On Thursday morning I teach ceramics at an amazing arts and mental health (plus a bit of sport and landscape gardening) organisation called Core Arts (more info here). We have recently done a project with the British Museum where members, staff and volunteers have made ceramic pieces inspired by the collection with pictures of the work being displayed in the museum.
I was so excited to be involved in this project and made several visits to the museum to look for inspiration. What got me thinking was a monoprint of a wave by Maggi Hambling which reminded me of the famous Great Wave off Kangawa by Katsushika Hokusai, that iconic Japanese print that you’ve likely seen at some point.
One of the things that I find interesting about the museum is how the curation of the space influences each object’s worth – pristine vases are next to broken plates but both have historical weight and inherent value. This made me think of Wabi-Sabi; a Japanese aesthetic tradition that focuses on the transient nature of life and embracing the imperfect. A crack in a bowl is not seen as a fault but a part of an object’s history. A repair might be made by using Kintsugi, a traditional Japanese method where breaks and cracks are repaired with laquer or resin mixed with gold powder. The effect is quite beautiful, highlighting both an object’s fragility and its strength.
For my piece I reinterpreted The Great Wave in my own style, painting it onto a press-moulded plate in the closest shade of blue I could find to Blue Willow China. I had actually snapped the edge off the plate while trying to neaten up one of the edges but I went all out and dropped it onto the concrete floor in my studio. It broke into a rather daunting amount of pieces but I stuck it back together anyway.