There's a stereotype that many people have about ceramics. Often when I tell someone that I work with clay I can see visions of tea sets and pattern glazes from the '70s swirling in their eyes. In the world of contemporary art that simply isn't the way things are anymore. I have attempted to communicate the limitless possibilities of clay to the public through installation art...to exorcise the spectre of owl teapots from the '70s.
One of the themes that I've explored in my installation projects has been the creation of visual landscapes from a multitude of repeated shapes and patterns of smaller objects. By linking many individual pieces together into a common whole I've explored the patterns that the many create in the one; the cohesiveness that individuals bring to the collective. Let me give you two examples.
Wave Plate series:
The first ceramic installation I worked on involving multiples was the "Wave" plate series created for the Art of Food exhibition on Granville Island. The exhibition showcased the relationship between art/design and food. The ritual of eating communally and the ways in which our culinary choices not only affect ourselves, but the environment in which we live were some of the key themes within the exhibition. The piece was a collaborative effort between myself and five other students. We were challenged to create a dinner series that would accommodate the 200 plus guests attending the gala opening at the Sand Bar resturant. We created the wave series to work both as a functional plate (held in the palm of your hand) and as a larger wall tile (permanently affixed to the wall). I was really happy with the outcome of this project, but saw that there were flaws within the process that needed to be worked out (such as the tiles being glued to the wall, making them inoperable as a plate). I needed to find a way to give the work the potential to function as either tile or plate?
Rhombus Plate/Tile series:
My current grad project utilizes geometric multiples based on the works of the mathematician Arthur Penrose (made popular by the drawings of M.C. Escher). I began by creating paper mock-ups of the Penrose rhombus...lots of mock-ups...lots and lots of mock-ups. I cut out about one hundred of these mock-ups and laid them all over my living room floor to see how the shapes related to each other. I played with patterns and sizes, shuffling paper shapes around my living room until it looked like one of those pictures you see of an abandoned stock exchange after the traders have left for the day. I had tetris like dreams of Penrose rhombus patterns. Eventually I found a pattern that was both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Then I moved my prototypes from paper to wood. As I was constructing wooden prototypes I had an epiphany. Flat surfaces work fine as tiles...but what if I made my Penrose rhombuses into tiles that could work as plates too? I pushed the form, adding opposing slanting sections to create a more complex pattern that could be a plate or a tile. I made my wooden prototype plate/tile Penrose rhombus into five plaster moulds and used these moulds to produce several hundred porcelain plates. As a final design element I added rare earth magnets to the back of the vessels. The magnets gave my rhombuses the ability to be installed on vertical metal sheeting as tiles or to be taken down and used as dinner service when needed. My rhombuses have achieved full platetilehood.I find this hybrid plate/tile nature of the rhombuses fascinating. Why hide your beautiful plates in the cupboard when they can be admired on the wall?
The boundary between inspiring installation art and functional vessels was blurred...and there wasn'tan owl teapot in sight.