Ceramic residency at La Pedrix, France

Undergoing immersive week extending my skills in sculpting, hand building, collaborating, performing and story telling.


Learning how to reclaim dry blocks of clay with no plaster, and in limited time was quite challenging. Arising to smashing the clay into almost powder with heavy tools, and after saturating it with limited amounts of water, building arches to let the sloppy clay dry.
However, accustoming myself with this new, locally dug clay was easier. I really enjoyed its unique colour as well as the groggy and rather sticky texture, even though it did not record the texture of my hand, which I normally try to keep.

Set with the task of creating a kiln based on a country and its stories/folklore, I started drafting ideas and searching for stories in Slovak/Slavic mythologies. I came up with some designs based on ‘Morena’ – goddess of Winter whose effigy is burned and thrown into a stream to welcome the Spring. However, its basic story didn’t really interest me, with obvious but messy symbolisms such as female fertility, rebirth, coldness, evil and beauty, burning witches, etc.

I was wondering, that there must be a folk story for every fairy common creature and natural phenomena, over the many years and geographies of human existence.
My first search trial was snails, as I like them and could relate to their slow and quiet exploration of the world.
Within Christian traditions they are perceived as evil, symbols of the deadly sin of sloth, laziness and apathy.
However, in Aztec stories snail is representing the moon, its shell the cycles of moon and is considered humble and respectful. Moreover, it has very interesting and different back story to the moon’s creation. I was instantly captured, and felt I could retell the story to others, with the kiln supporting the theatrical presentation perfectly.

 

I sketched multiple designs of snail like object with circular features representing the moon. At the end I stayed with fairy simple in detail but still challenging enough shape for me.

I felt I could really develop my aesthetics in hand building and sculpting, experimenting with this semi abstract form with emphasis on empty space and more organic, uneven surface. The red slip allowed me to separate the circle – moon and shell from the base, whilst white slip brushes added a bit more movement and clay dots another voids.

 

 

As a side project we had to construct a stackable camping set, but missing a collaborative element in the residency, I teamed up with Morgan. To allow us to focus on our kilns and produce something good in such a short time, we stripped down the stackable element to the basic and pumped up the fun element. Our fun ‘Camp’-ing Picknic Set included one big serving/salad bowl with decoration imitating weaved basket, and limp wristed hands as handles. Inside the bowl could fit: 2 smaller and 2 bigger plates with penis pattern decoration and illustrations of me and Morgan; 2 high heel leg wine glasses; double bum bowl, and 2 sets of cutlery in shape of hands, penises and lips with lipstick.

 

 

Exploring France through the few trip we had was a rich experience.
With very camp and opulent, gilded Italian tea set from a car boot sale, giving us more inspirations for the Camp Camping Set and its decoration that awaited.
The cliff-side town with a whole church cut into the rockside, and small well shrines in a potter’s studio was a captivating example of slow growth and transformation: through inorganic – chiseling out the pillars, walls and features of the church, or waters eroding voids and channels into the rock; to organic – moss and mold growing on the faces of rock walls from the trickling of water and moisture present, and various plants finding any sunny surfaces to plant their roots.
It was fun to find many snails, some in crazy, almost surreal forms, in various art and souvenir shops.

 

 

 

Bottle Kiln building

A quick side project to collaboratively build a bottle kiln.
It really extended our skills in extruding clay, with careful/tight approach at beginning, but by the end we pushed the use of extruded shapes to almost collapse of the last part, and embraced the aesthetics that extruder can provide.


Due to the tight deadline and acquiring of more knowledge as we went along, we ended up making many compromises and finished with very different form than our original design.

I didn’t feel as knowledgeable enough to contribute much in the planning and making processes, but I believe non of us was very experienced in extruding and building such a large structure.
However, as we always checked up with each other on what we are about to do, and collectively decided on any (and many) changes, the building process was swift and natural.

I think I rather avoided more responsible tasks of directly joining and building the kiln and rather helped on side tasks as preparing the clay, extruding, cutting, making individual ‘bricks’ or just cleaning.

Pop Up Play – Summer Competition

Our “Forest of Plinths” realisation.
An exciting opportunity to revamp an old concrete patch.


 In June, before finishing the academic year, I, Toni and Alice teamed-up to put forward a proposal for a live brief competition. The brief was set-up by the Cardiff School of Education as they wanted to transform an unused concrete patch on their Cyncoed Campus.
The concrete patch is located nearby a forest that is used for outdoor learning activities with the CSE students and children from local primary schools. They wanted to utilise the previously unused space as play and storage area for the kids and their finds and creations from the forest, as well as seminar space for the university students.

