It seems like a long journey has come to an end but actually a new journey is beginning for all of us. I believe it will be even more exciting and challenging.
In retrospect, it seems that the first two years were my introduction course and the third year was when I really felt that I had found my direction in that for the future I would like to focus on ceramics.
I felt I benefited a lot from the education system of the university. In my first year, I did not fully recognise the value of the modules as I felt that we were sidetracked into too many areas which detracted from my main subject. However, I am learning to appreciate it and have found that doing research is essential before starting a project. I feel I am very fortunate as I have been provided with nutritional ground for my growth. I can get valuable advice from professional tutors, technicans and lecturers as they make time to advise us when we need them as well as the college providing the materials, facilities and library. Really, I do not know how to express my appreciation in words.
Regarding my graduation work, I thought I had planned everything well beforehand however I realised you can prepare as long as you like, but things never go according to plan, one example was the clay body which has given me a huge headache, on top of that the glazes and cobalt did not come out how I expected due to the temperature change that led to my schedule falling behind. However, this meant I learned more than I expected. I got advice from fellow students, technicians and tutors. Although the experiment has not yet finished, I will continue with the tests and believe that it will benefit my next projects.
The hardest thing about doing this project was to continue developing the idea, but a lot of decisions needed to be made before it was fully realised. For example, printing the catalogue, designing my business card and writing the artist’s statement.
Painting the object with blue and white also pushed me out of my comfort zone. Even though I had practiced using cobalt, it was only on a small scale. Covering a much bigger and curved surface with painting has a certain degree of difficulty and at the same time I needed to make my own drawings which was also a new challenge. I am quite satisfied with the outcome of this challenge. Perhaps, this is how to push the boundaries. If we do not take one step further, we will never know what result we will get.
Compared with my first year, my knowledge in using materials such as different clay bodies, glazing and firing techniques have not improved as much as I expected and I need to continue to strengthen these areas. In the process of creating the graduation work, I encountered the problems of using the porcelain and glazes as mentioned above. That took me quite a long time to overcome these issues and especially those of the clay body. I am still not very certain what caused the porcelain to turn a greyish colour. It may have originated from the clay body or something went wrong in the process. Due to the time issue, in the end I had to make the compromise of lowering the firing temperature to keep the whiteness which I wanted. However, the problems led me to understand how to use the material better.
Ceramics, brought me back to my culture, interest and self-awareness that I think is the fundamental element and root of creation. Furthermore, ceramics has lead me to other various interests such as the use of technologies to assist in the creation and different materials other than ceramics. These three years of studying have given me a clear perception about my direction in art and design. I will continue to solidify my knowledge in ceramics and in particular onglaze and underglaze painting. Meanwhile I will attempt to extend the area of study into different fields such as jewellery, using different materials and in particular employing the use of technology in my creations. Undoubtedly, technologies open up the horizon of creation. At the moment, I am focusing on using Photoshop and Illustration. Later on I would like to learn to use Rhino.
Finally, I recognize that my lack of enthusiasm in participating in activities is a weakness. That caused my involvement to diminish in certain areas. The passing away of my dearest mentor, changed the way I was. I hope I can continue to keep her optimistic and positive spirit alive and pass it on to other people. I am looking forward to finding a mentor in my area of ceramics or even another area, someone who I am able to look up to and will continue to give me advice, ideas and inspiration.
First I would like to express my appreciation to the classmates who volunteered themselves to organise fund raising activities, print catalogues and all other marketing work to ensure a successful up-coming exhibition. Without their effort the exhibition would not have happened. As I discovered that whether a solo exhibition or a group exhibition, to work with people in a group or team is essential. I am very appreciative of the team spirit that they passed to their fellow classmates.
The aim of my work emphasises the beauty of form and quality of the material which can be delivered whilst integrating both the use of traditional skills and contemporary concept. In this regard, the way I displayed the objects retained its simplicity in order to accentuate all the elements and avoid artificial and vibrant colours. Choosing colour for the background also had a certain degree of difficulty to contrast the colour between the objects and shelves. A rich dark chocolate colour was chosen because I found the hint of brown was echoed in the wood and at the same time highlighted the whiteness of the objects.
In this project I came across a lot of problems and a huge amount of work, I enjoyed every part of it. The only thing I did not consider enough of was setting up the shelves. It actually involved a lot of hard work and manual labour which I did not mind doing but I felt embarrassed that I needed to involve Caroline, Matt and Jemma as well.
Although the idea of displaying the objects on a plinth had been developed in the early stage, I was in fact not positive whether this arrangement would be the best way to show the objects since the decoration on the objects are related to my personal experiences and I would like to emphasise their importance. It is probably a little weak to express the message I would like to convey if only several objects are alined on a long narrow plinth. At a late stage of the project, I found new inspiration (refer to post : Change the perception by the quantity), I changed my idea of displaying the objects from a plinth to hanging them on the wall and increased the number of the objects which included needing to make more wooden shelves. The sudden change led my schedule to become more intense and significantly increased the amount of work needed to be done in a short period of time. Even though time was tight, I kept communicating with technicians and asked for advice from tutors before taking any more steps.
