PDP – Ethos

The ambiguity of whats out in the art world is enormous, yet I begin to see myself touch upon some boxes, some more than others. Looking at Narrative: anti-narrative and still life, Meta-modernism: materiality and process and Function: interactivity and Design, I definitely see myself discussing themes of craft in relation to fine art and with that talking about ceramics and its materiality and process, towards how objects interact with one another which subsequently has to do with function and all of it’s negative connotations.

My work relies completely on the potential and possibility of clay. The technique of coiling relies absolutely on time and the senses remembered in the fingertips as the thumb and index finger press the clay and form it to the desired thickness. Such a way of working applies minimum use of tools and machines, and completely adapts the body of the artist.

Through craft, objects are invited to return to the human life where they belong, where they can provide the psychological foundation for us to realise humanity and establish bonds and exchanges with each other.

Part of my thesis which is at the heart of my practice is looking at ceramics in a more concrete way and how it appropriates within the fine art spectrum. Ceramics is property understood as a fine art medium, but over the years it has been overlooked and demoted, partially this is the result of its craft associations as craft generally is regarded as ‘lower’ than art.

Although it is a familiar and well-trodden narrative to those used to discourse on contemporary craft, exploring both the connections and erosion of boundaries between design and art, function and concept is at the core of what I am exploring.

I want to have an end result which reside at the edge, occupying what author Dr. Jorunn Veiteberg has called ‘an intervening space’. In her book Craft in Transition, she observed: ‘It has been common to describe craft’s position as a borderline area between fine art and design. I have preferred too call this area and intervening space or, to be more precise, the space between function and non-fuction, tradition and breaking with tradition, craftsmanship-based art and idea-based art’.

Perhaps this whole project has to do with my self-centred idea of defending myself as a maker/ceramicist trying to make art. There is an urge in an art college or in a creative mind that the product of your imagination has to have some sort of artistic value or in other words a work of art.

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Paper Clay

Visiting Valeria Nascimento’s studio, she pondered if I ever experimented with paper clay which would allow me to work at bigger scales, and reflecting on that Susan Nemeth also uses paper clay for her work.

Paper clay has changed many of the basic forming rules in recent years, particularly in joining procedures. Complex structures can be built because fresh new clay can be stuck onto bone-dry or even bisque fired clay by using paper clay slurry as the glue and bond. It can also be enough to simply wet areas to be joined. In the dry state, the hollow fibres of cellulose provide the capillaries for the wet clay to bond and knit together. Armatures for sculpture made from wire mesh can be used, but generally not needed. Paper clay can be fired to all temperatures, when the paper will burn away; this will also reduce its weight.

Grogg/Molochite additions

Having done a bit of research on the subject, generally porcelain is not suited for large-scale working (surprise, surprise) yet I really like its tactility and whiteness when it reaches its vitrification stage. However, the addition of 7% of fine molochite and/or 1% cellulose fibres should not change the nature of the porcelain but give it more strength.

Working at a large scale magnifies and increases the number of problems associated with strength, shrinkage and crack resistance during making and drying, and with tensions that clay goes through during the firing and cooling stages.

The addition of grog or molochite opens the structure of the clay body, enabling quicker drying and strength. This reduces its plasticity, so you may have to adapt your usual working methods. Once you use it, however, it may become your preferred clay to its greater tolerance levels.

These additions  will have high stoneware vitrification points because these additions  almost get in the way of the finer clay particles when melting and knitting together, which hopefully will prevent my porcelain from warping as much.

I have been experimenting with different groggs from different additions to the actual grinded clay like chrome and different oxides and also additions to molochite. The intentions is to hopefully not only use it as a strengthening method but use it as decoration, and with an effect how glaze is affected by that.

In addition, Alina kindly gave a little sample of Carib Sea Moon Sand and I can’t wait for the results.

Towards Incongruence

To me, ceramics feels like a wide-open field in part because no one outside of ceramic’s really paying much attention to it. By simply being alone, ceramics has mutated and gestated to develop a set of incongruent strategies and standards, an elegantly flat-footed syncopation, and an often beautifully awkward aesthetic. But strangely, these innovations have occurred without being tethered to a concurrent revision within the discourse of clay or for that matter any discourse that attempts to consider the plurality of its disparate practices. Ceramic artists have mostly been left to use and borrow from stagnantly dysfunctional critical canon, one that often wrongly assumes the following:

  • that ceramics are still involved with trying desperatly to make ‘art’,
  • that ceramic practice is primarily routed through material investigations,
  • that a clay object’s meaning must be refracted through ceramic art history.

The agitating gap between ceramic’s available discourse and its actual, pervading practice pronounces a problem. However, it is a problem where some of the field’s most wild innovation is currently couched.

Michael Jones McKean, ‘Towards Incongruence’, Interpreting Ceramics, Issue 9, 2007