Year 2 Fields – PDP

Synergies Between Materials and Technologies :

Drawing Experience :

I am very satisfied with the experience I gained in this year’s Field projects. For this year’s Field projects I chose Synergies Between Materials and Technologies, and Drawing Experience. They are seemingly different but in a way I think they are actually connected and related. In the first Field project the experience was practice in developing of skill, use of materials and how technologies assist in creation. Then the later project experience was abstract and hard to describe. It was about understanding emotions and strengthening the observation ability of an individual. The later project effectively facilitated every individual in perceiving the world around us sensitively. I would say the later project was the first step of our creation and the first project was the tool to making an idea become a physical object. The Synergies Between Materials and Technologies related to learning different skills and technologies which systematically assist in creation, resulting in increased scientific knowledge which can be used for practical purposes. I particularly enjoy the experience of using all the CAD softwares such as the CNC cutting and 3D printing. They help us to perceive beforehand the objects which are to be created in a faster and more accurate way. The Drawing Experience re-awakened the use of our senses. As I mentioned in my previous writing, I benefited a lot from Zoe’s materiality drawing workshop. The spontaneous response to materials drives the maker’s imagination.

This led me to experiment with use of watercolour, wax and pewter to create a natural dripping movement. The idea of creating the dripping alloy is to combine it with my porcelain made daffodils. The idea of using pewter was  triggered by the  vessels I came  across in a visit to the V&A ceramics gallery last summer. Amongst them I saw some  ceramics  vessels which were decorated with silver.  Such a  slight finishing touch can make the whole  vessels look so delicate. Seeking to expand my knowledge and command of ceramics design vocabulary is something I am trying to achieve. P1010016 However, the result was far from satisfactory.  The  pewter did not deliver the shininess I wanted. Moreover, controlling the melting temperature is  essential since if the temperature is too high while  melting the pewter will look very dull after cooling  and an orange peel-like surface will probably appear.

nature_1Nature always provides a lot of inspiration, especially after visiting the Sensorial Object exhibition and understanding the theory of “synaesthetes”, by which our use of senses was re-awakened and our observation skill of an individual were strengthened. It has helped me to continue to expand the notion that informed the work I produced last year which I think  depicted the object too obviously. Paraphrasing Paul Klee, “Art does not reproduce what we see; rather, it makes us see”. Aiming to induce audiences’  imagination and the experience of synaesthetes, I made a series of round-bellied and long, narrow-necked vessels, and wide-rimmed vases with ring marks vases.

Throwing these series of vessels, different clay bodies were used – ash white, porcelain and terra cotta. Porcelain gives the best strength and plasticity for stretching a wide-opened rim whereas the ash white can be torn / split at its rim when it reaches a certain wideness.

Despite the fact that my throwing skill is not perfect, I am happy with the experiment of making these vases.

The Synergies Between Materials and Technologies practically assists making and in a way we can automatically gain other skills through the making or trigger ideas. On the other hand, I found that the Drawing Experience was easy to understand in theory, but hard to execute. It takes time along with a lot of practice to achieve a desired outcome. The experience I gained in these two projects was very useful and will definitely benefit my studying in future.


Another experiment in using pewter. This time I used the alloy directly for drawing (drag) out the dripping movement that I wanted. Controlling the heat for melting the alloy is essential since the pewter cools and becomes solid very fast. If it is heated for too long, it will lose it’s shininess. Moreover, the pewter acts like mercury which tends to contract into a blob. So the speed of dragging and heat control have to be balanced really well.

I found that this outcome was much more natural which is what I wanted. In the first experiment I cared too much about to control the movement of the alloy.


Dissertation Proposal – PDP

The reason for conduct research is mainly because problems need to be solved; or the subject of the research may be useful to the researcher; or gaining knowledge; or just for personal interest. I feel very fortunate that I found a topic, which applies to all the above elements, I am interested in and also it is related to my subject.

Chinese ceramics has a profound relationship with my culture. Its long history, the fine quality of porcelain produced and the skillful craftsmanship are highly acclaimed. The prominent history of Chinese ceramics and the advanced skills and techniques in using of glazes and high firing, which had developed since the Bronze Age. However, Chinese ceramics has seen little further development since this time and does not belong to the contemporary art world.

Since ceramics is my subject and as a Chinese person, my curiosity is raised by the issue. Born in Hong Kong, which was once a British colony, I was heavily influenced by the western culture. “Hong Kongese” are called “the people who have no root” and China is a strange place to me. The word “Chinese” was simply an adjective is used to introduce myself to my foreign friends.

My study of ceramics, motivates me to learn more about my own culture. I am hoping through this research to develop a deeper sense of my own culture, and of course, most importantly, is benefit from my studies.

In last year’s constellation, the hardest problem I encountered was art history. It is such a broad subject and very important to my study, it is not only learning about theories of art but also the long history of the western world. In the second year, critique has played the most important part in our studies. Evaluating and supporting evidence, weighing up and constructing arguments, and reflecting on individual thoughts. It has been no less easier than the art history. Through this research I would like to strengthen my skill in criticising as its important in art and I have also found that it helps analysing thoughts rationally.

After starting my research, I found that some things that were true, it turned out to be wrong. In contrast, things I thought were wrong were actually right. In these circumstances, I have to extend the area of my research. In addition, new questions have been uncovered and the focus has been gradually blurred by uncertain factors. Despite feeling rather confused, it is good to learn more and correct my misunderstanding.

Even though library provides a rich source of reference books and journals for reference, it is mainly the opinion and point of view written by western people about Chinese ceramics. There is a lack of reading material written by Chinese people, especially art critique. Given these circumstances, I decided to order books online. Since preview of books is not provided online, it is purely down to luck to get the right reading materials.

Conducting my research, I came across work of artists which was abstruse. In the modern art world, idea and concept usually play a more dominant role. That leads me to the question of whether skill is important anymore. Anyone can give ideas, so, what is the difference between ordinary people and an artist. What is the definition of an artist and an artwork? Our modules focus on helping students to develop concepts and ideas and it seems that skills have been ignored. Students spend lengthy period of time investigating and conducting research on their ideas. It is regrettable that ideas cannot be delivered because of poor execution.

I admire western art in terms of its ideas and concepts and the enthusiasm for exploring new language in materials. But it seems that my passion for ceramics is not quite connected to western contemporary ceramics art. In March, I attended the exhibition called “Ahead of the Curve”, in Bristol Museum Galleries. The exhibits in the exhibition were contemporary ceramics work from mainland China. The exhibition inspired me and through the exhibition I realised the source of my disconnection to the western ceramics is the cultural difference. One of the questions I raised in my research was how Chinese ceramics artists inject new ceramics language into their work without losing their cultural context. In fact, this is also a question for myself. Traditional Chinese ceramics embraces exquisite skills. On the stage of the contemporary art world, skill is largely ignored. How to find the balance is a major challenge.

The key to this endeavour will be a visit to Jingdezhen. I have been fascinated by this prestigious porcelain city for a long time. Traditional skills and techniques used in making ceramics throughout history are still used in Jingdezhen, and also many contemporary ceramics artists have set up their studios in Jingdezhen. It is believed that Jingdezhen is a unique place for exploring the old and new ceramics development in China. I would like to take this opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge about ceramics in China and interview local ceramics artists, if possible.

I am very much looking forward to visiting Jingdezhen and hope inspiration will be found during this trip.