Joy and other expressions of the new wave of ceramics

OBJECTS – In his latest book New Wave Clay, Tom Morris breaks down the liberalizing force of inventive young designers revitalizing ceramics through their fresh perspectives on the ancient material. The instant gratification of the digital revolution plays no small part in this rediscovered thrill that many young people are finding in ceramics, says Morris. ‘Clay objects offer a warmth, opacity, tactility and depth that counteract the glassy, transparent austerity of a world full of technology,’ he writes in his introduction to the book.

To be clear, Morris is not simply referring to the studio pottery movement of artisans reacting to the industrialization of pottery. Though he features their dedication to the material and pushing of the boundaries of technique and method in the book, Morris is also interested in highly experimental artists – joining the trajectory of Pablo Picasso and Ai Weiwei – who are working with clay in unorthodox and expressionist ways.

‘It is my intention to be feckless and not be restricted by the labels and industry limitations that pigeonholed pottery over the 20th century,’ says Morris. For that reason, New Wave Clay does not categorize the 55 people in the book according to achievement or technique. They are instead arranged according to the feelings elicited in the viewer by their work.

Find below excerpts from New Wave Clay, by Tom Morris, out now in the Frame Store.

Joy: John Booth

Photo Alastair Strong, Ian Black

‘The worlds of fashion and ceramics are not a million miles away, according to John Booth. The Central Saint Martins fashion graduate-turned-illustrator-turned-ceramicist hand builds his pieces according to the same principles – and even the same paper – as he used to apply to pattern cutting.’

Photo Alastair Strong, Ian Black

‘Booth started working with clay to produce the faces he illustrates in 2D form. Over time, they “stood up” into single head-shaped vases, then doubled up into twins; and then he turned his Cocteauesque style to vessels. Booth cites his time at Central Saint Martins as having a huge effect on his multidisciplinary approach. “If someone asks me to make something in a material I don't know, I generally say yes,” he says. “I think you can always figure it out if you have the inclination.”’

Simplicity: Derek Wilson

Photo courtesy of the artist

‘Would Derek Wilson call himself a minimalist? “Well, I’ve always loved Donald Judd and Dan Flavin. I never decorate, I try to take things away instead,” he admits. “So yes, probably.”’

‘Despite this admission, works by the Belfast-based ceramicist are rarely straightforward. Beneath the calming pebble tones of his vessels and constructed sculptures is a deep interest in how complicated form can be.’

Photo courtesy of the artist

‘Wilson throws vessels on the wheel, cuts them up and then rebuilds them in an angular format. “There is something very beautiful about the history of the wheel and the craftsmanship, but I like to push what I could do with it as a tool,” he says.’

‘How would he describe the unifying thread through all of his work? “There is a certain colour palette I am instinctively drawn too: it is very subdued,” he says. “It’s really much more about space and form.”’

Structure: Paola Paronetto

Photo courtesy of the artist

‘To look at, Paola Paronetto’s works appear weighty, sculptural and solid. To the touch though, they are fine, delicate and paper-thin; they ring like tin if you tap them and are incredibly light. This fine balance of the paper clay series has been developed over many years. “It is the result of my wish to go beyond old schemes and commonplaces in the field of pottery techniques,” she says.’

Photo courtesy of the artist

‘As a collection, they are Giorgio Morandi-esque still life landscapes. They may be bottle-shaped, but they are largely sculptural pieces of design. Paronetto first constructs the structures out of cardboard and then drenches them in a specially-made slip mixture, made up of watered-down clay and processed cellulose fibre pulp. The paper component usually makes up 30 per cent of the overall matter. The piece is then fired to a temperature of 1100°C so that the paper burns away, leaving the structure solidified. A third of the structure has disappeared, hence its lightweight appeal.’

Nostalgia: Hitomi Hosono

Photo courtesy of the artist

‘Growing up on a farm in Japan left an impression on London-based Hitomi Hosono, and fostered in the young ceramicist a love of the natural world. Today, the flowers such as those decorating her pots – daisies, roses and nadeshiko – owe as much to Japan as to the flora of her adopted homeland, England. Similarly, Hosono’s works are influenced by the precision of traditional Kutani ware from Japan, while the creamy, monochrome textures are inspired by Wedgwood motifs. It is east-meets-west on a lavish scale. They are now housed in the collections of the British Museum and the V&A Museum in London, the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum in New York and LACMA in Los Angeles.’

Photo courtesy of the artist

‘Of course, gardens like these do not grow overnight. Hosono’s work can take roughly two years to produce. Up to 1000 individual leaves, petals and branches are intricately carved using dentist tools, cast in moulds and then attached to the body. They take between two and six months to dry.’

Unpick the zeitgeist and aesthetic of the revival of an age-old material with New Wave Clay, out now in the Frame Store.

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