Textures of Transparency | Ceramics

From Greek keramikos orpottery“, ceramics have been in existence for millennia, expanding their uses beyond potteryware while preserving many aspects of the craft. On Provenance alone, we have a handful of members and stories dedicated to ceramics, giving us a glimpse into the molding, throwing, pressing and firing of both traditional and less conventional ceramic products.

At least 8,000 years since some of the earliest known pottery, how do ceramicists preserve and enrich the craft today? Sheffield-based Grey Suit creates wares entirely by hand, with each piece wheel-thrown. From a lump of earth, she chronicles the process of creation into a trimmed, fired, glazed, and sometimes re-fired dish, vase or mug.

Also creating from scratch is Kira Ni, a studio potter who works between London and Malta. Glazing her wares only on the inside, she retains their rustic appearance, favoring an imperfect, even “wonky” quality that adheres to the philosophy of Wabi-sabi. “I find that these imperfections give each piece their own unique style and personality and therefore they should be considered one-of-a-kind.”

Grey Suit ceramics

Imperfection, it seems, adds a fresh aesthetic to contemporary ceramics. Hend Krichen produces objects with raw and natural qualities, physically revealing the identity of manufacturers from various locations. Taking inspiration from these different regions, her resulting wares are reflective of rich cultures.

Luke Bishop works with the wheel, but primarily explores the marriage between function and abstraction. A member of London’s Society of Designer Craftsmen, Luke has exhibited his pieces regularly around the UK, currently showing at the Spring Exhibition of Newcastle upon Tyne’s The Biscuit Factory.

Like Luke, Central Saint Martins graduate Amanda Tong aims to transcend the functional aspect of ceramics with her work. ”As a designer-maker, I aspire to raise awareness and appreciation in the artistic value of traditional craftsmanship by retelling forgotten stories and reintroducing ritual practices behind different cultures.” It is from working with the ceramic medium that she draws a positive approach to life, delivering the same message through her approach.

Beyond the decorative, the functional and philosophical, ceramic extends its uses to the cultural and technological. Yair Neuman’s Ceramic Bluetooth Speaker works with present-day technology while employing material from Stoke-on-Trent: once a historic centre of knowledge for the ceramics industry.

Reviving the city’s fading heritage, traditional artisans craft the speaker’s casing in the same way 17th-century potters made their plates and teapots. The clay is first dug in Cornwall and transported to Stoke-on-Trent. There, it is processed into slip, moulded, dried, trimmed, sponged, fired for 11 hours, glazed and fired for an additional 8 hours before it undergoes final inspection and shipping to Yair Neuman’s London atelier.

Ceramic, wood, microchip, battery, speaker, NFC, sensor, polyfill, nuts and bolts come together at the atelier, producing a harmonious assemblage of past and present elements. An otherwise great product suddenly sounds extra impressive, at least now that we know its journey and cultural contribution.

Ceramic Bluetooth Speaker making

What is an item really worth? Product labels and price tags often offer little information about an item’s true value, forged by creative minds, skillful hands and historic locations. Learning more about what products are made of, by who, where and how doesn’t just provide us greater knowledge and appreciation but also inspires our preferences in an era of overwhelming choices.

So perhaps the next time we purchase ceramics, it would be a little more informed, cultural or even philosophical. After 8,000 years of production, we owe ourselves that.