That time of ceramics mania (At Prague Designblok)

Author: Helena Patelisová


(Czech Translation) Story of Diploma Selection at Designblok – Prague Design and Fashion week 2014.

As a student of ceramics and porcelain design I was very surprised by the amount of ceramics objects at Designblok, what is one of the largest and most prestigious events of its kind in the Czech Republic. It is held in Prague and represents not only individual creators, but also design studios, schools, as well as novel and visionary projects from international brands. Part of this event is also a Diploma Selection, an international competition for graduate students. It consists of two parts for fashion and product design. Selected works are shown in Designblok Openstudio or fashion show, and winner will get its own room on the exhibition in the next year. This year Openstudio was situated in the Dům U Minuty, just 20 meters away from the famous Prague Astronomical Clock.

I was obliged to wonder: “Did students participating at Diploma Selection competition get ceramics fever or it did its evaluators?” More than 60 percent of projects in this room for postgraduate students were created from ceramics material or at least referring to them in some way. Why? Perhaps because selected works show the importance of creating real objects instead of visualization and because they emphasise process by itself what is really important in this time. How Martina Žílová said “… sometimes a result is not directly what we expected or it all goes wrong. But because of this failure you can often discover something new, what would not exist without these mistakes…”

Ceramics has the ability to survive millenniums. Some of the first archaeological discoveries have actually survived from 29,000–25,000 BC when ceramic objects like the Venus of Dolní Věstonice, a figurine discovered in the Czech Republic, dates back to. But since that time are people still able to found something new and fascinating. Sometimes it can be pretty hard to figure a proper balance between recycling olds principles and finding new ideas.

martina zilova - Alchemy - instalation in galerie 1

Martina Žílová – Alchemy – Installation in the Galerie 1

martina zilova - Alchemy - instalation in galerie 1 - process

Martina Žílová – Alchemy – Installation in the Galerie 1 – process

The balance mentioned above was truly found in Martina Žílová project what is called Alchemy. She told us about this experience connecting alchemy to ceramics, and her passion for mixing clay and discovering a new materials.

What was your source of inspiration for creating your Diploma thesis?

I was inspired by our previous task with the theme ‘New material in ceramics’. It was pretty hard to come up with something new. In the middle of all that laboratory tests of my classmates and me I suddenly realised how few things we know about clay mixing and firing process. That is why I picked the theme ‘Alchemy’, where I dealt with mixing and trying as well as with success and failure.

Was it clear from the beginning what you wanted to do?

It was not clear from the beginning. I recall it as something I was not able to control and a process that was extremely quick. But that is just a part of it.

What have you learned during the whole process?

I learned how to make tryouts of porcelain and various effects between clay and glaze and also how to create quite a big vessels from porcelain so that it will not break after divers phase of a production process. However, I also learned something about theory of alchemy what differs a bit from the practice and that was extremely interesting for me.

martina zilova - Alchemy - photo by tomas hercog

Martina Žílová – Alchemy – photo by Tomáš Hercog

martina zilova - Alchemy - photo by tomas hercog

Martina Žílová – Alchemy – photo by Tomáš Hercog

Where is the connection between ceramics and alchemy? How they are similar to you?

This question is like directly from my thesis. Actually I compare whole ceramics to alchemy and the ceramist to the alchemist. According to the basic rights of creating a big piece (transmutation) alchemist needs some fire, some water and some air. Ceramics need those as well. The other similarity is that sometimes a result is not directly what we expected or it all goes wrong. But because of this failure you can often discover something new, something that what would not exist without these mistakes.

Do you believe in Muse?

Yes, I do. Sometimes you just cannot come upon any idea for ages and then you are going by tram when you look through a window (by consequence 10 minutes before a meeting with your schoolmaster) and you have it! Suddenly it just crosses your mind…

What do you consider to be your best achievement?

My best achievement is my whole study both at the FAD at JEPU in Ústí nad Labem and at UMPRUM and meeting all that people who contributed.

You are a freshly graduated student whose work was appreciated by many people and institutions. How do you deal with a transition to ‘a real life’? What do you think that you will miss from student life?

I am certainly missing my great mates from school, when you are with someone almost everyday and sometimes also nights and mornings it effects friendship. I am missing that.

You can check more of Martina’s work on her facebook:

You cannot usually connect performance with ceramics and especially not with pottery. But Adam Železný pointed to new opportunities in his work and proved that something like that is possible. He created a project called The Blast, what is showing a set of ceramics bowls that are shaped by a shockwave induced by controlled detonation. There is also a video describing the process of detonation what you can watch here:

adam zelezny - the blast

Adam Železný – The Blast

adam zelezny - the blast

Adam Železný – The Blast

As we spoke about the link with contemporary art we can maybe also see a teeny tiny connection between Marlene Huissoud’s collection From Insect and the famous Damien Hirst Leukemia. Marlen is a winner of the product part of the Diploma Selection. Her work is not based on ceramics but on black PROPOLIS what on the first sight seems to be a glass material or same kind of ceramics with a black glaze, but it is a biodegradable resin that honey bees collect from different trees and use as a sealant for unwanted open spaces in the beehive. Its colour depends of botanical sources. Vases are shaped by blowing the propolis using the same basic technique as with glass. For some it was extremely attractive project for others just wasting of propolis what is quite rare in nature. Marlen graduated at Central St. Martins University of Arts London and you can make your own opinion here:

7. marlene huissoud - from insects 2

Marlene Huissoud – From Insects

So we can say that pottery is just the ceramic act of making pottery wares, but as we see it can be also a medium for today’s communication respecting the fact that some of its principles survived millenniums. Even as young children, we were each able to recognize what a bowl, cup or vase was. It was much earlier than someone having to ‘explain’ to us what art, design or pottery is. So it is extremely positive that those three authors forgot about some stereotypes and experimented, showing the importance of process itself in their projects.


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