Another thing that I did not realize in advance which was the object’s surface became smooth and sleek after it was glazed so it slid on the sanded wooden shelves easily. To remedy the issue, I have to put museum glue underneath the object to secure it in place. Therefore, the object cannot be moved in order to view a different angle for audiences to enjoy the narrative painting on the surface.
Unlike individual creation which is a work and an idea that only exists behind the scenes whereas the exhibition is for us to introduce, through the work, ourselves as an artist and designer to the public. In fact, it also involves a different area of how to introduce ourselves to the public such as using business cards, post cards and setting up websites. Since I hoped I could fully develop my idea before ordering the business cards and setting up websites, I kept delaying the progress. That caused me a little stress at the end as it nearly led to the press pack not being finished. In fact, the aim of introducing ourselves in various ways is not only for completing the project but also to ready us for starting our practice.
An ending is just a new beginning and a new journey is waiting ahead for every student. Even though I have gone through three years of study, there are still a lot of areas I would like to explore. To fulfil my goal, I need to find a studio or work space to start with, so I am applying first for INC Space and Firework will be my second attempt. If the application is successful, I will endeavour to make full use of this opportunity and all the facilities the scheme or workshop offers to continue my professional development.
The residency in Jingdezhen was inspiring. Other than my knowledge in ceramics, my skills and techniques have improved and I also met some local artists and students who share the same approach as me, that is, we also admire and value our tradition but at the same time long for innovation and change. They appreciate and are interested in Western art and in particular its concept, but for various reasons their learning opportunities are restricted. Every year many artists around the world visit Jingdezhen to take up residency or to learn the traditional skills and techniques. The local authorities take this opportunity to invite those artists to run lectures or exhibitions, so that the local and foreign artists can exchange ideas and knowledge. What I was delighted to see and witness was the mutual learning and artistic exchange and I believe that it is a good sign which impacts on ceramic art no matter whether it is the East or the West.
I really hope that not too long in the future I can visit Jingdezhen again to continue to develop and learn new skills and techniques and at the same time to share and exchange ideas with local Chinese artists, likewise, I will share this knowledge in this country.
Conventional porcelain which is exquisitely decorated and the way they are displayed give a sense that they are fragile and not to be touched. Using wood gives a sense of warmth that is just right to balance the contrast with the porcelain. The idea of using wood in displaying porcelain in traditional Chinese ceramics is solely for auxiliary purpose. To increase the whole aesthetic value to the piece, it is important to enhance the relationship between these two materials. In my work the curved bottom of the object cannot stand by itself and the shelf is only an empty shelf without any meaning if the object did not exist.
To give the wooden shelves a final touch, I laser etched my Chinese name onto them on which the decorated objects would be placed.
Although my business card has been printed, I was aiming to leave the audiences with a more memorable impression so a postcard is ideal. I designed three postcards about the objects which were developed at different stages – without decoration, the illustration only and the blue and white decoration. The image on the postcard revealed only half of the object. The intention is to emphases the beauty of the form even on a 2D image and the attention will not only be drawn to the decoration. Then on the back of the postcard contact information was laser etched. The laser etching gives a nice tactile quality to the card.
I lined up the objects and shelves to measure the most appropriate space between each of the objects then started to draw out grid lines on the board.
Following the grid lines, I marked out the position of the wooden shelves and numbered each shelf as well as recorded their numbers on their position marks on the board. It was important to keep the middle row, where the decorated objects would be placed, at about eye level.
The next step was to carefully place masking tape by following the position marks and then measuring the pilot holes for drilling. The board is now ready for painting.
After the board was painted the masking tape could be removed and position marks were revealed. Next the shelves were installed which was the hardest job of the whole process and needed two people to hold the MDF and shelf in place on one side and another person to drill through the MDF and shelf from the other side.
In the end, the process took about three hours to finish and the panel could be put up. The result was more than satisfactory and no miscalculated measurements were made.
Even though the background board and shelves have been put up, there were marks and dust left on the board during installation and needed to be tidied up.
The layout of the degree show has finally been released. I believe every student has been allocated sufficient space for displaying their work.
While feeling excited about it, there is a lot of measurement and props needed to be made.
Since I have changed my initial idea of displaying the objects from using plinth to display them on floating shelves, there will be quite a few of floating shelves needed to be fixed to the wall. In terms of using the space appropriately, I need to know how much space will be taken up by the objects. So I have lined up two pieces of MDF, which are the same size of the wall that I am going to use, on the floor then arranged the wooden shelves I made and the objects to simulate the installation. Then I can measure up the approximate size of the space to be used and also I can cut out another piece of timber to make a panel which will be painted as a background to my pieces.
The way I display the objects is to make a panel of certain thickness attached to the wall. Again this idea is inspired by the European style which was of displaying porcelain on wall panelling. Instead of using fancy borders to form a panel, I made a panel that came out from the wall with appropriate background colour to show up the pieces. That I believe it will highlight the pieces better. Choosing the background colour was a little difficult due to the wood and the objects containing dark and light tones respectively. So I need to choose a colour that can emphasis the whiteness of the objects. A darker tone is preferred but it is essential not to disturb the natural beauty of the wood. I will consider a very dark colour which can highlight both the objects and wooden shelves or a colour lighter than the wood but dark enough to show up the objects.