The Hand and the Glove... ramblings about making.

3D Ceramic Printing at the British Ceramics Biennial


I had been talking to Andy Jeffery and Forrest Snyder of 3D Systems for some time, in fact since they were Figulo, a small Boston company that were developing ceramic 3D printing.

Andy is a material scientist, engineer and entrepreneur and Forrest is a ceramicist, having lectured on the subject at Harvard. They make a great partnership, Andy tinkering and refining the ceramic powder and Forrest linking the material to the world of pots, both studio and industrial.

So when Iain Cartwright of the British Ceramics Biennial asked me to curate the 3D printing section of the Festival I got in touch with Andy and Forrest. I hoped to persuade them that it would be worthwhile to bring their printer to the heart of the UK ceramics world in Stoke-on-Trent.

The modified 3D Systems 650 ceramic printer installed in the old Spode factory.

The modified 3D Systems 650 ceramic printer installed in the old Spode factory.

25 - 27.09.15

After an exploratory trip to Stoke, Andy got the go-ahead from 3D Systems and the printer arrived at the old Spode factory the day before the opening. For me it meant a sharp learning curve, as I only had 2 days in which to learn to use it. But Forrest is an excellent teacher and had me involved from the outset. In the run up to the Festival we had invited a number of artists and designers to submit their CAD files for printing. Strict guidelines had to be adhered to, but a number of designs were accepted and prepared for printing. The first build comprised of 15 small, twin-walled beakers, used to test easily the excess powder could be removed and perform in the firings. The design incorporated rounded and squared edges, used to evaluate how the glaze responded.

Once a print is complete, the pieces can be gently excavated by de-powdering, using a vacuum hose and brushes. Ideally the pieces should be left in the printer for about 24 hours to allow them to dry and harden, making them less prone to damage. However, the Spode factory is quite cold [and likely to get colder], so we damaged a few of the beakers due to their fragility.


Andy and Forrest returned to Boston today, so it’s now up to me, with the assistance of Jo Ayres the studio manager, to keep the machine running. 

The first batch of test beakers had been successfully fired and slipped, so they are ready for glaze testing.

I was greeted with a number of pieces in the de-powdering unit, some of which had broken, probably as a result of being removed too soon from the printer. Fortunately, my Spode-u-Like plate wasn’t one of them, though the support structure [used to prevent the shallow plate from slumping during the firing] was damaged.

My Spode-u-Like, based partly on a Spode Portland vase design, incorporating imagery that I used on my Prtlnd Vase. I intend for these pieces to be decorated by ex-Spode painters and for them to be fired in the Spode factory.

My Spode-u-Like, based partly on a Spode Portland vase design, incorporating imagery that I used on my Prtlnd Vase. I intend for these pieces to be decorated by ex-Spode painters and for them to be fired in the Spode factory.

A vase by Jennifer Gray and bust by John Rainey in the build chamber

A vase by Jennifer Gray and bust by John Rainey in the build chamber

I finished the de-powdering of those pieces, then set about removing the new build from the printer. It comprised a piece by Jennifer Gray, a 2 part piece by John Rainey and a test beaker. It was a time-consuming business to find the pieces with the build chamber, but after gently working in the edges they were located, cleaned and places in the de-powdering unit.

I think spent some time talking to a group of students and was disappointed on my return to find that Jennifer Gray’s piece had collapsed, probably due to the weight of the internal excess powder not being able to be supported by the open lattice structure.

A bust by John Rainey, awaiting biscuit firing.

A bust by John Rainey, awaiting biscuit firing.

Once I had cleaned the pieces, I started a new build of the same pieces, hoping to be more successful this time. I won’t be back in Stoke until Next Tuesday, so it will be up to Jo Ayres, the studio manager to keep things moving forward.

Instagram, Tattoos and the Tall Bloom...


As you may be aware, I recently joined the Instagram world, having succumbed to the persuasion of Andrew Wicks at Adrian Sassoon. And I'm enjoying using it as a bit of an aide memoire, uploading images of things spotted in passing or recording events that I've attended. 

