Tuesday 30 April 2013

Work In Progress


Years ago in Vienna, when I started working with ceramics, I wanted to learn everything about it. I was reading books and magazines. I was talking to experienced potters, asking them all kinds of questions and trying to get some secret tips that would accelerate my learning process. I couldn’t wait to apply everything I discovered and learned.

So, after I learned to throw on the wheel, I wanted to cast a mould. I read everything I could find about it, and I was so convinced I knew what I was doing. It turned out that I had no idea at all.

My first mistake was not starting small. I made a huge sculpture that was supposed to become my very first plaster mould. My second mistake: The frames were not secured enough. When you make an object you want to slip cast, you have to construct stable frames around it, and then pour the liquid plaster in it. So, the six litters of the plaster just burst out of the frame that was supposed to keep it inside. If you have a hard time understanding what happened, imagine dropping a bottle of milk on the floor.

Nasty, right? Well then, try to imagine dropping six bottles! So there was this ocean of creamy liquid all over the table, the floor and my clothes. I was so inexperienced that I even tried to collect all the plaster with some towels before it became solid. This is how I ruined many towels instead of waiting for the plaster to stiffen.

That was it! It was so disheartening that I haven’t touched plaster for years. Luckily enough, in Berne I have shared my studio  with a very nice and talented ceramicist who encouraged me to give the slip casting a second chance. She showed me how to make plaster moulds step by step. I am not an expert, but from time to time I manage some decent moulds.

I am showing you today a work in progress. Once, a wise man told me I should never talk about the projects that were on my mind or those that I have just started to develop. Talking about it may dilute the whole idea. So, instead of explaining what am I up to, I am just going to show you a few photos.

And if you stay tuned, you may actually see the end result.

Monday 22 April 2013

Museum Rietberg

Last Friday, a friend of mine and I went to Z├╝rich to see the recently reopened exhibition of Chinese ceramics at the Rietberg Museum. The day was cold and rainy and just perfect for a visit to a museum. Since I had my day off, I was able to take my time while admiring those beautiful ceramics and have some chat and a cappuccino in the museums coffee bar. This reminded me of my former days when I studied the history of art: As a student I was able to visit all the Swiss museums free of charge – which I did on a regular basis. Sometimes I would just drop in a museum between two lectures to take a quick look at my favourite paintings.

The Rietberg Museum

The “Meiyintang Collection” of Chinese ceramics was treasured by the brothers Gilbert and Stephen Zuellig. Meiyintang is Chinese, more precisely Mandarin, and means hall among rose beds. This collection is one of the most important private collections of Chinese ceramics in the world. The Gilbert part was handed over to the Rietberg Museum as a long-term loan. Together with the museum’s existing collections it can be admired since January 2013. 

The exhibition shows objects from the Neolithic period (5th millennium BC), through the Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD), the Tang dynasty (618–907) and finally my favourite: the Song Dynasty (960-1279). So, even if you are not an expert on Chinese ceramics, this exhibition can actually give you a great overview on the subject. You may also be astonished how modern some of the thousands of years old ceramic pieces seem. 

Another contemporary high-tech highlight of the exhibition is the way the ceramics are presented. The ceramic objects are placed in special designed display cases with LED luminaries that were set into the shelving. These high-tech LED shelves are lighting the objects with 2/3 of the light capacity from above and 1/3 from below. In this way the exposed ceramics are highlighted in a perfect way without any shadows. 

Here are two of my favourite pieces: 

Lotus bowl, stoneware, late Tang, Five Dynasties or northern Song dynasty, 10th c.

Marbled bowl, stoneware, northern Song dynasty, 10th/11th c.

Monday 15 April 2013

This Ain’t No Ordinary Cake Stand

Cake stand, wheel-thrown stoneware, 10 cm in height, 23 cm in diameter.

This is my very first cake stand. Even though I am not baking giant cakes every week, this is the piece of pottery that I am using on a daily basis. Sometimes I use this cake stand as a fruit plate. Other times I serve all kind of healthy and tasty muffins on it. 

But most of the time my son uses it as a plate or a tiny table for his afternoon-snacks. In this way he not only eats fruits and muffins but also cucumbers, olives, tomatoes, carrot sticks... And when he has finished his meal, he turns the cake stand upside down and looks for his mum’s stamp. I truly believe, that healthy meals that are nicely served on some special ceramics are one of the main reasons he didn’t become a picky eater.

Most of the cake stands I have seen were either white or tender pastel pink or blue. I had my doubts if this cake stand, with its olive green glaze, would be the best choice to serve a chocolate cake or fluffy coconut cake. It turned out that whatever I had put on, it looked just gorgeous. Either that, or I am just crazy in love with the combination of the green glazed top and dark terra cotta red bottom.