3rd January 2018

Themes:

  • “Everyone is welcome”
  • Aesthetics of friendliness
  • Why creatures?

 

“Everyone is welcome”

A particular personality trait I have, and one that I have always had, is a distinct sense of want for togetherness and inclusivity.  I recall being a child and enjoying the premise of collecting all of a particular series, of toys or other collectible objects, even if some of said objects were not my favourite or first choice. Rather, there is something to be said about those objects or things that would otherwise be ‘left behind’ or excluded if I did not take them in too.  There has always been a sense of responsibility towards togetherness in my history of things.

 

These feelings are also exercised when one of said collection is broken, damaged or less that perfect, and in fact the feeling towards this imperfect object exacerbates the sense of duty to include.  Although nowadays there are less toys in my immediate possession, these feelings can still be found with plates or mugs, wherefore should a mug become chipped, I cannot bring myself to throw it away and exclude it from the others.  The chipped mug still remains, and may even get used more, or at least more consciously than a) before and b) the others.

 

Yes these feelings are irrational – they are inanimate objects – but they are participants in my world, and I want to take responsibility towards what I can affect in this frenetic world, which in this case is looking after my things as if they were sentient, children or friends who share my world.  Rationalities such as space, aesthetics (I.e. colour coordination) and practical uses (i.e. it might not function, if it is broken), are disregarded for the sake of inclusivity. Everyone is welcome.

 

There is also an underlying guilt towards waste and respect for the craftspeople behind each object and thing, which further underpins my emotional connection.  I want to make sure the craftsmanship of each thing is respected by not treating the object as a throwaway, transient ‘chachki’.

 

Moreover, in my own work, over the last year or so (and looking further back), my creative output seems to be concerned with a few tropes which support these ‘inclusive’ obligations I have.  Firstly, a lot of my work centre around multiples, or a series, and every object is different in its own way. This could be through individual organic fluctuations in the design, variations in decoration, or being made ‘with lax standards’.  All objects are included, none are mistakes, and all make it to the final ‘display’.

 

Aesthetics of friendliness

Secondly, is the notion of friendliness, specifically the aesthetics of what makes an object ‘friendly’?  A crowd of people don’t look lonely, whereas a single person does, so a multitude of objects makes for a friendly scene, and much of my practice concerns a group or series of things.

 

However on an individual level there has always been a concern for the things I make to look or suggest anthropomorphic qualities and friendly gestures – not explicit smiley faces and hugging arms, but the suggestion of a friendly creature or character.  This can be seen through the large Tactiforms, which seem like they might have a head or face, or be looking up at a viewer/owner as if to be wanting to be picked up. The Mini Tactiforms also reference a personality through subtleties in visual language, in the way a slight roundness can suggest a face or belly, or 2 protrusions could be limbs, etc.  The handheld-ness of these objects also encourage them to be picked up and ‘petted’, smoothed or stroked. Interestingly, when these objects were made available for sale, most people chose to purchase more than one. Could this be an aspect of the new owner wanting to maintain the ‘inclusivity’, and stop a single Tactiform from becoming lonely (at their new home).

 

Currently, I have exploring different ways to incorporate ‘friendly aesthetics’ into ceramic objects, for example an ‘almost-amorphous’ object which looks like it might have a head, or arms, or feet.  These are seem to be an extension to the Tactiform series, in the sense that they are being modelled in a similar way, but this time with a different sense of purpose (beyond the textural experience). However these are elements of the Object, Language, Landscape project which are also present here…

 

…For a long time I have been unable to underpin why I feel a cactus is ‘cool’, or what I feel to be the ‘best’ object that I made.  I think that it might be because the cactus embodies the aesthetics of friendliness that I have been thinking about, with its arms stretched up for a hug, it’s expressionless, yet emotive face, and the fact that as a group they all look happy together.  The other objects all around all reference the sense of inclusion as their rationale – each object is welcome in the scene – which is the only decisive factor in the assemblage. They’re not a collection because they’re all edible, all consumable, all contemporary, all Western, all blue… they’re together because everyone is welcome.