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After few visit to the concrete patch as well as the forest area, we felt strongly about bringing certain elements and feelings from the forest to the exposed concrete patch.
The two locations couldn’t be more different, with uncovered and exposed area with carpark, walkways and stairs all around, and the covered, enclosed and safe space protected by the trees.
We particularly liked the few log circles in the forest, and a small bridge, leaning over a tiny stream. They represented a common theme for us, about collaboration, enclosure and bridging over ideas and people.
We wanted to bring over these themes we found in the forest, onto the empty patch.

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The hard work creating the proposal haven’t actually prepared us for the actual realisation, after our idea won.
Tight time limitations, as well as money, materials and physics meant our plans had significantly changed, and we had to respond to problems swiftly.

Biggest changes happened when we had to draw the design in Illustrator for the CNC for cutting. Realistically it had to fit onto the number of plywood sheets we had budget for – this reduced the number of the plinths from 25 to 13, and scaled the area they take up on the tiles by half. Structural and locking mechanisms had to be designed.

After hard thinking, with the essential help of Olivia, Morgan expertly drew the design in Rhino and transferred to Illustrator, ready for CNC cutting.

Lengthly sanding, glueing, sanding again for safety precautions and then painting and varnishing for number of coats.

While living with the plinths for few good days, if not weeks, we discovered number of advantages:
1. They are actually very comfortable to sit on.
2. They are rather spacious, so you can hide many things in them.
3. The lid is a perfect shield.
4. The locking stick is a perfect sword.
5. Upside down they look like castles.
6. They are a cool, but rather heavy helmets.


We produced number of ceramic tiles to lay over 2 of the plinth tops.
Scanned children’s drawings, which were then processed in Illustrator, were laser etched onto number of them.

However, due to our lack of experience in surface decoration with oxide washes, the final result after firing them to 1240C for weather proofing wasn’t satisfactory enough for us to put them onto the plinths.

We would really like to place some ceramics onto the plinths, or into the space. Making the tiles with the kids would have better effect and be more fun, as the laser etched patterns will never be visible clearly enough.


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Painting the floor tiles itself, was a good compromise to the lesser amount of plinths filling the empty space.
We collaborated with two great 3rd year BA Illustration students, filling number of the tiles with deliciously bright colours and cute insect (and a snake) designs.


This was such an enriching collaboration between different students and staff from CSAD and CSE, Cyncoed Campus and Llandaff Campus. Between wood and clay, concrete and paint, machine and hand, nature and man.
Being part of a close group of people and working on a live project, from abstract proposal to real realisation was tremendously helpful in learning how a real project comes alive.
From networking, sharing ideas and working together; to use of software and hardware to produce something, but also to overcome number of arising problems.

Working on this project, I definitely acquired at least some confidence in using wood, but also in manipulation of other materials, to incorporate into my ceramic practice and BA course. In my new brief for Level 5, I now want to incorporate wood, furniture and design processes, and let them enrich my ceramic practice. I also acquired a sense that I should really treat every brief as live, more direct and outcome focused brief, especially coming closer to my 3rd year. Or at least search for optional live briefs, as exploration and experimentation is still important, but finalising something is rather rewarding.

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Field: External Collaboration – Week II

Final week of collaboration with other subjects, creating and presenting our proposal of manifestation of our group manifesto.


After presenting our manifestos last week, we were asked to now manifest our group manifesto into an object, intervention, zine, poster, or any way best suitable.

It needed to represent and show our ideas and directions of the manifesto to all students of CSAD, even the world.
The group went through all the activities that could show some points of our manifesto or enrich CSAD students’ lives, with proposals such as a feedback artwall, a sort of club room, a quiet space, a quiet room to work in, a new space to socialise. Everybody wanted to contribute with something, meeting multiple of needs, and we tried to include everyone.

To link it to the first group’s shared idea, my suggestion was a garden, and to represent the point of art existing in its own realm and the hardship of making art as well as ever changing nature of it, an ambitious dome enclosing a different world a tropical paradise, would show the idea to the point.

Between the buildings of CSAD
Empty paved space between the 2 CSAD buildings

The dome garden could even house all the other ideas, making a new, shared centre for the 2 separate CSAD buildings. The empty paved space needs to be improved and be more inspiring anyway.
The new ‘Hearth Space’ would also include a new reception, cafe, gallery space as well as the first ideas.
There was plenty options to

Back of CSAD
Proposed space for my garden dome.

explore and visualise, prepare for our Monday tutorial and presentation on Tuesday.
We all decided to explore and work on one aspect of the new shared community space, with me exploring further the garden which would be at the rare side of the new space.

Set with the ideas, I took number of photos of the space so I could print them, draw and create collages of the proposed dome.20160215_143811
This proved trickier than expected, I had difficulties with perspective and drawing the dome realistically onto the paper. Collage was a better option, but it showed more of the impression of the idea.
I tried to blow some soap bubbles to see how they would adapt to the space around. The

Blowing bubbles to see how the dome could adapt to the already standing building.

metal boxes represent the 2 buildings, with the smaller one in the middle the new space that would include activities and ideas of other group members. My dome garden, or bubble would be at the end of the new building.

