Dissertation Planning

Well it’s been such a busy day! It started off with a dissertation tutorial with Dr Mahnaz Shah. It’s my 2nd tutorial so far with her and thankfully, I come away from her tutorials with a bit more understanding of what I am going to write. Our dissertation proposal is due in in about month’s time, so I need to knuckle down with my research in order to produce a decent plan. The more detailed my plan is now, the easier my dissertation will be to write in 3rd year, and the more time I will have to write it.

The direction I want to take is to investigate how ceramics engages with an audience on a physical level, through direct touch; and possibly comparing installations to interactive objects. For research I used Bonnie Keepsake’s paper “Touching the Body: A Ceramic Possibility” as a starting point. Her findings (after placing her “huggable sculptures” in galleries) stated that

“Some people, mostly men, straddled the plinth/bench and then used both hands to touch, sometimes turning a hand over and running the back of the arm over the surface of the work or trying to fit their arm into depressions in the forms. However, few actually picked the work up until they were told they could, read that it was made to fit the body, or saw others handling the work in this way. Even then, some people asked for permission before lifting the work.”

This suggests that gender differences contribute to the way work is handles and responded to within a gallery environment. Interestingly, Kempske also placed her work in a gallery in Kyoto as well as in London. She noted that there were some cultural differences too; stating that “more people at the V&A fit the work to their bodies than did viewers/touchers in Kyoto”.

I think there is a huge scope for research into this, but to start with, I just need to figure out what other artists I’m going to look at! There is just so much to research! And of course I would actually like to do some primary research too, as I feel the findings from it will enrich my dissertation.


What do I want to make?

Every time I talk about my artwork to others, whether that’s through a one to one tutorial, a presentation, or a group tutorial, I am becoming more conscious of my stance within the creative realm of ceramics. What do I want to create? Over the past month or so it’s become crystal clear to me!

I like straight lines. I want to make minimalist forms, forms to go in a gallery. Not anything intended for domestic purposes. And for this project I want to make forms which symbolise the interlocking of two entities. For me it is so satisfying to make clay-essentially a squishy lump of earth- into something so straight and geometric. But what are these entities?… Through certain shapes and forms, I want to represent the relationship between object and body: the object being the cup and the body being the hand.


Pencil drawing of an interesting mug I saw in Thaikhun Restaurant in Oxford. Note how it was picked up not by the handle, but by the dent on the other side which the hand fitted so comfortably into.

Long shapes such as cylinders and rectangular cuboids will represent the cup and varying  shapes will be the hand encasing or holding the cup. These two pieces will then interlock- to become one. I’m analysing the shapes our body and a material object can physically make, that connection they have: the comfort of holding a mug of hot tea and the transition of warmth from the hot mug of liquid joy (in my case it would be a cup of tea after being outside in the cold) to one’s hand.


Some perspective drawings of ideas

Drawing from my research into resting positions, from the starting point of the Jacobsen chairs in the Ken Stradling collection this moved onto the ergonomics of a mug; something which I can (and have made) make out of clay.


Terracotta maquettes I have slab built to get across the sort of forms I wish to create. 

I am excited as I type this purely by the fact that I know what I want to make, and I can’t bloody wait.