The uninitiated visitor to Sir John Soane's Museum would be forgiven for struggling to differentiate objects created for this exhibition from those of Soane's own densely packed collection. However, that is really precisely the point: how do these contemporary ceramists engage with the museum and its collection, and manage to distinguish their work from it?

Certainly, as a visitor familiar with the museum, I had to look for exhibition objects installed within the collection display. Starting in the basement, Christie Brown has created A Thwarted Dynasty, a set of busts of the Soane family: Sir John, his wife Eliza, sons and family dog, Fanny. The busts comment on the domestic tensions that led to the failure of Soane's dream to establish a dynasty of architects. They are displayed on old desks at angles to each other, setting up a tension through their arrangement and oblique facial expressions. This speaks volumes about the hidden personal undercurrents between Soane and his remaining son George, which eventually caused the house to be legated as a museum for the nation.

In the crypt, in a recess behind the famous sarcophagus – Soane's prized purchase – I came across Nicolas Rena's Green Remembrance, a beautiful vase, sited spectacularly below a sarcophagus head on the wall. Rena's choice for positioning here is perfect, causing a vibrant connection to emerge between these two pieces; their simple, fundamental aesthetic reflecting between them.

Carina Ciscato's Artist's Proof, found on the ground floor in the Breakfast Parlour, is a fascinating installation. No doubt it relates to the idea of the 18th century cabinet of curiosities: deliberately half-opened drawers give the viewer a peek at the pieces that make up the ceramicist's art; their position acting to convey the idea of hidden treasures to brought out only for certain viewers. The cabinet also reflects on the idea of the house as a place of professional construction: here are neatly arranged pieces of ceramic that will eventually fit together to form a finished whole – quite like Soane's process of architecture – in the meantime, the disassembled parts hold out endless possibilities for the viewer.

Further pieces by Ciscato can be found in the main reception rooms of the house, The Dining Room and The Library, although you'll have to look for them, as they have been placed discreetly in one of the corner library cabinets. The artist has replaced books with ceramic tea pots and jugs giving off a feminine, domestic aura. Once again, placement is integral to the installation, speaking volumes about the overwhelming dominance of Soane throughout the museum and suggesting a ghost of Eliza's once present form. 

In the Shakespeare Recess on the stairway, Clare Twomey has installed Everyman's Dream. Twomey asked 1,000 men to contribute short sentences outlining what they hope to leave as a legacy, and their messages were printed in gold lettering onto bone china ceramic bowls, which have been piled into the space. The recess is closed off behind a grille, so looking at the bowls is a distanced experience, but it is possible to glimpse some of the messages, many of which are quite poignant. I did feel this siting was problematic though: while the overall installation of the bowls massed together works well to convey the idea that between essentially similar men lie individual differences, only a few of the messages could be read and, in that way, it seems to me that something has been lost for the viewer. 

There are many other pieces on display, and the warders at the Soane are very helpful in pointing them out in each area of the house – which is as well, since they are easily overwhelmed by the density of the collection. Nevertheless, the ceramicists' interventions have a striking effect, their bright newness throwing a sharp contrast against the collection and bringing out contemporary ideas for the viewer's contemplation.

Marking the line: Ceramics and Architecture, at Sir John Soane's MuseumRita Fennell's review of Marking the Line: Ceramics and Architecture at Sir John Soane's Museum.3