 

Incidentally, the colour treatment is the only unifying attribute of the pieces in Object, Language, Landscape… for some people, the rationale of these objects existing together is that they’re all blue, so they belong together.  However I want to avoid my future work being read as such and so I will explore a more diverse colour pallet or possibly centre on CMYK to reference all colours/a spectrum, and all colours are welcome.

 

Now I have some clarity to my rationale I feel ready to experiment and plan ways to visualise this to an audience.

 

26th November 2017

Tropes from my history – a list of creative memories or tendencies:

 

  1. Assemblage, arrangement, build
  2. Modularity, pieces, construction/deconstruction
  3. Toys
  4. Colourful, contrast, colour-object relationship
  5. Collection, collectibles, grouping, genres, completion, interchange
  6. Display, show, curation, togetherness
  7. Fantasy, narrative, otherworldliness
  8. Uncanny, strange but familiar, transformation, beyond the ordinary
  9. Manufacture, admiration, wonder, workmanship
  10. Cuteness, friendliness, personification
  11. Form, tessellation, interrelation of forms
  12. Mechanism, moving parts, animation
  13. Craft, making, doodling, experimenting
  14. Materials, textures, tactility, interest, fidgeting
  15. Physical-digital world overlaps
  16. Pride – collection, creative ability
  17. Invention, pushing the limits of product function/intention
  18. Wanderlust, the exotic, the mystic, the ancient, the alien, discovery
  19. Psychology, relationships, identity, morals
  20. Gadgets, technological novelties

 

This list seems very long, and although there are lots of overlaps and cross references, I am unsure what to do with the information.  I would say that ALL of the above links in with what I have tried to do with my own practice, yet the words highlighted in bold seem particularly relevant to my current direction.

 

What I feel I need is someone to say that it doesn’t matter about finding an answer – it’s all subjective, we all have our likes and dislikes, and these can be irrational and interchangeable. We can be fickle and we can change our mind – we like what we like, and sometimes we can’t explain it or say why.  But I feel that I am being challenged to stay away from that ‘easy’ answer.

 

I just want to make what I want to – it has taken me long enough to find a practical project I can focus on.  I don’t feel I have time to do the requisite research into psychoanalysis or narratives or artistic imperatives at this stage. I can’t give any more effort than I have been doing so. I am at my maximum capacity.

 

15th September 2017

 

Now that I have started to distil my lines of enquiry I am beginning to rationalise these thoughts against what it is I want to do, make and find out. At this point (and in reference to Lecture 1 – ‘Introduction to Practice as Research’) I am unsure as to which of these questions to address first; which should take president and lead into the others.

I want to develop existing and learn new making skills using a range of 3D media, because this is what I enjoy doing. It is hard at this point to give specific reasons as to why I enjoy doing this, beyond the simple responses of I am good at it, or that I use these skills in my vocation, or to lead me onto an alternative line of employment.   I also want to build confidence in what I do and make; I am historically objective and realistic (pessimistic) of my own abilities and how my work applies to wider contexts, professionally and creatively (more on that later). I need to gain the confidence to make my practice work for me, and take myself seriously as a practitioner.

I also want to move beyond the experimental stage of the creative process; my job as an Art & Design lecturer inhibits time spent on what I make (in practice, in reflection and in continuum). My creative output is condensed into the spare hour or so that I might have between teachings, and although I can be easily inspired by the fast pace of contexts I am exposed to (as well as the practical opportunities), it is hard to find longevity in these endeavours. Often the work I produce exists as one-offs, successful or failed experiments, or merely ‘good ideas’. The next wave of creative stimulus comes along quickly, and therefore my practice exists in a constant state of halfway through several creative processes. This needs to change.

The want for the more ‘intellectual’ side of a body of work may at first appear to be lower down on the list of demands, and to some extent the hunger for this is not the same as the hunger for making, but it is an integral part of what I enjoy about visual culture. I enjoy deciphering and unravelling context within artworks and the open discussion of contexts, concepts and meanings in art and craft works is stimulating, and something I readily participate in. There are broader and specific thematic areas that do interest me, however I often omit these and err towards the superficial when I produce my own work (or embark upon my own stunted version of the creative process (possibly because I rarely reflect and develop these ideas)). Beyond the attachment to a creative output, I am keenly interested in my own behaviours & beliefs as they change and respond to the world around, which in extension I relate to the behaviours and beliefs of others in this world too…

