Inspired by the modernist SESC Pompeia building in São Paulo, on one of my visits with my Brazilian family, I recall hearing that the shapes of the windows had been “randomly smashed out by a sledgehammer.” This “chaotic” and “unpredictable” approach to create something unique has been my driving force throughout the project, challenging my natural gravitation towards perfection and perfectionism.
After creating individual elements on the potter’s wheel, I reject the customary gentleness with which people treat soft, newly thrown pieces and collide them to create colourful collages. This method creates unique piles of shapes where I cannot predict how the clay will collapse and deform into each other upon contact.
By working through this project, I have avoided falling into the vicious cycle of seeking perfection – something unattainable – and relaxed into working more intuitively.
My work will be on display at the Brighton Degree Show in room 101 from 3rd – 11th June 2023 and at New Designers in London from 5th – 8th July 2023.
By looking into abstract expressionist ceramicists and their bold use of colour, I forced myself to start using colour in my work despite my fear it may come out “bad” or “ugly”.
The intention with this piece was to leave the canvas blank and let the decoration be “unpredictable” by dripping, pouring and splattering colourful underglazes on it. It’s a process that isn’t obsessive or perfect; it runs on intuition, being loose and playful and feels very freeing.
I began exploring piling different shapes together to stop the process and outcomes feelings repetitive. Though I enjoyed using the open, rounded shape, I enjoy how the bottlenecks collapse and deform here.
I was initially unsure about the throwing lines being so evident (as this is something you usually smooth out during throwing or trim down while turning to perfect a surface) but I love how the throwing lines catch the colours in different ways, sometimes catching a few colours in the same spot. This is a great example of something that would usually be an imperfection, accentuating something’s beauty.
By introducing special effects glazes, I was adding another layer of unpredictability since the glazes look very different before and after firing. The bold and shiny lustres also subconsciously do a good job of showing how much more confident I was becoming in my work.
I varied the weights/sizes of the individual pieces as well to add some variety and stop my pieces becoming repetitive.
When I initially threw and collaged this piece I was extremely unconvinced of it; there were stretch marks, it started cracking and I literally cried over it thinking I wouldn’t have a final piece for the degree show. After my friend, technician and tutor all told me to calm down, I realised that this piece literally embodies what my entire project is about. I’ve been saying I want to embrace imperfection and unpredictability this whole time but it was actually very difficult to do when confronted with something that I felt made me look like a not perfect/unskilled craftsperson.
I think I realised that my perfectionism doesn’t just come from my desire to control what I make but also a desire to control how people perceive me – I never want to come across as unskilled or like I don’t know what I’m doing. I want to be seen as the perfect student, employee, craftsperson etc.
So what better way to embrace imperfections and unpredictability than using the most volatile clay body of them all: porcelain!
I think this piece is a huge turning point for me! Cracks and all I love this piece a lot and I’m so proud of myself for pushing through and firing/glazing it even when I was so unsure about it and ready to scrap it entirely.
Imperfections and vulnerability make us human after all.