5th May 2017

On the run up to the start of term, I have feel I have been working with a different kind of attitude towards making. Term 2’s output felt very forced and objective, to the point where I was trying too hard to formulate a functioning brief, rather than making something I feel engaged or passionate with. Instead, over the Easter break I had been making work that I wanted to make, with no rationale other than ‘I made it because I wanted to’.

Perhaps there is something to this statement: something that gives a truer insight into my sub-consciousness perhaps?

The work I made could be categorised as non-functional objects (often in ceramics) – some of which were figurative/recognizable objects, whereas others were more abstracted. I made the following objects:

  1. Twisted aluminium wire figure with obsolete electronic plug for a head
  2. Small ceramic blob creature, with a hole for a face
  3. Thrown ceramic bowl, filled with a fragranced wax candle
  4. Scrap wood ‘cubist’ self portrait, using only 10 pieces
  5. A ‘dinosaur bone’ image using heatpress-melted cellophane
  6. A larger ceramic blog creature, with felting-wool coming out of its face
  7. A series of slipcast cactuses in various inorganic colours, which maintain their casting edges
  8. A ceramic sandwich, where golden glaze is used instead of jam

I am unsure as to why these objects were chosen other then out of a whim or gut feeling perhaps, however I seem to be drawn to fairly recognizable objects (sandwich and cactus in particular). I am also somewhat keen to play with size differential between the objects, and against their real life counterparts – again I am unsure at this point as to why I have made these decisions, beyond gut feeling or intuition.

1st March 2017

Mid Point Review sheet

Pathway: Designer Maker

Name: Martin Williams                                                      Date: 1st March 2017

Briefly write here (500 words max) on two or three key issues (you can list these in bullet points) on the development of your practice in the following and see them as points for discussion. 

  1. Exploring notions of rationality and irrationality in object design and application: what is function/non-function?
  2. Splitting and conflicting fields of consciousness and sub-consciousness by presenting sub-conscious (primitive) behaviours
  3. Applying point 1 to point 2; making and presenting objects with questionable functionality that provokes the response to sub-conscious behaviours in a holder.

Firstly I wanted to address and define processes and responses to the creation of forms, which question conventions of rationality, purpose and function. I wanted to raise a discussion through my works as to what function and non-function is… Personally, I often feel it is hard to describe or rationalise why certain forms and visual language appeal to me, and I feel somewhat uncomfortable or dissatisfied with a sense of needing to give a reason to why I like a certain thing.

To explore these concepts I created a series of small ceramic objects, called Tactiforms (“tactile forms”). I chose to construct a multitude of forms, with similar visual language, yet innately individual in order to spark choice and preference in a beholder. The visual language employed references several contexts. Firstly, the size and shape of the form is designed to be hand-held, to encourage haptic exploration, rather than visual. Secondly, the forms are amorphous (unrecognisable) and non-functional as to discourage the eye from pre-analysing the object. It is my belief that the eye can often steer our other senses away from further exploration, if it is presented with something our mind already recognises. Thirdly, the choices of texture applied to each of the Tactiforms serves as discussion points, choices and haptic explorations, mainly to give rise to the ‘I like this one but I don’t know why’ response, or push the boundary of what function is within an object. They are designed to inspire the beholder to pick them up and explore with their hands, in both a conscious and subconscious way.

The questions raised by the Tactiforms lead me to explore the schism and conflicts of the rational and irrational mind. I believed that the sense of conflict between saying one likes a particular object (for example), but cannot explain why was perhaps down to an inner mental/behavioural conflict between different states of consciousness and sub-consciousness. After being influenced by primitive talismanic objects (Pitt Rivers, Ashmolean, V&A and British Museums)… with psychological and behavioural theories, particularly Freudian theory of the Id, the Ego and the Super-Ego, I noticed that there was a clear rift between the Id (which is primarily responsible for thoughts of instant gratification and primal urges) and the Ego (which gives credence to morals, social expectations and the acceptance of rationalisation of reason/law frameworks). The Id within us is only concerned with the very animalistic side of our human nature; the need to satisfy our hunger, with food and with sex. It made me think about what it would have been like to be a primal human: what sort of feelings do I have that I could relate to primitive behaviours?

In response to these thoughts I set out creating a series of semi-functional (or questionably functional) objects that attempt to reconnect a beholder with primitive behaviours, or even attempt to draw attention to their inner conflict of the Id and Ego sensibilities. Will a beholder be repulsed by the actualisation of basic human instincts (sexually suggestive forms)? Will the user attempt to use the objects to feed from? Or will they only go so far to admire them as non-functional objects?

Evaluation of my project proposal as a part of a self-directed programme of study:

My proposal has gone through multiple reinventions, and is currently in a state of deconstruction. The process of exploring ever deepening contexts and responses to each smaller ‘make’ has seemed to have paved a very long and meandering road. Most aspects of my proposal are almost unrecognisable in my later work. I am however not deterred by this, and don’t feel it is necessary to have answered all of my previous intentions in order to give value to what I am currently doing. Moreover, the creative process has been applied as an organic one; there are links back through various stages of makes (mini-projects as it were). With this in mind it is hard to apply a scaffold to evaluate my current progress.

I feel however that the journey has been necessary and much distance has been covered. I feel there is a lack of depth in some areas of my contextual understanding; for example I am only just starting to understand the nuances of Freudian theories, as well as contrasting these with the works of others (Maslow, Jung…). I am also somewhat aware that the practical qualities of what I have made lean towards the sketchy, the experimental and the unresolved, rather than showcasing real craftsmanship.

Where I need to develop study plans in relation to the Unit 1 Learning Outcomes (please refer to the unit briefing sheet):

  • Deeper and wider reading and understanding of contexts, leading to synthesis
  • Qualitative feedback on my work; recording the responses of others using/holding my work, comparing these results to my intentions and contexts, and developing responses by identifying opportunities to develop further work or manipulate certain variables.
  • Develop making skills to a level that yields ‘finished’ results, to a high standard of crafting skills.

Review sheet (2)

Student to complete on the day of Mid Point Review and email a copy to tutor by Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Pathway: Designer Maker

Name: Martin Williams                                                      Date: 8th March 2017

Peer group comments noted during the MPR:

  • Not enough work made
  • Visual contexts not specific enough
  • Work is not of a high enough standard of finish (although I somewhat disagree that at this stage it is vital that they are representative of ‘finished’ pieces: they are sketches/experiments)
  • Try being more specific regarding particular reactions, i.e. phobias
  • General direction of intentions somewhat unclear and/or alienating
  • Responses are not ‘personal’ enough
  • Ceramic may not be the most appropriate material to apply recent designs
  • 2D drawing is not utilised effectively to express reflective thinking

Response to the discussion and next step – actions to be taken: 

  • Visual research – identify at least 5 artists/practitioners who make objects which apply contrasting textural elements (hard and aggressive/soft and comforting).
  • Break down the broadness of my current proposal and select one singular avenue to focus on until the interim show.
  • Explore other materials, such as rubber, wax, foam and textiles, in conjunction with ceramic elements.
  • Explore the notion of attraction/repulsion of human bodies and textures.
  • Draw more… human forms, body parts and contrasts of human textures.
  • Focus on my own response, rather than working ‘for others’.
  • Be more personal about what I do: do what I like and like what I do.

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.