…Ultimately I am concerned with non-spiritual existential questions, and the struggle between reason and feeling. I find it often too easy to justify or explain my actions and behaviours (and the actions and behaviours of others) through a rational ‘scientific’ approach (cause and effect), yet the answers often don’t help to reconcile the emotional feeling. As an example, I often feel the sense of average-ness about my self, my abilities, my looks, my thoughts, my choices, etc. I use this notion to help connect to others – often it has been remarked that I give good advice and help people identify and understand the ‘psychology’ of their own confusions, predicaments and problems. As a result I find people gravitate towards me as a good listener and someone who can make sense of the mental or moral mire they may be in. But in stark contrast, within me this evokes a feeling of loneliness and disconnectedness from others; why can’t they see things like I do? Why can’t someone make sense of why I emotionally annex myself from other people? Why do they seem happier than I am, in their irrational, provincial bubble? My thoughts are serious, weighty and often make me feel unsatisfied, judgmental, isolated and aloof. – and very alone. But I cannot help trying to rationalise these feelings by applying my own psychobabble and rationality, with no warmth or feeling. To summarise, I find it impossible to just ‘be’.

My lack of self-understanding and wider respect often manifests itself in my attitudes towards visual culture as well. Certainly throughout my younger years as a creative I had struggled with the definitions of ‘art’ and ‘design’, and often tried to rebel against the ‘elitism’ of the creative industry’s low view of the superficial and the purely visual. I have come to understand and reconcile this through my teaching practice, but I also believe there can often be an undeserved leaning towards the conceptual in lieu of the aesthetic. This leads back to the question of rationality versus the irrational; why things feel right (or in my case why things feel wrong), despite all fact and reason stating the opposite.

With these notions in mind, it makes sense to explore the notions of rationality and the irrational mind, if anything but to illustrate the difficulty of doing so in such a ‘proven’ world, where cultural conditioning tells us how we should think, act and behave, yet as individuals we often feel applying a rational mind-set is not satisfying. Is this a human condition; do we long for a pre-culturally programmed mind-set (infantile, or perhaps even animal)?

NB – Importantly I am not remarking that my work will necessarily be cathartic or serve as self-help, moreover this discourse outlines a personal rationale for the effect my practice could produce (no pun intended).

22nd May 2017

After several, generally supportive and encouraging tutorials, I feel fairly confident in my instinctive vision for some kind of ‘final piece’ to be exhibited during the summer show. I think I am going to create a landscape of the afore-mentioned objects, as an assemblage or installation of some kind. There are 3 main aims of the work:

  • For me to try and ascertain if there is any rationale to these particular objects being interesting for me to build. Are there any similarities in these forms? Am I interested in the objects’ manufacture, or is it an affinity towards the individual forms/types of form that drives me to make these selections?
  • To see if these objects (and the way they are displayed) have a connection to a wider audience. Is it the same connection? Are these objects significant to me, or are there wider significances embedded in these objects?
  • To develop my crafting and fabrication skills, improve the overall quality of my output and achieve consistency (mastering of skills)

There are a few contextual questions I am posing while making (and while presenting) the work; questions I hope to be able to find out, understand in some part or lead to further critical thinking:

  • What these objects communicate? Individually? Collectively?
  • Do these objects mean the same thing to other people? To all people?
  • How are objects used to communicate meaning?
  • How does assemblage communicate meaning?
  • (What is meaning? Is it a language? Is it a universal language?)

I currently believe that the selection of these objects are likely to be understood by me very differently than to others; my instincts tell me that the selection and creation of certain objects is defined by my own conscious and sub-consciousness, and informed by my own contexts. Thus I hypothesise that while there may be some common ground for like-for-like meanings and significances, I think there is a great deal of personal choice at work within a great number of variables, and therefore the meanings will differ person to person.

