As pots and plates go, this is not your standard fare. There are glossy yellow lions, gurning, heads upside down or cranked on one side. Cats grimacing, sharp-toothed, a wonky donkey, a fish on a plate. These glossy ceramics, made by artist Claudia Rankin with more than a nod to mediaeval tomfoolery, are the subject of the latest applied arts exhibition downstairs at the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh.

Rankin came to ceramics in a somewhat round-about manner, having made more time-consuming bronze cast sculpture works since completing her MA in Sculpture at Newcastle University in 1989. The change came, as it does for many, when she had children, “because casting sculpture and having a big studio set-up is just tricky with small children!” Rankin began working successfully in textiles for a while, “but then I sort of accidentally got into ceramics,” she explains, by phone from her home in Northumberland, after her husband William Pym, also an artist, signed on for a daytime pottery course to “get up his skills for working in schools.” When he got a teaching job, he asked Rankin if she wanted to complete the course. “I tried it and it just made sense. I completely changed my studio around away from textiles and to ceramics. I showed a few to my gallery in London and they really liked them, and so I thought, right, there's a future in this.”

Rankin's plates and candelabras, pots and jars are brightly coloured earthenware, painted in bright slip (liquid clay) with a clear glaze applied over the top, rather than leaving it to the rather more unpredictable alchemy of glaze and temperature that comes with stoneware. “I like to see the colour that's going on when it goes on,” she says, “And I like it to stay put and have edges to it.” Pattern, decoration and block-prints, all hall marks of her textiles work, have transferred seamlessly to her ceramics.

The collection, which concentrates on animals - from rabbits to camels, toothy-grinned and grimacing - is called Beastly, “so that it has an almost schoolboyish naughtiness and badness to it,” she laughs. “And also that element of something we're not entirely in control of – those instincts in us that are animalistic.” Rankin, who has always had animals in the house, was inspired, amongst other things, by heraldry in mediaeval sculpture, “that sense of bravado and perhaps not being very thought-through,” she says. Her titles are descriptive, but only in a practical sense. “I don't always want to pin things down,” she says. “There are elements in there of politics and things going on in the world, it's all part of what's going in to the work. But I don't want to say they're specifically one thing or another – you are free to interpret!”

Rankin grew up near the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and would spend hours wandering around the sculpture galleries. Her mother was an antiques dealer specialising in oriental ceramics. “I think I've always really liked the more satirical and humorous end of things. If I went to somewhere like Durham Cathedral, I was always more drawn to the gargoyles than the classical type of architecture or statuary. Those are the things I look at in a building or museum. I can walk right past the great avenues of classical statuary, but the pottery in the mediaeval section is much more up my street. It's on a small human scale and is less about perfection, more about the real experience of being human and fallible and expressive.”

Her work, eminently usuable, expresses an interest in folk art too, not least recent inspiration when visiting one of her children who was studying in Rome – the youngest has just gone off to university – and discovering a museum full of folk art on the outskirts of the capital. She has always collected pottery from her far-flung travels, she tells me, which was probably, in hindsight she admits, a bit of a giveaway. At home, she has more time to concentrate on her work now the school run days are over. “Now it's the flip side – you're a bit heartbroken, but there's more time to dedicate full-time to making work, which I do really enjoy. It's made the transition easier. Your day gets a lot more flexible, you can carry on into the evening.” And I can't help, as she says this, but imagine her loading the kiln late into the night, lit by the light of a few wild-eyed camel candelabras.

Beastly: Claudia Rankin, The Scottish Gallery, 16 Dundas Street, Edinburgh, 0131 558 1200, Until 26 Oct, Mon - Fri, 10am - 6pm; Sat, 10am - 4pm

Critic's choice

Edinburgh Printmakers continues to explore its relatively new home with new printmaking work from artists Alberta Whittle and Hardeep Pandhal. Whittle is currently the subject of a major solo exhibition at Dundee Contemporary Arts, and here shows a moving image work developed from a period of residency at the Printmakers.

The exhibition, Transparency, is a response to the architectural heritage of the Printmakers, the former North British Rubber Company HQ, but also once a silk factory and a brewery. It also looks at Scotland's “collective amnesia to its colonial heritage”, which is as strong as the rest of the United Kingdom's, and ideas of “transparency”, whether personal, political or cultural. Whittle's moving image work was filmed in the Ewart Library in Dumfries, where the archives of the NBRC are held, and her work touches on elements of colonialism and Windrush. She also presents a floor work and prints. Pandhal, also based in Glasgow, presents a series of etchings – his first foray into printmaking - also the result of a residency at Edinburgh Printmakers. Panhal's work is interested in “ideas of repatriation, from immigration policies to museum collections. How can displacement be put to use? What language would it speak? How can misreading be productive?”

Edinburgh Printmaker's has also commissioned writers to respond to the work, and includes texts by Aman Sandhu, Cass Ezeji and Danny Pagarani. In Gallery 2, the set-up is reversed as a series of artists respond in print to the poet Warsan Shire's contention that “No-one leave home unless home is the mouth of a shark.”

Transparency: Alberta Whittle & Hardeep Pandhal – guest-curated by Mother Tongue. Edinburgh Printmakers, Castle Mills, 1 Dundee Street, Edinburgh, 0131 557 2479,, 19 Oct – 5 Jan 2020, Tues – Sun, 10am – 6pm

Don't miss

Very last chance to catch Allan Renshaw's solo show Return to Origins at Tweedale Gallery, Peebles, which takes an psycho-archaeological look at our past and reinterprets what it means to be human. Uppermost in Renshaw's work is the need to balance human action with nature, and to identify ourselves with Nature in the face of climate catastrophe.

Allan Renshaw: Return to Origins, Tweedale Gallery, Chambers Institution, High Street, Peebles, 01721 724820, Mon - Fri, 10.30a - 4pm; Sat 9.30am - 12.30pm Until 12 Oct