Getting Pierced

There is no doubt. I get hot and bothered by porcelain.

My own preference is for the white stuff. I love the Chinese and Japanese but the French and German gets me all tingly.

I know some people look down upon it. But I think that as ceramicists we need to be open minded, and accepting of all forms. The last thing our little community needs is a Dirt War. I have had a conversation with a condescending and smug person, who insisted on referring to anything that was not a Japanese Teabowl as a "Urinal". Of course this person failed to see the hypocrisy in their passion for all things Japanese as they have quite a Porcelain tradition of their own.

This work by Michael Eden is a nice commentary on the history of porcelain. Yes it does have a right history of wealth and power. But that is no reason to disregard Porcelain as a whole.

From the artist
The piece was inspired by a pair of Sèvres porcelain lidded vases in the Wallace Collection, London. My attraction to them was particularly in the playful, gold ceramic 'fountains' on the lids.
My approach to reinterpreting the piece was to start by looking at the history of Sèvres, and the role that the ceramic pieces played in French society of the time. I was intrigued that the Manufactory was started in order to produce an imitation of the much sought after German hard-paste porcelain, itself an imitation of highly prized Chinese and Japanese porcelain. It was seen to represent wealth, importance, and refined taste. In Germany, Meissen was patronised by King Augustus, who amassed a huge collection, and in France Sèvres operated under the patronage of Louis XV.
As royalty have often set fashion trends, the style of Sèvres porcelain was imitated by inferior manufacturers, enabling purchase by the less wealthy who aspired to possess the genuine article.
This is essentially a story of imitation and aspiration, not only in style and materials but also in the symbolism of the objects. Jade was mimicked by celadon glazed ceramics; hard paste porcelain by soft-paste porcelain. The reverse happened in the development of Bone China, an attempt by Josiah Spode and others to imitate Chinese porcelain. It resulted in a very fine quality material that achieved high status.
Precious metals are also imitated. Costume jewellery is another example of aspiration and imitation. It came into being in the 1930s as a cheap, disposable accessory meant to be worn with a specific outfit. It was intended to be fashionable for a short period of time, outdate itself, and then be repurchased to fit with a new outfit or new fashion style.
In my re-interpretation of the Sèvres piece there is imitation, yet it is not a 'costume jewellery' alternative. I use processes that were originally intended for engineers yet allow enormous creative freedom; and materials that are ceramic, but are not used in traditional ways.
So, my interpretation of the Sèvres piece is a paradox. The piece was designed on a computer and produced by Additive Layer Manufacturing (also known as Rapid Manufacturing or 3D printing). So the piece is not hand made, though the design process took up to 150 hours of intense work. It is partly ceramic, though it has not been fired. The decoration is based on symbols of wealth, yet they are costume jewellery or more exactly 'bling'.
It is based on an exquisitely crafted object of enormous value. My piece is made from common and relatively inexpensive raw materials that have undergone very precise processing as a result of a great deal of research. And the manufacture of the piece is an expensive process that requires time and skill.
In summing up I would say that my aim has been to create a beautiful object with historical and cultural references that proposes a dialogue between what is real and what is not.


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