Written by Staff Writer at CNN

A sculpture of a terracotta still life on London's South Bank has turned out to be a little deeper than expected.

Earlier this month, Andrea Doria, a Nigerian-born artist who lives in London, received a very unexpected brush with the UK's National Portrait Gallery

The world-famous institution discovered that Doria's "United States of Gin" is made out of pots and pans -- but the pots themselves are actually made from ceramic bubbles.

Called "Markia," the fragrant tubs were part of Doria's exhibition at the Sackler Gallery, a part of the National Portrait Gallery.

She first made the sculptures on her Instagram account, which has more than 130,000 followers, in August 2017. But because they're not actually in any form of sculpture, she was soon approached by the gallery.

"There are two sides of the gallery that are so large and have artificial spaces around them, so every piece I put on the walls has to go in at a different angle to give these huge, artificial spaces some presence," Doria told CNN.

"So I asked a few friends who are ceramicists and a number of universities who teach and I even had a conversation with my teaching assistant, who is from a ceramic association in Nigeria."

'Breathing' organ

Three types of polyethylene formed in a special mold are used to make each tube, each one equivalent to hundreds of cups. Made out of hand-laid papier-mache, each of the lid-shaped sculptures takes up to four months to complete.

"Many techniques, while slightly different, have the same end purpose," said Doria. "It's these tiny spaces of 2.5mm (less than an inch) in diameter in tubes, being filled by very slight flow of polyethylene, that gives the works an element of transparency."

Made from ceramic bubbles, "United States of Gin" is made from two or three different pots that are each made out of three pots. Credit: Courtesy Andrea Doria

"United States of Gin" is made up of two different types of polyethylene pieces, each made out of three pots. Credit: Courtesy Andrea Doria

The skyroof of the sculpture at the ceiling of the garden of the Sackler Gallery is filled with tubs of different sizes and shapes. Credit: Courtesy Andrea Doria

Each sculpture takes up to four months to complete. Credit: Courtesy Andrea Doria

Credit: Courtesy Andrea Doria

The skyroof of the sculpture at the ceiling of the garden of the Sackler Gallery is filled with tubs of different sizes and shapes. Credit: Courtesy Andrea Doria

Flavors and aromas, plus the colors of the artworks on display can be sensed through their ceramic quality, she said.

"It creates a very different experience of objects, that people can smell and taste through the light entering through your eyes and just their weight, if they're placed in different spaces, moving around them," said Doria.

"People who come to galleries are usually expecting sculptures, so the element of the whole thing being inside an empty space is more of a surprise and really adds to the whole experience."