Subject Reflection

imageOver the course of my degree, I have learnt that my interest lies in geometries. I thrive in the satisfaction of transforming a lump of squidgy clay into a collection of angular Tessellating shapes. The manifestation of my ideas evolved from linear patterns to geometries. I began to decorate 3D slab constructed vessels with optical illusions, and was very concerned with the surface. The theme that remained the same right from the start of the year was my production of Interlocking forms. I began first by making 3D tangrams. This then of course evolved to Tessellating tiles. It was vital for me, that the tiles created an optical illusion which submerges the audience into an enhanced, dreamy mood. I am delighted at how my ideas developed as it has enabled me to go down a completely new avenue of creating wall pieces that can be both an installation in a gallery or functional bespoke tiles.
It was essential that I used cobalt blue stain in the making of the slips, the colours are all cool and refreshing, adding to the enhanced mood I wish to give the audience. They also had to be satisfying to look at, so they all combine well, with no two colours touching each other. This was very enjoyable for me as I had chosen these specific colours and was pleased with the outcome when it came to composing them on the wall. I am truly happy with physical outcome of my idea development. I am my own worst critic so for me to say the more I look at my tiles the more I like them is something!

Creating these tiles required me to step outside of my comfort zone, it had always been my wish to creat such smooth straight shapes, and in order to do that o felt my best option was to make plaster moulds of laser-cut Perspex shapes. A positive of this it that I had worked in the plaster room quite a lot in the previous academic year, creating my building blocks moulds and making slip casted spoons. However, I had never used illustrator before and hadn’t really stepped foot in the soft modelling workshop during my degree. I was actually quite nervous about doing this as I don’t see myself as a “digital person” and felt I would make silly mistakes. Worries aside, I did it, and I’m glad I used this digital approach… Not only were the soft modelling technicians incredibly helpful, I was surprised at how relatively easy the process was. In my head I was making a bit of a mountain out of a mole hill!
Moreover, I have gained a new skill and I will definitely be progressing with more designs on illustrator after I graduate. Is also worth noting that I’ve mastered my finishing techniques; a process I will stick by in the future: spend time making quality, pristine moulds. The neater that are the less work you have to do later on the castes article. Even with lovely moulds, I had to sand all my tiles after bisque, to keep their sharp appearance which for me was so critical in the composition, as the tiles will slot together smoothly, lending to the 3D illusion. To my delight the final kiln firing was a success without any breakages, I was like the Cheshire Cat when I unloaded my kiln!

The contextual research which helped pave the manifestation of my ideas had a lot to do with two things, architecture and colour. Interestingly, my trip to Rajasthan in Level 5 provided a massive source of inspiration for me, it was truly an assault to the senses, and the variety of beautiful architecture has been stamped in my memory. The most inspiring source of deign were indeed the step wells. The repetition of steps continuing downwards in an inverted pyramid was so satisfying for me to observe; the continuation of steps re,indeed me of Escher’s impossible landscapes which then resulted in me looking at Reutersvard’s 2D impossible shapes. This was the seed which planted my interest in optical illusions .
I must say it took me a while to work out where my original source of inspiration came from for the degree show; I had to retrace my steps. Going through my photographs on Instagram helped me discover my trail of inspiration; it provided a timeline of condensed research. This tied with our blogs set the scene; I would often go back to posts I wrote a few years ago, and it’s amazing how relevant some of them are to my current work.
Lastly, but not least, colour was key. Whilst I was creating certain colours- Celadon, Prussian Blue, Puce and Ultramarine- I realised how much I thrive in deciding what colours go together, and there significance- both culturally and psychologically. For example, green is known as being a calming colour, reducing eye fatigue which an be caused by looking at red – hence the reason why hospitals are full of green floors and surgeons often wear scrubs of that colour. The fascination I have for colour and the stories behind each one encourages me to explore and research them more after I graduate; retaining an emphasis on my colour palette in future projects.


Green is good

Expanding on colour, I am very intrigued by the calming properties green has. Since one of main aims and ideas is to enhance the mood of the audience: for them to slip into a daydream, choosing the right colours is a necessity.

I initially researched the effects of greens and blues. Green was originally introduced in hospitals to reduce the glare of traditional hospital whites. Also it is a sign of health and wellbeing: Healthy plants always have fresh green leaves.And blue is often associated with calmness, like calm waters in the Mediterranean for instance, and a clear blue sky.

Although I am not designing these tiles for a hospital, I found a very interesting study by the NHS on colour in hospitals.

The information I read can be applicable anywhere, not just in hospitals. Green also provides a high contrast environment, reducing eye fatigue caused by looking at too much red (blood). Perhaps this is why the Royal Infirmary in Cardiff decorated this space pictured above with green tiles.

It also makes red blood splashes ‘less conspicuous”. Overall, the colousr of my tiles are pretty easy on the eye, but still capture the audience’s interest through the optical illusions the tiles make up. Interestingly, the best colour for judging colour is grey, so by slotting in my marbliesed grey tiles,it refocuses one’s attention to the puce, ultramarine, celadon and prussian blue tiles.




For the actual composition of my tile collection, I am inspired by fractals. I want to use the space I am using to it’s full capacity and I have a height of at least 10 ft to work with. The only way is up!

Fractals are basic fundamentals of nature. Starting off with a single stem each stem had two branches growing from it so fractasl look something like this

imageDescribed as a geometrical figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole. Their structure can be seen in snowflakes: Similar patterns repeat themselves at progressively smaller scales. This natural geometric  phenomena is observed in crystal growth and galaxy formation.

