Developing a new methodology

My recent work for The Holburne Museum, Bath has rooted out a new working methodology.

These works were produced by taking a preexisting object (a plastic ready to go jelly pot) and casting it, replicating it, distorting it to create a new work/sculpture. The approach used to make these sculptures echoes the processes used to make the original plastic cast jelly pot.

Gillian Rose (2012) in Visual Research talks about the three sites of production when creating images, or in this case, 3D works.

Interpretations of visual images broadly concur that there are three sites at which the meaning of an image are made: the site(s) of the production of an image, the site of the image itself, and the site(s) where it is seen by various audiences. 

So far I have begun to unpack the site of production. I have used the context of the jelly pot to inform my making process. I see this as being truthful to the production, or history of the object; essentially seeking the truth.

Preliminary drawings and plaster maquettes helped me to assess the visual content of the image itself. Experimenting with individual components was a suitable approach to establishing the most successful combinations.

And the audience site of the work will occur in a museum cafe on a banqueting table, which is highly appropriate.

This approach to making and showing work has been extremely useful in building on my preexisting knowledge and methodology. Concerning myself with the three sites of production will enable me to make work that is truthful, visually strong and is seen in the right space.

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Seeking Decadence

As part of a project for the Holburne Museum Bath, I am collaborating with fellow Bath Spa MA Ceramicists to create an event highlighting the increase in ‘ready to go’ packaging and a decrease in ceramic tableware. We have each chosen a ‘ready to go’ food product and are creating ceramic works to display this specific food.

For my work I have chosen jelly. Jelly was a very decadent food, served only to the rich and always set in exciting moulds. These moulds were originally ceramic products before cheaper metal moulds came along.

Initially I had been taking disposable packaging commonly associated with off the shelf eating and using vacuum forming to create new moulds. This process responds to how the original moulds were made.

However, I then went to The Georgian Museum, Bristol and found some very decadent (albeit copper) jelly moulds. These moulds reminded me that jelly was about showing off, impressing your guests; so I had to start thinking about how I could make my ceramic piece much more decadent.

It seems from the mould forms above that jelly moulds commonly have a tiers/layers of adorned columns or crenelations like crowns/castles. So I needed to achieve a certain about of tiering in my work.

I therefore started with the basic forms of preexisting disposable packaging and started to stack them in a range of compositions.

Making individual slip cast versions of these forms enabled me to stack and reconfigure the forms so that they were never repeated; a one off being more decadent that a mass produced object perhaps. The results so far, are documented in the following image.

originalphoto-492963755.301433

I begin also to squish and crush some of the parts to acknowledge the disposable nature of the original packaging. Some compositions are more successful than others; all of them appearing slightly futuristic. What is pleasing about these pieces is that they can be stacked on top of each other, permitting a range of different compositions.

However, I felt like this method was slightly too simple and a bit obvious. I started to explore about how else I can make moulds with the limited resources I have over the summer. Without being able to mould plastic my only other option was to form my mould directly from plaster.

I used a hammer and chisel and cut away parts of surplus plaster moulds, leaving raw exposed areas. Once slip cast these chiselled parts came to look like rock.

That reminded me immediately of stone carved architecture and particularly pillars – the ultimate plinth. The first four images were taken in Gerona and document how decadent pillars were made. The second four are images of pillars found on the Holburne Museum building. Generally a very decorative capital (the top part) a semi decorative plinth (the lower part) and always a fairly simple middle part. This process of making pillars has inspired me to create my ceramic jelly plinth in a similar style, with a semi plain middle and decadent plinth and capital.

As with pillars the middle sections were commonly made from a series of stones carved to appear as one, so too will my piece. It seems much more simpler to now ignore the vast range of disposable food packaging and stick with the plastic tub that holds the ‘ready to go’ jelly. From this simple form I can create height by stacking and decadence through vacuumed formed plastic and chiseling at plaster.

LINDA BROTHWELL – The Missing

An exhibition at the Holburne Museum in where figures were removed from their marble plinths. Shots of decadent candelabra’s from the Holburne collection.

Developing the Ceramic Tablecloth

Hella Jongerius, a Dutch designer, has united ceramic tableware and tablecloths in a piece where she knitted the two together (pictured in the following video 0.48 secs or here).

