5 August 2009
Following on from the Australian Ceramics Triennale held in Sydney last month this issue focuses on Australian ceramics practitioners. Ken Yonetani's installation Sweet Barrier Reef is currently on show at the Venice Biennale. UK based writer Colin Martin reviews the work and performance underpinned by Yonetani's environmental concerns examining the relationship between the drive for sugar consumption, sugar refineries and the decline of Australia's iconic reef. Fresh from the Triennale Danie Mellor traces the history of blue and white transfer ware into the English and continental market; discussing specific elements of pictorial transfer ware that hinted at a soft colonisation of cultures beyond the west. Lynda Draper discusses her latest body of work and the triggers for creating it; the family home and its associated artefacts. In his presentation Industrial Sabbotage Stephen Bird explains how he has re-interpreted the tradition of mass produced ornament ceramics made in Stoke on Trent in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Fatigued and footsore, on my fourth consecutive day in Venice previewing the wide spectrum of contemporary art on offer at the 53rd International Art Exhibition, I visited the Australian group exhibition Once Removed at the Ludoteca. Housed in an outbuilding at the rear of the former convent, the Australian-based Japanese artist Ken Yonetani's installation Sweet Barrier Reef provided a welcome respite from the clamour at the Arsenale and Giardini. Ignorant of the artist's routine exploration of environmental concerns in his work, my initial thought was that his tableaux of luminous white coral forms made from sugar, arranged on the sugar-strewn gallery floor, was his light-hearted comment on the growing fashion for couples to marry at picturesque beaches. Knife-ravaged remnants of four gaudily iced cakes, discarded on a side table, hinted at wedding rituals. But they could simply have been launch party leftovers. It was a puzzling mise en scene, involving more than met the eye. Read the article by Colin Martin.
The origin of pottery decorated with blue glaze on a white background dates to the ninth century in Henan Province in China. Although archaeological finds uncovered only a few broken pieces, it provides an indication of the depth of tradition on which the production of European blue and white ware was established. Although the oriental flavour of blue and white pottery was certainly part of the craze for the exotic in the west during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the historical weight of the decoration in all likelihood added a certain authenticity, an authority to its application in the west. Read the paper by Danie Mellor.
The family home and its associated artefacts can have a profound effect on the experience of memory. This part of material culture plays a strong role in mediating emotional responses to loss and change, marking the passage of time and thereby contributing to the creation of a personal narrative of the past. Loss and change are part of life experience. In analysing personal experience we can gain an insight into the capacity of inanimate domestic objects to embody an experience of memory, time and space and the connections between the process of remembering, nostalgia and the uncanny. If one examines the notion that the significant meaning of an object is not merely constituted by its physical characteristics, but more importantly, by the metaphysical qualities accrued through its history, its cultural and mythological significance to the society out of which it arises, combined with our personal, emotional & aesthetic relationship to them. Read the paper by Lynda Draper.
I use the term Industrial Sabotage to explain how I have re-interpreted the tradition of mass produced ornament ceramics made in Stoke on Trent in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today I'm going to talk about my early childhood in Stoke on Trent, and an exhibition, entitled 'Figure This,' I presented there in 2007, and also some significant personal events that have shaped my art between these two points in time. I will start with a potted history of ceramics in Stoke on Trent, and will go on to tell you why I began making ceramics and I will finish off by showing how my travels have influenced my expression as an artist and shaped my political views. Read the paper by Stephen Bird .
In last month's editorial I mentioned the State of Design Festival in Melbourne, a dynamic program of events that featured all aspects of design practice including contemporary craft. Hot on the heels of that festival ending in Melbourne, we see the delivery of Saturday in Design and Sydney Design 09, with an equally spectacular presentation of events exhibitions, industry engagement, seminars and craft participation as a showcase of the Australian design industry. Leading a new development in design festivals will be the Brisbane design triennial that will be presented for the first time in 2010 with the support of the Queensland Government. The triennial will feature design from the Asia Pacific region and will place Australian design within a geographic framework.
Why all the focus on the design festivals and what is Craft Australia's role in this dialogue?
Importantly, craft design practitioners are significant participants in these events and are demonstrating innovative directions in sustainable design production and manufacturing. They are spearheading new directions that are being looked at by the larger companies for inspiration. The scale of craft design creative industries, or micro businesses, a term favoured for small companies with 1 to 5 people, makes them very flexible to consumer demand and responsive to market trends. This gives them an advantage over the larger companies that do not have that operational flexibility due to the economies of scale of their production. While this is not the forum to go into an in depth analysis of micro companies versus the small to medium enterprises, it is worth noting that at the State of Design Festival, there was a fabulous opportunity for exchange between the large and small scale companies with great benefits for both.
This was created by simultaneously presenting the small business creatives fair and design industry trade fair at the one festival. Design: Made:Trade: (DMT) exhibition featuring work by creative micro business was at the Royal Exhibition building in Carlton; Furnitex and Decoration+Design were at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre. Registrants to either event had simultaneous registration to the other, and a free shuttle bus service was available to take visitors from one venue to the other.
Some of the participants at DMT openly discussed the benefits of this arrangement having positive spin offs for their own micro companies. This included international manufacturing companies and agents seeing the work of emerging Australian designers; exchanges between larger Australian companies and the smaller design firms for the development of new designs and product lines as well as new market opportunities.
Nicola Cerini Australia was one such company at DMT that had expressed the benefits of this joint business staging through State of Design. This was the second year that Nicola had participated in DMT. She mentioned that new licensing opportunities had emerged for her company, and she got to meet many representatives from companies she had been interested in working with, as a result of participating in this fair. Nicola Cerini began her business as a fabric designer and printer producing unique Nicola Cerini bags with distinctive Australian native flora designs. Her designs are now also available on a range of other products including rugs and tableware through the licensing arrangements she has established.
While Nicola Cerini's story is only one example of the strength of leading edge Australian design, there were many such stories able to be told through the work of exhibitors at DMT, some of whom were emerging start up companies such as those who completed the design mentoring program through Springboard . Others were more established groups such as Keepcup who have developed the reusable coffee cup for the environmentally conscious coffee addicts of the world. Interesting new directions in sustainable production were demonstrated by companies such as Mattt who produce digitally printed bags on demand. Uniquely the bags are a canvas for a range of designers, enabling their ideas to be showcased in a very effective and useful statement through the bag. For more details about the other exhibitors at DMT.Clearly, there is a tremendous opportunity at such design festivals for craft design practitioners who want to engage with industry and learn from other creative micro businesses.
Craft Australia is an industry partner for the State of Design Festival and was invited to present a position at The View from Here Forum on the future of craft and design. This was an evening of short, informal presentations by a select group of design industry leaders including representatives from Australian Institute of Architects, the Design Institute of Australia, the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects, the Australian Graphic design Association and Object Gallery. Significantly, this event saw the public launch of the Australian Design Coalition, (ADC) made up of many of the groups that presented on the evening. The next ADC meeting will be held in Sydney during Sydney Design 09 Festival.
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