Interestingly, fractals are actually apparent in Jackson Pollock’s work. The geometry of Pollock dropping paint onto canvas can be measured and that if one looks at a painting of his-in incredible detail- there are regularities(In 2002,A machine called the Pollockiser was created and used to replicate his paintings, the end result is pretty uncanny).

I liken this to my tiles. There are three basic shapes which are repeated, and unfold to produce a beautiful manifestation much like vines going up a wall.


Jackson Pollock

World renowned artist Jackson Pollock is the painter most well associated with the abstract expressionist movement. He adopted a unique technique of painting, detaching line from, colour and reaching new possibilities in the art world. Starting off with putting the canvas on the floor, Pollock often used household paint, dipping a large push into the paint pot, and drizzling the paint onto the canvas, in a seemingly random way, usually whilst intoxicated. The motion was much like a swinging pendulum.

I have been inspired by his approach to painting, and the ambiguities of the process. I feel like the way in which I make my marbleised tiles is similar; as I am working vertically on to a flat surface; mixing two three of four colours together, without measuring them. It is very intuitive, and I go by how it feels. Something which contrasts with my carefully construed design of diamond and rhombus tiles; and the patient process of making accurate, neat slipping casting moulds

Elizabeth Fritsch

Firstly a musician it wasn’t until Fritsch was in her late twenties she took up Ceramics under the direction of Eduardo Paolozi and Hans Coper at the RCA.
Her hand built pots are clearly influenced by her musical background, with 2d optical illusions scattered on the surface like notes on music paper.

In 2010, at the National Museum Cardiff, Wales, a big retrospective was held featuring a complete range of her most poignant studio pottery and newer pieces. She referred to them as ‘the space between the second and third dimensions’, a concept she first described as ‘two-and-a-half dimensions’.
I completely get this statement, it perfectly describes her work; having seen it myself at the National Museum Cardiff, whilst doing research for a ceramics project. On first inspection you can see a pot decorated with a striking painterly pattern. And then, you are submerged into this delightful, delicate optical illusion. The pot isn’t as 3D as you originally thought, it is actually slightly squished, half-way between 2D and 3D. almost like a 2-point perspective drawing: it has the appearance of being 3D, but it’s not.
Now in her mid-seventies; she hasn’t exhibited much work over the recent years, but my admiration of her work continues to grow, especially when it relates so well to my current degree-show project.

Some Inspiration for my current work

First and foremost, I want to share a blog post I did a couple of years ago about the Panna Meena step well, as stepwells are a major source of inspiration for this project.

img_0044The roof of Westfield shopping centre in London. I am an admirer of the triangular framed Windows, and the layout of them and how they dissipate into blank space. It’s something I’m keen on doing with my tile collection.img_0748

Detail of  brickwork at a London tube station. Inspiration never stops, I find it in the most unlikely places. I appreciate the thought that goes into everyday design. I think especially in the Victorian era and up until the end of King Edwards reign, there was a high attention to detail in even the most seemingly mundane locations. Good design for me is an object or architecture that is pleasing to the eye, this contains some sort of repetition for me, such as a brickwork/tile pattern, as seen at the top of this picture. img_2937
Saying that, a pattern, to be aesthetically pleasing, it doesn’t have to be symmetrical. There can be a number of compositions to create something larger, like this picture shows. I cannot locate the designer of these, which is incredibly frustrating so I’m going to have to go back to the v and a to see for myself! They are very Mondrian-esque. I wouldn’t be surprised if he collaborated with a ceramicist to make these.

During a visit to the V and A, I explored the Middle Eastern art collection. Because of their favoured use of geometries in interior design, it felt natural to explore. I found fourteenth century tiles from Buyanquli Khan’s tomb. The tiles have been restored to their original beauty, showing of the gorgeous, rich turquoise colour. And also, the most beautiful carved calligraphy shows the high level of craftsmanship used to create these. A professional finish is something I want to attain in th efinal outcome of my tile collection.
img_1553I took this photograph on my trip to India back in 2014. We were in Udaipur, right in the countryside, the city was hours way. Between the hills and winding roads was this beautiful brick kiln. I think it’s a work of art in itself. There’s also a theme going on of my sources of research: repetition of smaller shapes to create a greater shape/ composition.

Optical Illusions

Step wells have served as being the roots of inspiration for my current work. Having always had a fascination with architecture, I enjoy how one can translate architectural elements into clay work. So , taking in the angles and inverted pyramid shapes of step wells;my work began by creating vessels which form up a tangram. These could be used as dipping bowls or for tapas.



Chand Baori step well in Jaipur (or also known as the Pink City)

By working with geometrics, this research has led to me looking  at Escher’s impossible landscapes. I think also this is because Escher’s landscapes remind me of stepwells. Their angles and the questioning of where the end is or vanishing point (the stepwells had water in it so one is unsure about how deep it is or long long it could go on for) lends to a dream like quality. I am also intrigued on the power of a 2d image and its ability to confuse and disorientated the viewer.


Escher was inspired by Swedish graphic artist’s Reutersvard’s impossible shapes. He designed many optical illusions; the pen rose triangle being one of them. He commented illusions “play havoc on the brains intuitive knowledge of physical laws”. This research led to me making a 2d pattern on ceramic appear 3D.


Iron oxide infused slip painted onto terracotta with an aqua translucent glaze

imageI am now playing with the idea of forming a pattern on a 2D surface and making that surface appear 3D. With each 2D element lending to a greater pattern. This idea has come quite organically as I have been making lots of test tiles recently. All with different linear patterns. So the next step is to create tiles,