Thursday 31 October 2013

Grandparents' Love

Here are my son and my father on an airport on the Island Krk in Croatia, waiting for our flight back home to Switzerland. Since my boy is passionate about everything that has an engine and is moving, they spend some time observing the planes taking off and landing. 

In an earlier post I mentioned that I have a very talented father who is building guitars together with my brother. Well, there is another person who benefits from my father’s talent: my son. Here are some of the great wooden toys built by my father for his grandson. 

I am convinced that children should play as much as possible with toys made of natural materials. Toys made of wool and wood are likely to have no hazardous substances that can harm the health of a child. Moreover, this way you can keep the children more connected with the nature. After all, isn’t that what the planet of ours is crying for? 

I am aware that the time we are living in, makes it impossible to raise a kid in a vacuum of perfect environmental conditions and I am trying not to be fanatical about this subject. Well, we also have a bunch of plastic Lego bricks. But I think we should give our children a chance to play with toys made of natural materials, like wood, wool or ….. clay

Monday 21 October 2013

Design Versus Functionality

Twenty years ago I considered the word design as an equivalent to the ultimate beauty. At that time I bought the famous spider-like lemon squeezer. To me, it was an object of a stunning exquisiteness. But somehow I had to admit to myself that the lemon squeezer was not really that efficient. So I ended up using my very old, not that impressive but user-friendly lemon squeezer. The “spider” became just a good-looking artefact in our kitchen. 

In my twenties I used to work in several famous Viennese design cafés. I thought that if I have to work in cafés, then at least the surrounding should be esthetical. It was then when I realised that the architects and designers who created these trendy restaurants, cafés and bars haven’t thought a lot about their functionality. Either they used wrong materials, or the working space was not user-friendly. At that point I started to have an aversion to everything that was labelled as “design”. Why should I buy some gorgeous designer shoes when I cannot walk with them properly? Why buy anything beautiful that I cannot use on an everyday basis? Somehow I started seeing design as something extremely impractical. 

It was recently that I realised how very wrong it was to label everything well-designed as unpractical. After all, I am designing and creating ceramics myself. I never thought that I would call myself a designer, but at the end this was what I am doing: designing and creating. Eventually, I attempt my work to be very practical and functional. 

Today I like to think of design as art, or at least as a part of an artistic process. As Giorgio Vasari described some 500 years ago, the disegno (from Latin: designare) is a spectrum of ideas from initial thoughts till the actual visual materialisation. This means, to design, you need both imagination and craftsman’s skills. I came so far to say that design is art. No matter how practical or functional the final product is. It is all about the process of imagination and creation.

My latest design reminded me of my former struggle with my perception of design. I worked many days on this sushi plate. After I took it out of the plaster mould, I realised that I cannot lift the plate up with my fingers. Typical designer plate: beautiful but impractical. After all, how could this happen to me? 

Since I am a very practical person, I made these three small finger holes on both sides of the plate. I am probably going to try few more finger hole alternatives. But for now, I am happy how it looks and that I can finally lift it up.

Friday 11 October 2013

Back To The Wheel

Bowl, wheel-thrown yellow stoneware, 8 cm in height, 19 cm in diameter.

Last few months I terribly neglected my potter’s wheel. Although I was very productive in making new plaster moulds, slip casting and developing new forms. So yesterday, I decided to take a seat in front of my wheel again and do some good old fashioned wheel throwing. Luckily I was in the right mood for it: not to happy, not to sad and not to excited, just melancholically joyful.

There is something meditative in the process of throwing: your eyes are attached to the rotating clay on the wheel. At a certain point you are becoming one with the growing pot. You take a deep breath and exhale slowly as you bend the clay between your finger joints. Or you don’t breathe at all. Even your heart beats slower. Your mind is actually free from all thoughts. At the same time you are not lost in some kind of nirvana. Quite the contrary: you are very present and aware of your body, your feelings and the clay in front of you. At the end of the throwing session you feel more centred and peaceful. Not only that you went through some mental hygiene process here, but you have created something with your hands. Something you can see, touch and maybe use one day. Now that you know all this, don’t you think that your Bircher muesli will taste much much better, if you eat it from the bowl that you have made with your own hands?