Wednesday, 16 October 2013

From Generic to Organic

Sometimes I am jealous when I look at Facebook and see my ceramic friends with neatly arranged shelves of duplicated perfection after a day in the studio. 20 mugs, 20 bowls, 20 cylinders. They must know what they are doing I think. They have a plan or even luckier they have orders to fill. They have trudged around the planet and found someone who will stock their product and once someone likes their product, word spreads around and before you know it, their stock is in every shop and gallery to the exclusion of all others. They are busy people and they are admired for their industry.

I am not that person. I am industrious in a different sort of way. I came to ceramics through painting and drawing. I kind of liked the idea of making objects to use in the world but still approach it from the basis of problem solving and expression, not mass production.
Organic juicer

I read somewhere that Alexander Calder of mobile sculpture fame had the intention of making everything in his home himself. I don’t know if it true and I don’t know if he did but it is an idea that has always appealed to me. It’s pretty cool to sit down to breakfast with a mug of coffee, bowl of cereal or piece of toast on a plate that you or someone you know has made. Growing the food to go into the bowl of stirfry or soup is an extension of this intention.
21st cake

lamp from Two Layers of Cells hand coloured with prisma colour pencils

It is difficult now to personalise your space as something different from everybody else who lives in your neighbourhood. All the shopping centres stock the same items in chains that spread across the globe. Homes on housing estates are mirror images of each other with different colourways or from the same but limited palette of building materials in different variations and the landscaping is generic as well. What on earth does this do to the imaginations of children growing up in these places?

 I taught in a school on one of these fancy created estates in the early 80’s. All the homes were the same age and so was the local recreation area. All the trees were the same age. There were no trees to climb, because they hadn’t developed enough and everyone’s gardens were made of the same stuff with easy maintenance paving and pebble rock landscaping. It was difficult to hold engaging discussions in the classroom because all references in the children’s lives were related to Disney characters, or other cartoonified literature squeezed through the box at them. 
Pooh Shepard1928.jpgWikipedia
There is just no comparison with the original.
 I only stayed there for about 6 months and remember absolute despair after reading the children some story as a prompt for creative writing about hiding places. The idea was to describe a safe place to hide where they could be themselves to practice singing or some sort of imaginative play. Every child described the same little drain pipe tunnel in the playground down the street!
They will all be turning 42 this year, the year of the midlife crisis. Douglas Adams was right when he said the answer to Life the Universe and Everything was 42. I hope they all have a life renewal and crave the individual and handmade environment!
My children’s wardrobes were almost entirely handmade until I couldn’t get away with it anymore and I look back with pride at their photographs in all their home made glory. Soft furnishings, home decor items, landscaping, cake decorating, handmade pasta and home baked bread (from base ingredients, not breadmix!) How far can we go in creating and personalising our world so that big corporations don’t own us and dictate to us how to live our lives and make our culture generic?

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