A Glaze Dilema

As I discussed in my last post Body Vs Glaze, my fondness for the aesthetics of the local clay as a glaze was growing. However, even though I have become enraptured by this treacle-like substance I still recall my less than positive initial reaction to it. I want to avoid underwhelming the audience, so how can I use the glaze in a more effective, delightful way?

Placing the glaze on edges or specific facets of the work does does translate a thoughtful approach, but it has not yet overwhelmed or excited any audience. How is this glaze supposed to stand up to the dazzling colour palette of the modern world?

I then saw a few pieces by Ken Price.

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The Lug, Ken Price 1988

I first saw this piece, The Lug, on a dull screen and the purple appeared to be of a dark brown with lighter, polished edges. The contrast between the brown and the electric turquoise was enthralling. Even the reality of purple has a similar effect, but thinking brown…brown would make that green even more enticing and exciting. So potentially the brown could be used to highlight and contrast a palette of other colours.

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Found: Local Clay Site

Living near a river filled me with hope that I might be able to find suitable clay nearby for casting. I was lucky.

The site is near the river, surrounded by trees. There is a small path where people walk their dogs or cycle. But no-one lingers. The commanding dual carriageway hoisted above the space, slicing though some potentially great parkland, encourages people to keep on their journey. The graffiti, footprints in the river bed and litter signify the variety of ways this space is used.

This place has a name, though most people do not know it. ‘The bit near the river by…’ is probably how its location is understood, Ashton Meadows meaning almost nothing to most people. It is not a destination. It is a thoroughfare, on the edge of the city.

It’s what Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts refer to as an Edgeland.

Places are known, mentally mapped, they have names. Spaces are unknown, unnamed on the exterior of the city as well as peoples consciousness. This location is still a space to me, relatively unknown, only recently named.

Can it become a place; not just for me but for the city? Can it turn a space into a place?

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.

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.

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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.

 

 

 

(S)Platters

During a trip to the TATE Britain this weekend over the course of some refreshment a jug of milk was spilled (shown above). This spill reminded me of some of the dishes (food and ceramic) on the menu of The Man Behind the Curtain.

Realising that I could use casting slip, I set about creating some organic spills on plaster bats. When leather hard, these spills could be manipulated into different shapes. Manipulated in a specific way, these spills could act as platters for the ready to go jelly plinths being produced for the Holburne Museum. Draped over preexisting molds, these (s)platters would comment on the past and present of food display.

This eventually lead me to develop another alternative method of creating plinths. By composing a range of plaster forms – cast from preexisting packaging – I could drop thin slabs of porcelain onto these compositions and create an organic, freestanding plinth (having removed the plaster packaging models when leather hard). This was inspired by the process of Luke Shalan.

For some of these forms I cut out circular bat like slabs, replicating signs found when making plates. The slab is then obstructed by the plaster packaging models, combining ready to go eating and entertainment dining.

Update 24 May 2016

Reflection on action:

during firing the individual (s)platters were placed on top/overlapping each other. This composition was extremely pleasing. It not only enhances the organic qualities of the spills (something I found very difficult to replicate)  alongside a curatorial element that makes the pieces feel more resolved.

The quantities of 0%, 5% and 10% black copper oxide resemble organic stones or pebbles, which further remind me of the stoneware plates and bowls of high-end restaurants NOMA and Casa Mia.

So, how to develop this approach? It was suggested that I look at the slip trailing work of Clive Bowen and his son Dylan Bowen. I was familiar with the work of Bowen senior, who’s making approach though gestural at times is fairly controlled; further outlined in this video.

The slip trailing of Dylan Bowen (found here) resembles some of the vigorous splatter marks found in the food served in The Man Behind the Curtain. This approach to making (s)platters would unite the conceptual ideas as well as having links in traditional ceramic making. The overlapping/combined colour effect above could be achieved by layering different coloured slips.

In an attempt to combine the (s)platter with the slip cast plinth forms I had already created I started to use varied plaster forms on which to pour the slip.

During my first attempt I poured the slip onto plaster bats used for plate making. I wanted to capture the spill in 3D. I suspected that the slip would shrink over this form, preventing it from releasing easily. My suspicions were  true and despite capturing some great spills, the slip refused to release from the plaster bats. I then returned to using flat bats and even a bowl form which enabled me to shape the spill into a curved vessel. This process is worth exploring further.

The Man Behind the Curtain – Leeds

Making reference to the line in the Wizard of Oz, ‘pay no attention to the man behind the curtain’ this Leeds restaurant is using its ceramics as well as its food to make an impact with its customers. Using that line in particular, it appears that this restaurant is much more about what’s happening out front and not about the chef, behind the curtain. More about this restaurant can be found in this Guardian article.

Where ceramics is disappearing from convenience restaurants all over the country, fine-dining entertainment restaurants are embracing well designed/handcrafted ceramic tableware. Interestingly, each piece of ceramics is matched to a specific dish, therefore establishing an inextricable link between the food and the ceramics.

In The Man Behind The Curtain, the ceramics takes clear inspiration from the food. Wild, gestural splats are mirrored by plates and dishes (a loose label) which appear to have been frozen in time.

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Where I had previously noticed that ceramics remained in use when tablecloths were present, The Man Behind the Curtain – a clear example of high end entertainment dining  – has replaced the drama and elegance of the tablecloth with ceramics.

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So what objects if any connect our eating experiences? From this discovery it seems that the last remaining link, an object which still unites every restaurant, takeaway and cafe up and down the country is the napkin. (As seen above).