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New Wave Clay: Ceramic Design, Art and Architecture by Tom Morris – SEEN Reviews

This lavishly photographed book is very seductive. The ceramics herein are beautiful, strange, monumental, quirky or minimalist but having drawn the reader in, the book asks the pertinent question: are art and craft completely separate in their aesthetic and cultural sensibilities? Why does the word ‘potter’ conjure up thoughts of whimsy and low-cultural activity? Grayson Perry – one of the contributors to Tom Morris’ book – cheerfully exhorts anyone working in the medium of clay to describe themselves as an artist from the start of their practice, and why not? Clay, slip and glaze are all perfectly valid mediums of artistic expression.

But SEEN thinks that the book is not here to provide a set of criteria for art or craft, but rather it seeks to encapsulate ALL expressions of clay-based design by artists/artisans/craftspeople/potters. We can make up our own minds after all. The author wisely instigates the discussion – conflict breeding creativity perhaps. Visually, we are a deeply sophisticated audience, now more than ever in the digital age. Perhaps defining the boundary between art and craft is a rather outdated concept these days. 3D printing of clay with specialised equipment would seem to be eroding the boundary between art and tech very nicely Olivier Van Herpt’s wonderful vessels hark back to the earliest methods that humans used to create objects from clay.. SEEN was very taken with the miniature work of Yuta Sagawa and Charlotte Mary Pack as much as the architectural work of Sandy Brown. The breadth of their expression belying the need to define the work as anything other than beautiful, though of course, it’s never as straightforward as that: Pack’s work has an environmental concern at its heart with her animal figurines.

The innovative ceramics were particularly striking, using paper for example, as in Jongjin Park’s work. The paper towels that are soaked in slip burn away in the kiln, making each ‘millefeuille pillow’ unique, its flaws only adding to its beauty. Stoke-on-Trent has long been an area of historic significance in the world of ceramics. Currently depressed in terms of production, one enterprising maker, Reiko Kaneko, has moved there to create her striking vessels and currently employs four people. Thus we come full circle – small innovative indie makers and designers are beginning a new cycle of production and manufacture. It’s very exciting to think where this might lead in these days of Brexit.

The book is interspersed with the essays, ruminationns and the world views of the great and the good in ceramics, from the fascinating Sarah Griffin and her life of collection To the unabashedly populist and unpretentious Grayson Perry. Long may the world of ceramics contain such a multiplicity of opinions, practice and opinions. This is exactly what keeps it interesting.

Header image courtesy of Yuta Sagawa
Floris Wubben courtesy of The Future Perfect
Eric Roinestad © The Future Perfect
Reinaldo Sanguino © Yoshimiro Makino and The Future Perfect