 

This gives me great encouragement for combining my own tablecloth and ceramics. When clearing out my studio space I assembled my vacuumed formed cast of preexisting molds together. The results permitted an insight as to how a whole table of objects may appear.

This reminds me of Ryan Ganders work Tell My Mother not to Worry , 2012 where made his daughters den of sheets into a permanent marble sculpture (as this Google image search aptly depicts).

ryan gander

Using fabric (in place of a tablecloth/napkin) depicts how we can make assumptions about the original object even when hidden or enveloped. As the napkin remains the one common element with all aspects of dining, creating bowls, plates etc from ceramic napkins could be a potential avenue for this project.

Update: 1st June 2016

A research trip to a Cash and Carry provided the opportunity to look at a wide variety of disposable food containers. Despite rejecting the process of slip casting these containers in Making the Disposable Indisposable, I am interested in attempting to capture the form in clay somehow.

 

By slumping clay slabs over these containers, their forms could be make into ceramics. Paper or card containers would burn off in the kiln, removing the necessity to remove the container before firing. This has been problematic in the past and several of my forms have lost their shape. The other issue is that the clay form may sag once the paper formed has burned away, distorting the shape further. However, this is process worthy of attempting.

 

 

 

Man Only Dines #2

For each of us there will be a restaurant, cafe or takeaway that we went to for the first time without parental consent or instruction. At the age of thirteen, McDonald’s was the venue in which I chose to commemorate this independent decision making.

The act of using chopsticks symbolises my current passion for oriental cuisine and embodies the knowledge and experiences I have acquired over the past nineteen years. The act of bookending my dining decisions hopes to highlight the conflict between my teenage preferences and the adult choices I make today.

Artists of Interest

Over recent weeks a few artists have either been recommended to me or I have come across their work through research. Writing about the work of the artists here I hope to make it explicit how their ideas/concepts/practice may be significant to my own work.

Julian Stair – Quotidian

I first saw the work in Crafts, (Gibson, 2015) issue after being given a free copy of the magazine. Stair is known for his functional ceramic ware but in Quotidian he wrestles with how contemporary craft is displayed in galleries and produces a stop motion video, shot from above, of people gathered around a table using his wares.

Initially the image is hard to read, but the extending of arms passing or gathering the wares signify the table set up for many courses. In the magazine, the stills of the video work well as a group/series of abstract works. The success of this work makes me feel that a range of stills from Man Only Dines #1 & #2  (shown below) could equally be as successful as showing the whole video. This way the work still has a life long after the moment or making experience has been achieved.

 

Luke Shalan – Slab Drop

This artist was recommended to me after a fellow student saw my work on tablecloths. I had started to set up table settings and cover them with porcelain.

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An article on Cfile online magazine (Rodger, 2015) describes Shalan as a ‘process designer who explores the relationship between tool , material, creator/operator’ trying to discover ‘the experience of making’ (ibid). His porcelain pieces are ghostly casts of the everyday objects he comes across. Again the action is the art, the ceramic piece is the evidence.

Ian McIntyre – Jerwood Makers Open

 

Reflection for action:

  • art as experience
  • documenting the experience  (video/photography/ceramics)
  • functionalware as art
  • process as constraint

 

Fragile? National Museum Cardiff. 

Images (Sales, S. 2015)

The visit to Fragile? was a fantastic opportunity to explore a vast range of contemporary works based around the theme of ceramics. The collection included video, immersive environments and works using clay in its raw state. Keith Harrison and Clare Twomey both installed interactive works using clay at its most delicate and vulnerable. Other artists had pushed, pulled, squashed, squished, coloured and forcibly manipulated this diverse material.

The gallery itself had expertly curated strategic information points. Every time I felt a question bubbling it was answered effectively through the use of gallery labels, video documentaries, museum staff and Ipads.

Reflection: Out of the 100+ exhibits during this exhibition I photographed only a small handful. I photographed these works because I enjoyed them, they had sparked something in me. As I came to upload these images I questioned the reasons why these photographs; why those particular objects? Why had I rejected many other pieces in favour of these select few? As I examined the collective it became clearer that I had selected each work on the merits of its production. Some techniques (throwing, slipcasting) were familiar, but others were new and even used raw, un-fired clay. The potential to discover the ways clay can be used in practice now seem vast and extremely attractive.