealed with a water-based hard varnish, each tray is highlighted with gold leaf stencil or pen work, echoing the 18th century examples that were made to reflect candlelight in Georgian houses. There are some historic imperfections deliberately left in the trays and incorporated within the painting to maintain the character and age of each piece.


The reworking of found trays for this collection plays with the relationship between a domestic, interior object and an external image; a device that Denise Allan often utilises in her work.

“I tend to collect old objects that I can use to incorporate painted images of the landscape, fauna and flora that surrounds me; whether a piece of old panelled furniture or a domestic item such as a tray or a simple box. It’s a practice that has been used for centuries and has historically incorporated themes of everyday life to political events and religious iconography.”

Graduating from Hull College of Art in 1988 Denise Allan's work has often centred around the idea of merging interior and exterior spaces.  Her early works concentrated on recreating elements of landscape within an interior space through drawing, video and sculpture. More recently, as artist-in-residence at Swarthmoor Hall, a 16th Century site in Ulverston, she created a series of painted found objects in response to the “Household Account Book of Sarah Fell” a 17th century occupant of the Hall.  

Above left: Swarthmoor Hall, Box Of Windows using a found 19th century leather covered napkin box, reflective and painted paper.

In Bird Trays Denise Allan has continued with this theme creating a series of painted trays inspired by the woodland and estuary landscapes surrounding her home on the shores of Morecambe Bay in North West England. Over the years she had collected a number of vintage pieces, often in worn and slightly distressed states that were perfect for this new collection.

Influenced by 18th century japanned papier mache trays and tea caddies, introduced to Europe and North America from China for the new and expensive practice of ‘taking tea’ in aristocratic Georgian households. “I’m drawn to early makers such as Henry Clay, who in c1785 acquired retail premises in London's Covent Garden with George III as one of his patrons”

Above: Tea caddies by Henry Clay, 1782

The trays feature a flock of birds found on the estuary, its bordering grassland and wood; curlews, black faced gulls, rare pairs of white egret, swans, plovers and oyster catchers all can be found on the sands and in Denise Allan’s trays.