Shaping the Future artists at Ceramic Values conference_ Stoke-on-Trent, England

Shaping the Future artists at Ceramic Values conference

Several artists of the Ceramics and its Dimensions: Shaping the Future exhibition presented their work and thoughts on ceramics at the Ceramic Values conference in Stoke-on-Trent, England.

The Ceramic Values conference opened a discussion about the values and roles ceramics has in the society. The three key themes were skills, values, and place. Several contributors from the Shaping the Future exhibition were among the speakers: professor Barbara Schmidt from Kunsthochschule Berlin Weißensee, professor Maarit Mäkelä, the lecturers Nathalie Lautenbacher and Anna van der Lei, and the students Tuuli Saarelainen and Saija Halko from Aalto University as well as Babette Wiezorek who recently graduated from Weißensee. Aalto University doctoral candidate Priska Falin conducted a workshop. Further, a Round Table discussion was held. Over 350 participants, who came from Taiwan, China, South Korea, Japan, and across Europe, attended the conference.

The conference took place on 5th and 6th of October 2017 and was part of the fifth British Ceramics Biennial (BCB) festival. BCB is a ceramics festival concentrated on contemporary ceramics. It consists of exhibitions, workshops, and competitions. This year the festival takes place between September 23rd and November 5th in Stoke-on-Trent. During BCB the touring Ceramics and its Dimensions: Shaping the Future exhibition – accompanied by the Future Lights (Module 8) ambassadors of 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 – opened its doors for the fourth time.

Discussing clay as a material, the craft and the role of place

In her presentation, Professor Barbara Schmidt talked about experimental approaches to ceramic from a product design point of view. She stated that experimental detours are important in teaching ceramics for product design students. Babette Wiezorek spoke about her master thesis that examines the possibility of integrating organic strategies into the system of a 3D printer. She presented her experiments with a self-built ceramic 3D printer.

Professor Maarit Mäkelä discussed the themes of creativity, materiality and place, and argued that in an artistic process material plays an important role like an actor itself. She talked about the mutual relationship in which she threw herself in with the material world when she spent one year working and collecting raw material samples in the volcanic nature of New Zealand. Some of the results of that year can be seen in the Ceramics and its Dimensions: Shaping the Future exhibition.

The students Tuuli Saarelainen and Saija Halko also discussed the role of place as they talked about their work “Spirit of the Place” which is also part of the exhibition. In their collaborative work, they wanted to turn their experiences of an old porcelain factory site into unique art objects.

Aalto University lecturers Nathalie Lautenbacher and Anna van der Lei held their presentations in the Ceramics and its Dimensions: Shaping the Future exhibition venue. Lautenbacher spoke about food related design and the values of handmade small scale production. She stated that craft doesn’t only mean tradition but that it is also the future. Anna van der Lei talked about a slightly different way of approaching the making of ceramics when she discussed her work “CHIL-DISH”. The work consists of tableware that is based on children’s drawings which have been modeled into 3D versions and then 3D printed in porcelain. She argues that when designing for children, they should themselves be included in the process at an early stage. “CHIL-DISH” is also part of the exhibition.

As part of the conference Priska Falin conducted an interactive clay workshop in collaboration with BCB Community and Education Programme Manager Dena Bagi. The Clay Pit workshop invites the participants to explore the possibilities of clay via a series of large clay pits, copious amounts of ceramic material, oversize clay tools and creative props. The workshop is part of the education and audience development program and it is open through the whole British Ceramics Biennial.

An old ceramics factory as exhibition venue

The presence of ceramics can be sensed everywhere in Stoke-on-Trent as old ceramics factories; old bottle kilns and architectural ceramic decorations are present all around. Although Stoke-on-Trent can be seen as the home of English pottery industry, factories have been shut down during the recent decades. The Spode-China Halls, in which the Ceramics and its Dimensions: Shaping the Future exhibition takes place, was a factory site still in operation just a bit less than a decade ago. Now it got a new life as a beautiful exhibition venue.

The robust interior of the old Spode factory brings the exhibition to a place very similar to that of the old Kahla porcelain factory site, where several of the works of the exhibition were initiated at an experimental workshop in spring 2016. In Stoke-on-Trent, the core of the exhibition has been joined by a local addition: a selection of prototypes, that are the results of Martin Smith and Steve Brown’s AHRC funded research project Extending the Potential for the Digitally Printed Ceramic Surface. The exhibition will be open at BCB until November 5th and next it will travel to Berlin and open there in January 2018.



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