I wanted to imagine, and show the idea more realistically, ideally even walk around and in the space, so computer software was the only option. As it was a very quick project, with many more ongoing I had no time to install and learn some new, professional software, therefore I went for the most easiest and accessible option: Minecraft.
Not the most ideal, but the best and certainly most fun option in this scenario. It was again just a draft impression rather then design with correct perception and sizes, but this time it was possible to walk around and go in, even fly over, giving at least some idea of the viewer’s interaction with the space.

A model of the new Heart Space and complete indoor garden in Minecraft.

As we had tutorial on Monday, I had to prepare all my ideas and visualisations for presenting to the group and tutors.

My Dome proposal
My board for our tutorial.

Continue reading Field: External Collaboration – Week II

Field: External Collaboration – Week I

Exploring ideas behind Manifestos and creating our own one, in a group of student from across the whole CSAD.
Stimulating discussion and ideas with Ladybird Books postcards and creating a cake to represent our Manifesto


20160208_120430.jpgAfter an initial introduction to the External Collaboration part of our Field module, we were divided into a groups and handed a pack of postcards depicting book covers of classical children’s books published by Ladybird.
I ended up in a larger group of 6, with interesting and captivating people across the subjects, from Graphics, Fine Art and Illustration.
Choosing a card from the pack individually, depending on how it speaks to us and what ideas we can extract from the images.
I chose my one with the title “Garden Flowers” because I’m simply drawn to plants, have interest in caring for them and filling my living space with life, captured in their limiting plant pots.
However, the ideas that the image represented for me were even more interesting: speaking of a utopian life where the flowers have an abundance of resources, having an organism that takes care of all their needs and diseases. On the other hand, life of no choice, contained in set and limited space, in the mercy of the owner. Utopia is too close to dystopia. These ideas always make me thing of the heaven my parents often talk about. A perfect utopic place of NO sin and suffering; a place of no free will?

In fact almost all of us chose a card depicting nature, or animals; even a card “People at Work: the Postman” seemed to me like a snapshot of a creature in its everyday activities and habitat. This one interested me a lot from others, as it carried ideas around communication and work and how much these aspects of our lives changed in a generation, with the widespread usage of internet, and machines in workplace, etc.

After presenting the chosen cards to each other in the group, we had to chose one that could represented all of us, and present it with ideas arising to the whole class.
My group went with the “Garden Flowers” card I picked, as everyone was vaguely interested in nature, and I could talk about the card in depth, with ideas spreading around utopia-dystopia.


Grotesque inconsistencies – life Continue reading Field: External Collaboration – Week I

Tea for Two – Introduction and Ideas generating

Exciting and dynamic new FIELD project of internal collaboration.
Creating a complete tea set in pairs, originally only in 2 weeks; stimulating fast thinking and ideas creation, and then pushing them for production.


Grouped with Jen, I was glad I could work with someone I had no chance to meet properly before.
As she couldn’t attend the introduction presentation, I prep her through phone, so we can start generating some ideas independently and then bring them together, find compromises and set directions.


Some of the objects from “History of the World in 100 Objects” series helped me at generating ideas, how object convey the issues and thinking of its time.

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History of the World in 100 Objects. Russian revolutionary plate.

Such as Russian revolutionary plate from 1921, expressing a new world order for the benefit of the worker, who is treading on the world “capital”. The plate celebrates creation of the first Communist state; in futurist style, looking at the bright, red future of peace and work for everyone, social and economical equality, utopia has never been so close.

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History of the World in 100 Objects. Early Victorian tea set.

Or Early Victorian tea set from 1840, talking about the new, industrialised and colonised world where all the aspects of a high class tea ceremony comes from across the world, sugar from South African sugar cane plantation or Indian tea from Himalayas mountain regions, even the milk, brought by new and exciting form of transport – train, to the metropole of Empire, from outside countryside.

Looking at my current time and generation, Guardian’s series on “Millennials: The perfect storm of debt, housing and joblessness facing a generation of young adults” [Guardian] the facts, figures and opinions were informative on the current issues; as well as the current threat of austerity and cuts around, especially for the youth homelessness prevention program SHYPP, who helped me too, back in Hereford.

support SHYPP from mediashypp on Vimeo.


Meeting with Jennifer, I presented my ideas around homelessness and generation struggle which she acknowledged.
Jen expressed her interest in 1970’s Staffordshire functional pottery design and the link to her home.

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Example of 1970 Staffordshire, functional pottery design.

I was delighted as I was always interested in the modern, simple but colourful aesthetic, and wanted to achieve them in my own throwing practice.
The time when they were created also reflected the previous generation of ambition, modernity and consume, so often compared to the struggling generation of today’s young adults.
This gave us great foundation to start designing and draw ideas and designs, encompassing the themes.