There have been a number of contexts I have discovered and recommended. Each brings its’ own influence and potential, and these must be considered in order to enrich and give purpose to my investigation:

  • Felieke Van Der Leest, jewellery.
    • Playing with familiar forms, deconstructing and reconstructing
    • Applying the recognisable and familiar to motif and aesthetic
    • Applying playful, toy like qualities to precious jewellery

25th June 2017

Objects to make:

  1. Hotdog
  2. Sandwich
  3. Pie
  4. Toothpaste
  5. Plug
  6. Padlock
  7. Screw
  8. Tooth

Supporting objects:

  • Cactuses (x4+)
  • Big blobs (x2)
  • Small blobs (x2)

Arrangement:

  • On floor
  • Felt ‘tendrils’ connecting objects
  • All painted blue
  • Original ceramic texture important

Timeline:

  1. Monday – Hotdog, Sandwich, cast cactus #1
  2. Tuesday – 2x Big Blobs, cast cactus #2
  3. Wednesday – RUTC SHOW, cast cactus #3
  4. Thursday – Padlock, Screw, cast cactus #4
  5. Friday – Tooth, 2x Small Blobs, cast cactus #5
  6. Monday – AWAY
  7. Tuesday – Experiment with felting wool: arrangements and into plaster
  8. Wednesday – Felting wool into plaster
  9. Thursday – Firing (A.M.)
  10. Friday – Take out of kiln, Photoshoot with Dorota
  11. Monday – Last day for firing
  12. Tuesday – Installation
  13. Wednesday – Display work
  14. Thursday – Summer Show

 

What about bone? Or bone china?

These things come from my mind – what material is the right way of expressing this?

5th January 2017

What I am expected to do: Term 1:

  1. Project Proposal, continuously re-worked and refined as practice and context develops and deepens.
  2. 20-30 hours per week, practical or contextual

What I have done so far:

  • Written and re-written project brief several times (still not clear)
  • Made 50 mini tactiforms
  • Briefly explored the tactile qualities of amorphous hand-held ceramic forms
  • Gotten minimal feedback from public
  • Gotten some feedback from peers
  • Written a lot of notes – not followed through
  • Created a blog

What I haven’t done so far:

  • A clear proposal
  • A clear idea of what I want to do and why
  • Any formal reading, or recording of.
  • Any formal feedback of practical work, or recording of.
  • Not enough connection with context
  • Not enough practical work
  • Developed existing practical skills, beyond what I already knew how to make
  • Learnt new practical skills

What I need to do (this term):

  • Formalise a schedule of working – week by week
  • Formalise a blogging schedule
  • Identify term, course and overall aims
  • Make, Read, Share something every day.

Aims:

What I want to do (this term):

  • Have a clear idea of what to make
  • Have a clear idea about why I want to make it
  • Identify and understand a selection of appropriate contexts
  • Learn new practical skills and improve existing skills
  • Show a considered, high-quality selection of developmental work at WIP

How I will achieve these targets:

  • Be inspired by going on 2 contextual visits each week; having a clear idea about what I want to see, why and how I am going to record the experience.
    • New Design Museum
    • Martins WIP Show
    • British Museum – ancient, primitive figures, hand held
    • Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

Explorations of consciousness through objects

Current Project:

Explorations of the subconscious mind through ceramic objects

  • 3+ drinking vessels
  • They must be drinking/eating vessels, as the act of consumption is a key primal human function
  • They must physically connect with a user’s mouth in order to experience ‘the irrational’ tactile sensation
  • I believe the irrational response to be a breaking down of the barriers between raw human primal functions, suppressed by the modern/culturally-programmed mind. When people use the vessel they feel an unexpected or surprising
  • The action of putting something to the mouth references the close psychological connection between food and sex (both key primal human functions), as referenced by Freud, etc.

My aims:

  • Each vessel will physically stimulate the user’s lips and hands (grip) with unexpected haptics (in contrast to norms of function/form/design).
  • This should draw significance with the action taking place – consuming, feeding and inserting.

My objectives:

  • To stimulate an unexpected, surprising or ‘unexplainable’ response, caused by a tactile sensation of using serve wear.
  • To reconnect a user with basic human functions, though bestowing ‘irrational’ thinking.
  • Create an interesting range of serve ware that feels (and looks) interesting and unusual, as a haptic experience.
  • To promote discussion of suppressed human behaviours; to draw attention to the conflict of behaving as to societal expectations, versus basic human instincts.

