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

Where do I go from here?

April and May have been busy, a pretty hectic combination of work and play. 

It started with a trip to Oslo National Academy of the Arts, where I was invited to give a lecture about my practice. It was also an opportunity to meet the staff in both the Ceramics department and in the 3D printing facility. The facilities are extremely impressive, all housed in a beautiful 19th century sail factory complex.
I am planning to return for a longer period in order to experiment with their ZCorp 310 that they have just started to use with ceramic powders. The plan is to create a network of 3D printer practitioners exploring the theme of ceramics, culminating in an event in the autumn of 2014.

A few days after my return to the UK, I set off for a holiday in France with my wife Vicky, our friend Jan and my bike. The trip by train to Montelimar was excellent, though carrying my road bike in a bag wasn't that easy. Whilst there I cycled from the Drôme, through the Gorge de L'Ardeche, down into Languedoc to see friends, then up through the Cevennes to be reunited with Vicky and Jan in Ispagnac, a beautiful village at the entrance to the Gorge du Tarn.

I had to cut the holiday short in order to return to London for Collect, held again at the Saatchi Gallery, where I was showing some new pieces with Adrian Sassoon. The show was definitely up to it's usual standard, and I was lucky to have the Prtlnd Vase purchased by the Art Fund for the New Walk Gallery in Leicester. The curators plan to open a digital gallery and had researched my work and in particular the Prtlnd Vase for their presentation to the Art Fund.
Whilst at Collect, I took part in the first ‘Fielding Talk: Lives in Craft, launched in memory of Amanda Fielding, the writer and curator who died in 2012. This event, …celebrates Fielding’s passion and knowledge for the sector through the voices and experiences of the most exciting and innovative makers in contemporary craft.’ Glenn Adamson from the V&A chaired it with Clare Twomey and myself in discussion around the theme of the relationship between makers and curators. The acquisition and positioning of ‘digital craft’ has been problematic for curators as there was uncertainty as to the placing of the work. Fortunately for my contemporaries and I, there now appears to be a confidence and keen interest in our work, though the interpretation of challenging pieces can still be problematic for the curators.

Back in Manchester, I have been continuing to explore the Mcor Matrix 300 printer that 'prints' in layers of paper. It has been a temperamental machine, but a technician’s recent visit appears to have made it operate more smoothly. I set it off this morning to print the first of 4 pieces to be used as moulds for the making of ceramic sprigs for a version of the Prtlnd Vase. The body of the vase was printed in 4 sections by Mcor, as our machine failed to build them. I plan to have a mould produced and if talks with Wedgwood succeed, I will slipcast it in traditional Jasperware.

And this leads to the question I pose in the title of this piece, “Where do I go from here?’ The reason I ask this question is that I am going through a period of reflection about my work. Over the past 7 years I have produced a body of work that has investigated 3D printing through the interpretation and re-design of familiar objects such as Wedgwood and Sèvres ceramics, appropriating their cultural significance to make comments about craft, values and the virtual world that we increasingly inhabit.
As I have always said, I don’t want to use the technology for its own sake, there has to be an idea that underpins its use. I am now at the stage where I feel I need to go further, in terms of material and process. The aim has been and still is to produce ceramic 3D printed artworks, combining my previous experience and knowledge of ceramics history with ‘post-industrial’ manufacturing. But this is where Glenn Adamson steps in.
-->In his new book, ‘The Invention of Craft’ he states that “…new forms of practice will inevitably be forged through the synthesis of the analogue and the digital…”[1]
The Mcor Matrix printer alerted me to the journey the data travels between the computer software and the printed artwork. The only difference between the data used to produce the paper prints of the Prtlnd vase and the SLS version, is scale. However, unlike the SLS original the faceted sides look as though they have been made from folded paper. Something has happened in the process that gives the object a softer, ‘crafted’ look. So this version will not only refer to the relationship between actual and the virtual from the standpoint of our increasing engagement of the real world through a screen, but also record the material process.
The other thought-provoking piece of writing comes from Justin McGuirk in the Collect 2013 catalogue. He is talking about craft ‘fetishism’ and the difference between being seduced by electronic gizmos and crafted objects. “The philosopher Bruno Latour might argue that we are once again seduced by the ‘thingness’ of things. In his essay ‘Why has critique run out of steam’ he extrapolates Martin Heidegger’s distinction between objects and things. He writes ‘The hand-made jug can be a thing, while the industrially made can of Coke remains an object. While the latter is abandoned to the empty mastery of science and technology, only the former, cradled in the respected idiom of art, craftsmanship and poetry, could deploy its rich set of connotations.’ So we have a distinction here between the mute machine-made object and the poetic hand-made thing. Does this distinction help us?”[2]
And where does it place my work?
Do I fall between the 2 stools? And is this why I feel I need to bring a physical, tactile connection back into my work?
I shouldn’t care what the Adamsons and McGuirks think, as I am a maker not a critical historian, writer or philosopher, but even before my days at the RCA I have attempted to justify my output. It’s part of my methodology and one that sometimes weighs heavy.

[1] Glenn Adamson, The Invention of Craft (London: Bloomsbury, 2013) p.166
[2] Justin McGuirk, Fashion, Fetish and Craft, (Crafts Council 2013) pp.19, 20