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British ceramicist Clare Twomey is pictured on Tuesday September 30, 2014 as she sits with a selection of the 2,000 plus porcelain figurines, inspired by Gardiner's collection of 18th-century Harlequin figurines, which she has installed at Toronto's Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art.Chris Young/The Globe and Mail

There are ghosts on the third floor of Toronto's Gardiner Museum of ceramic art, white, silent, frozen in mid-gesture, eerie. More than 2,000 of them, in fact, with at least another thousand to be conjured in the next three months.

The ghosts are the creation of noted British ceramist Clare Twomey, 46, whom the museum has commissioned to help mark its 30th anniversary by preparing a "performative installation" called Piece by Piece.

Opening Saturday to coincide with Nuit Blanche, the installation, a Canadian first for Twomey, takes its inspiration from the commedia dell'arte porcelain figurines in the Gardiner's permanent collection, in particular a 1755 German Harlequin, a 1760 Leda, also German, and an Italian-made Scaramouche from 1770.

Twomey has positioned multiple unpainted, rather rough iterations of these characters in various "narratives" – dramas of dance, destruction, love, violence, failure and celebration – within a 14-by-14-metre "frame" on the Gardiner's dimly lit floor.

A visitor circulates the Lilliputian contents as he would the perimeter of an Italian piazza. Mounted on separate lofty plinths, are the exquisite Leda and the two male companions Twomey used as source models. To their north there's a table covered with moulds, tools and powders where weekdays until exhibition's close on Jan. 4 artisan-performers will quietly make additional Harlequins, Scaramouches et al. for installation.

"The idea is that it's a place where you forget where you are; it's magical, enchanted," Gardiner curator Rachel Gotlieb says.