Cup 1: ‘Voluptuousness’

  • Visual language (VL) of the basic form: chubby, curvy, engorged, soft, fleshy… this references ‘the body’ as a fertile, nurturing, nourishing and grope-able object.
  • VL of additional features: dimpled rim… this references the softness and grope-able texture of flesh; something that can be pressed and impressed. This is an unusual texture for the lips; particularly in contrast to typical smooth drinking vessels (cups, glasses, etc.). Belly button draws additional attention to the object being a representation of flesh – a torso – rather than a representation of a complete, or gender-specific body.
  • Context: flesh being a key part of the conditions of feeding and sex; we eat flesh and we crave flesh carnally.

23rd November 2016

After speaking to one of my colleagues about my mini-tactiforms, two of the textures I had applied – the dimples and holes – reminded them of the Suriname Toad.  She showed me a video and we both recoiled in horror and disgust!

I’m not sure why I didn’t realise this before when making the textures, but it has now completely changed my perception of what I have created, from something of intrigue, to something of anxiety.  Upon further research, the recoil I experienced is linked to a condition called ‘trypophobia’, which is the fear of densely-holed surfaces.  The rationality of the fear relates to the human condition to fear danger lurking in unknown, dark spaces, such as insects that may sting.  I was really surprised at how intense my feeling of disgust and recoil was, especially when I don’t consider myself to be afraid of insects, or pathological natural dangers.Suriname Toad

18th September 2016

Now that I have started to distil my lines of enquiry I am beginning to rationalise these thoughts against what it is I want to do, make and find out.  At this point (and in reference to Lecture 1 – ‘Introduction to Practice as Research’) I am unsure as to which of these questions to address first; which should take president and lead into the others.

I want to develop existing and learn new making skills using a range of 3D media, because this is what I enjoy doing.  It is hard at this point to give specific reasons as to why I enjoy doing this, beyond the simple responses of I am good at it, or that I use these skills in my vocation, or to lead me onto an alternative line of employment.   I also want to build confidence in what I do and make; I am historically objective and realistic (pessimistic) of my own abilities and how my work applies to wider contexts, professionally and creatively (more on that later).  I need to gain the confidence to make my practice work for me, and take myself seriously as a practitioner.

I also want to move beyond the experimental stage of the creative process; my job as an Art & Design lecturer inhibits time spent on what I make (in practice, in reflection and in continuum).  My creative output is condensed into the spare hour or so that I might have between teachings, and although I can be easily inspired by the fast pace of contexts I am exposed to (as well as the practical opportunities), it is hard to find longevity in these endeavours.  Often the work I produce exists as one-offs, successful or failed experiments, or merely ‘good ideas’.  The next wave of creative stimulus comes along quickly, and therefore my practice exists in a constant state of halfway through several creative processes.  This needs to change.

The want for the more ‘intellectual’ side of a body of work may at first appear to be lower down on the list of demands, and to some extent the hunger for this is not the same as the hunger for making, but it is an integral part of what I enjoy about visual culture.  I enjoy deciphering and unravelling context within artworks and the open discussion of contexts, concepts and meanings in art and craft works is stimulating, and
something I readily participate in. There are broader and specific thematic areas that do interest me, however I often omit these and err towards the superficial when I produce my own work (or embark upon my own stunted version of the creative process (possibly
because I rarely reflect and develop these ideas)).  Beyond the attachment to a creative output, I am keenly interested in my own behaviours & beliefs as they change and
respond to the world around, which in extension I relate to the behaviours and beliefs of others in this world too…

…Ultimately I am concerned with non-spiritual existential questions, and the struggle between reason and feeling.  I find it often too easy to justify or explain my actions and behaviours (and the actions and behaviours of others) through a rational ‘scientific’ approach (cause and effect), yet the answers often don’t help to reconcile the emotional feeling.  As an example, I often feel the sense of average-ness about my self, my abilities, my looks, my thoughts, my choices, etc.  I use this notion to help connect to others – often it has been remarked that I give good advice and help people identify and understand the ‘psychology’ of their own confusions, predicaments and problems.  As a result I find people gravitate towards me as a good listener and someone who can make sense of the mental or moral mire they may be in.  But in stark contrast, within me this evokes a feeling of loneliness and disconnectedness from others; why can’t they see things like I do?  Why can’t someone make sense of why I emotionally annex myself from other people? Why do they seem happier than I am, in their irrational, provincial bubble?
My thoughts are serious, weighty and often make me feel unsatisfied, judgmental, isolated and aloof. – and very alone. But I cannot help trying to rationalise these feelings by applying my own psychobabble and rationality, with no warmth or feeling.  To summarise, I find it impossible to just ‘be’.

