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.

Image result for ken price the lug

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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Eating Vs Dining

The famous Victorian, Mrs Beeton once said ‘creatures of inferior races eat and drink; man only dines’. Though wildly politically incorrect in a contemporary setting, there is some truth to this statement; Id prefer to say that all creatures great and small do eat, but the human race alone has the potential to dine.

This got me to thinking about what is dining really, how is it signified and separated from eating? What rituals, values and particularly objects must be present for a dining experience to have occurred?

I started to compile a list.

Eating:

  • Food
  • Chewed
  • Swallowed
  • Nourish
  • Solo action (for most)
  • Anywhere

Dining:

  • Occasion
  • Enjoyment
  • Plates/bowls/cutlery/setting/napkin
  • Candle light
  • Courses- starter/main/dessert
  • Alcohol
  • Evening
  • Social
  • Music
  • Dim lighting
  • Table
  • And suggested by Mrs Beeton, ‘order’ and ‘graces’.

When I think of dining I imagine subdued lighting and candles. This seems to epitomise the idea of dinner as an occasion, rather than simply providing nourishment. Imagine the scene below with bright light and no candles…somewhere to eat, or somewhere to dine?

hipstamaticphoto-498425508-882777

So if I define dinner as eating at a table with candlelight, how many people in the UK dine? How many don’t dine? As a youth we always ate at the table, apart from Saturday evenings where we ate from our laps or from the nest of tables. I recall my mum’s decadent silver plate candelabra being used only once and never for a family meal.

The following articles provide info about the rise of TV dinners in the UK and the demise of the family unit where a lack of eating together occurs.

According to a poll in 2013, 60% of families rely on ready meals and 49% of families eat their evening meal at the dinner table everyday. With these statistics in mind, perhaps the modern day dining table looks like this:

IKEA KLIPSK bed tray Foldable legs make the bed tray easy to store without taking up extra space.IKEA KLIPSK bed tray Foldable legs make the bed tray easy to store without taking up extra space.

Imagine that tray with a candlestick…is that dining?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21443166

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2487647/Unstoppable-rise-TV-dinner-Less-half-UKs-families-regularly-sit-table-eat.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/mother-tongue/9882717/British-familes-dont-eat-together-and-if-they-do-its-often-in-front-of-the-TV.html

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.

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.

(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.

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