It amazes me how quickly people out there in the Interweb respond to my images, sometimes the 'Likes' come in almost instantaneously; have these folk nothing better to do?

Anyway, last week I received quite a shock on seeing an image of my Tall Bloom tattooed on someone's thigh! I was flattered, but the thought of someone walking round with that image on their leg for the next 30, 40, 50 years is a bit overwhelming.

So I tracked the author down on Instagram and found Paul Stillen, a tattoo artist, based at Hidden Moon Tattoo in Melbourne, Australia. 

I dropped him a line to find out more and received a very nice reply, in which Paul has promised to send me some high resolution images when the tattoo is complete. I can't wait.

I'm now wondering what I would choose to have tattooed about my person if I was brave enough. Probably something to symbolise my love of cycling, or is that a bit boring? How about Picasso's Guernica, or perhaps it's already been done; maybe the Flaubert quotation I used recently: 'In order for a thing to become interesting, one has only to look at it for a long time'. That's a possibility...

'Making It' at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester


I spent an enjoyable day attending the North West Craft Network 'Making it - Building Your Craft Future' event held in the recently reopened Whitworth Art Gallery. 

The new extension is beautifully detailed and links through seamlessly to the original building. As other commentators have noted, the architects aimed to link the galleries to the adjoining parkland and that certainly succeeds.

Cornelia Parker. The Distance, [The Kiss with String Attached] 2003. Auguste Rodin's The Kiss [1901-04], 1 mile of string.


Cornelia Parker. Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View [1991]

The 'Making it' event was billed as an opportunity to 'come and hear top speakers addressing what it means to make a living in the craft sectornetwork with other makers and craft professionals from across the North West; answer questions relating to your creative business and get support to shape your craft future.' CJ O'Neill was an enthusiastic lead for the day, supported by a diverse range of excellent speakers. The day was fully booked, and was certainly a great chance for emerging makers to get to grips with establishing themselves and building their practices. It was also heartening to see a number of curators in attendance, all keen to learn more about the world of the maker. In addition, Katia Stewart, the Talent Development Manager at the Crafts Council made a lively presentation about her journey from budding designer-maker through to leading the Hothouse project.

All in all, it was an excellent day and one that could be built upon by offering specialist sessions on topics such as promotion, pricing and collaborating with manufacturers.


Link to the Make:Shift website
Link to the Make:Shift website

November 7, 2014

 I will be in conversation at this important conference. Click on the image above for more details including booking information. Here's the Crafts Council's description:

'The new Crafts Council conference Make:Shift explores how advances in materials, processes and technologies are driving innovation in craft practice 

A surgeon, an expert on robotics in architecture and an inventor of colour-changing fabrics are among the world-leading makers, thinkers and innovators confirmed for the Crafts Council’s first Make:Shift conference this November.

Taking place at Ravensbourne in London from 20 to 21 November 2014, Make:Shift will explore current and future thinking on the role of craft in 21st century production.  

Introduced by keynote speakers Martina Margetts, Ammar Mirjan and Raymond Oliver, the conference will be centered on three key themes: Materials, Making and Tools and will look at how makers are contributing to innovation in other sectors, including science, engineering, technology, manufacturing and medicine. 

Make:Shift is part of our innovation programme alongside 


, a two-day festival of new making taking place across the UK from Friday 21 to Saturday 22 November.'

Bridging the Gap

This is a new version of my first digital piece, which I created as my final piece at the Royal College of Art back in 2008.
It is a small step forward, as the making of this piece combines the 3000+ year old process of lost wax casting and 'post-industrial' manufacturing.
Over the past couple of years, I have been keen to explore hybrid making techniques as I think there is enormous creative potential in bringing together 'traditional' and 'new' ways of making.
This way of approaching the creation of an artwork also helps to challenge the notion that these making techniques are mutually incompatible.
So I hope that this small Wedgwoodn't Tureen helps to bridge the gap.