My lack of self-understanding and wider respect often manifests itself in my attitudes towards visual culture as well.  Certainly throughout my younger years as a creative I had struggled with the definitions of ‘art’ and ‘design’, and often tried to rebel against the ‘elitism’ of the creative industry’s low view of the superficial and the purely visual. I have come to understand and reconcile this through my teaching practice, but I also believe there can often be an undeserved leaning towards the conceptual in lieu of the aesthetic. This leads back to the question of rationality versus the irrational; why things feel right (or in my case why things feel wrong), despite all fact and reason stating the opposite.

With these notions in mind, it makes sense to explore the notions of rationality and the irrational mind, if anything but to illustrate the difficulty of doing so in such a ‘proven’ world, where cultural conditioning tells us how we should think, act and behave, yet as
individuals we often feel applying a rational mind-set is not satisfying.  Is this a human condition; do we long for a pre-culturally programmed mind-set (infantile, or perhaps even animal)?

NB – Importantly I am not remarking that my work will necessarily be cathartic or serve as self-help, moreover this discourse outlines a personal rationale for the effect my practice could produce (no pun intended).

15th September 2016

So suddenly I’m in week 2 of 10 for this term and I feel like I haven’t started to do anything!  I’ve written so many pages of notes, been thinking and talking about my proposal a lot, but I feel like I haven’t really gotten anywhere.  Should I have written something meaningful or read 2-3 books by now?

What I have done is gained some kind of confidence to trust my initial lines of enquiry; as mentioned previously Proposal 1.0 had one clear thread, whereas I now have up to 5 strands to the whole proposal.  Yet it still feels woolly, messy… undefined.  I’d like to really easily be able to say ‘My project is about…’.

So far I’m interested in looking at:

  1. How and why our minds try to ‘force’ us to identify familiarity when faced with randomness, and what happens when our minds aren’t able to rationalise abstract and non-figurative forms.  This is intended to be multi-sensory, with a leaning on the tactile, rather than the visual, however it may be important to understand the ‘hierarchy’ of our senses.  I must also consider the differences between the responses of the maker in contrast to the response of a holder/user.
  2. The notion of play: which I often feel is an irrational response (as a ‘culturally-programmed’ adult).  This is quite a complex soup of theories and thoughts.  Firstly to address there is the concept of defining ‘play’ (and it’s antithesis ‘work’), of which I am keen to explore the notion of play from an adult perspective.  Is it the same behaviour as when children play?  My gut response says this isn’t the case (due to cultural conditioning, ‘maturity’, knowledge of the world, etc.) however this is just a theory.  Is adult play more complex, appreciative of the poetry of aspects, such as engineering or aesthetics?
  3. The ethical debate surrounding the art of making.  This is again complex, and also taps into emotional or irrational responses to the act of crafting, but not necessarily in reference to mass-production or consumer culture.  My angle is more concerned with the states of matter, ephemerality and permanence in my own practice.  The ceramic work I produce (finished or experimental) will exist forever, and is hard to break down again.  Much of what I create is experimental and once I have found out what it is I wanted to know – what happens to these ‘scraps’?  There are forgotten and/or discarded.  I experience some ethical conflict in this activity, however there lies the opportunity to look at the material and try to reconcile this feeling, perhaps through breaking the pieces down, and reusing the material in some way.

Comparing these strands, it seems there is an overlap with the theme of irrationality and interactivity, looking at the relationship between the object and the mind, but also the subconscious or even animalistic (uncultured) behaviours.  Threads 2 and 3 certainly lend themselves to concepts of construction and modularity.

Gradually these themes are being distilled, honed and I get the feeling I am not far off being able to form a coherent proposal, albeit in a looser sense.  The more I think and talk about these factors, I can feel them taking gold or some kind of gravity forming which holds the pieces together.