In the programme, he set out to capture three families, looking at Identity and using pottery as the medium. Firstly, he spent time with each very family. The first, the Jesus Army Warehouse, a family of individuals who come together to create a family. People have lived in the community for over thirty years. People know that others will be there for them for a long time. One woman said, with no TV, in a place where you have to create your own entertainment, where you’re not surrounded by sound and other visuals, you have no hiding place from yourself. There is no alcohol. You have to be you. Grayson Perry observed that the place was less about religion, and more about community. He captured the group looking after the newest resident who was lying down. Interestingly, one said that has been all of them at some point. Perry called the piece he created ‘Money Box,’ a take on the church’s money box.
The second family were two gay men and a mixed race child and they adopted a second child near the end of the filming. They are a modern family trying very, very hard to get it right. They have the money to do so and the intellectual means. They were sensitive about what identity means and making sure their child knew theirs. It felt that if they tried less, it would feel less pressured, but at the same time, how important it was to them. Their piece was called ‘Not an Island.’ It seemed joyful.
The third family were a couple, the husband having Alzheihmer’s. disease. Identity being lost for him, but also for his wife. A support group of people living with partners with Alzheimer’s spoke of how they lost their identities too. They were ‘carers.’ They are watchers, witnesses, nurses; their lives are changed too and their identity altered. They shadow the one with Alzheimer’s and in time become shadows. Perry photographed them under a wintry tree with a blanket over them, acting as protection. He was the most worried about this couple liking their piece when they came to see it, as they all came to see their pieces, in the National Portrait Gallery. They thought Perry had captured them and their lives perfectly, with decoupage cut up photographs of them, like disjointed memory. And the quietness of them sheltering under the blanket. Their piece was called ‘Memory Jar.’
The pottery had a use as well as being a piece of art. The programme was an interesting glimpse of how Perry creates his work. And when Perry turns his gaze to the camera, we know he’s questioning us. An honest, humane artist, capturing perfectly in each of the portraits, what is going on in these people’s lives.