Ceramic Designer-Maker, Jessie Higginson (www.jessiehigginson.co.uk) and Autonomatic Cluster Leader, Katie Bunnell recently completed a Crafts Council supported Contemporary Crafts Fellowship combining their specialist skills in hand and digital drawing to create imagery for surface pattern design. The results of their collaboration are currently on show in Re-Route at the Devon Guild of Craftsman, Fri 13th March – Sunday 26th April www.crafts.org.uk
Prior to starting the Fellowship our separate practices were involved with surface and the exploration of pattern, colour, line, illustration and mark making for ceramics. Our original aim through participating in the Fellowship was to increase the originality and value of our work by creatively combining our surface pattern skills with a range of new forms, enabling us to relate texture, shape and pattern together. In order to develop a viable product for market we intended to have a range of new shapes manufactured enabling higher volume runs whilst retaining control over the decoration to create limited edition pieces. The core of our project has involved us in researching the ceramic manufacturing industry in the UK, talking to other designers, consultants and visiting factories to find an industrial partner. This research has revealed to us the very sorry state of UK ceramic manufacturing – with the recent demise of Wedgwood/Waterford only serving to highlight this further. Our desire to find a UK company combined support for the British economy, issues of sustainability through local production, and quality control through using a partner in the relatively geographically accessible potteries region of Stoke-on-Trent. We drew a blank.
For the exhibition of work in progress at the Devon Guild we decided to test our relationship as co-designers. Can and how do we work creatively together on the same designs using analogue and digital drawing skills.
Our starting point was based on our previous shared interest in visual representations of plant forms. We wanted to take some familiar plants and transform them into abstracted designs. Inspired by some late Victorian drawing of seaweed and our own local environment we started by photographing isolated samples of seaweed and working together to identify plant structures, shapes and colours that we found visually interesting. Jessie made hand drawings of the seaweeds we selected, scanned them and then Katie manipulated the hand drawing using CAD and CAM programs to both reproduce elements of Jessie’s drawing and to develop new line qualities. The CNC router was used to create large scale drawings using CAD data and this process helped to inform us about the development of imagery for much smaller scale ceramic transfers. Experimentation with the CNC Router has had an impact on the development of designs for other contexts enabling us to work on a new scale, and to think about pattern and design in other mediums, not just ceramic. Through both hand and computer drawing processes we aimed to abstract the seaweed imagery to develop distinct line qualities, line weights, fill textures as well as colour palette. Using these qualities as our building blocks we developed imagery for inglaze, raised paste (low relief), standard digital and laser cut transfers with the idea that these images would layer together to provide a richness and depth in the ceramic glaze surface. We created multiple design elements using these processes providing us with the scope to create designs in the process of collaging them together.
Our mentor for the project was Autonomatic Research Fellow, Tavs Jorgensen.