In our modern-day world we have found a multitudinous array of uses for ceramics. You might be surprised to learn that ceramics play a significant role in such specialities as hip replacements, electrical insulation, superconductivity and space travel. Yet it is our relationship with and use of ceramics on a daily basis that likely have most resonance with individuals. At home, in work and public spaces, ceramics have an application in all manner of things, including tableware, objets d’art, furniture, lighting and decoration.
In ceramics, you will find designs that are simple and complex, affordable and expensive, utilitarian and elegant. Made using a malleable material, ceramics span a continuum that ranges from homespun practicality to more outlandish fine art. Increasingly, designers are pushing the bounds of possibility and imagining novel ideas that can be realized using ceramics. Here, shapes and sizes will range from the avant-garde to the experimental, the utilitarian to the venerated.
Acclaimed Spanish artist-designer Jaime Hayon is known as someone willing to push boundaries across multifarious mediums. His respect for the preservation of craft and craftsmanship is steadfast and Hayon has worked with a number of long-established high-end ceramics companies attentive to the development of their work. Such companies include Choemon in Japan, Bosa Ceramiche and Lladró.
Working in collaboration with the Japanese product design brand Maruwakaya, Hayon’s designs for Choemon, a traditional Japanese porcelain company, feature his own distinctive artwork that draws inspiration from Japanese culture. A beautiful cross-cultural project, ‘Kutani Choemon’ uses one of Japan’s most admired traditional porcelain crafts, Kutaniyaki.
Japanese design fans, don’t miss our last issue on all things ‘wabi-sabi.’
Hayon’s ceramic pieces for Italian company Bosa are crafted by hand, using artisanal techniques and laboratory controlled glazing. Eclectic and captivating, they include: the ‘Hope Bird’, a figure designed to stand tall and reflect positivity; the mushroom-shaped ceramic ‘T-Table’ with a metallic lacquer finish; and ‘Fantasmico’, a clever ghostly reinterpretation of the often somber mantle clock. For Spanish company Lladró, Hayon created ‘The Guest’, an extraordinarily idiosyncratic piece available in two sizes.
Photo credit for all images: © Hayon Studio
Photo 1: Fantasmico for Bosa; Photo 2: Hope Bird for Bosa; Photo 3: The Guest for Lladró; Photo 4: T-Table for Bosa; Photo 5: Jaime Hayon Lladro portrait
Moooi and Marcel Wanders
Dutch design venture Moooi is the 2001 creation of the enigmatic and brilliant Marcel Wanders with Casper Vissers. A decadent and madcap designer, Wanders’ work is audacious, ostentatious, playful and peculiar, offering a veritable design smorgasbord.
Wanders has designed a number of characteristically curious ceramics for Moooi, including: ‘The Killing of the Piggy Bank’, providing a comment on the growing extinction of physical money; ‘Delft Blue’, a series of atypical ceramic vases produced and decorated at Dutch heritage brand Royal Delft; and the ‘Egg Vase’, whose form is created by stuffing a condom with hard-boiled eggs.
Cover image: Egg Vase. Image © 2016 Moooi B.V.
The prolific Japanese design studio Nendo was founded by designer Oki Sato, with the rather ambitious objective of giving people a small “!” (read “exclamation mark”) moment. Nendo has subsequently provided many small “!” moments, several of which can be found in its ceramic designs.
In one remarkable project, Nendo was invited to collaborate with the potter Mitsuke Masayasu whose work is based on the traditions of local Kutani ware, a richly decorated Japanese porcelain. Masayasu uses a thin brush to paint red iron-based enamel on white porcelain. The Nendo/Masayasu collaboration fused Masayasu’s red glaze designs with innovative digital manufacturing techniques, where a set of high-end audio speakers in 1-mm-thick ceramic substrate were produced.
With its high heat resistance, ceramic substrate is often used for LED bulbs (and other heat-emitting components), and its manufacture is entirely computer-based. Thus the addition of Masayasu’s red glaze to the process was intended as a way to give a human touch to the speakers.
Family-owned Apparatu was founded by the gifted ceramicist Xavier Mañosa. An innovative Spanish pottery workshop and design business, Apparatu skilfully meshes both traditional ceramic craft with modern-day research and technique.
The studio’s ‘Arquitecturas’ vase finds inspiration in architecture, transferring the structure of a wall (the plinth, wall and cornice) to the vase’s overall configuration: its bottom, body and neck. The ‘Fang’ table (‘Fang’ in Catalan meaning ‘clay’) features legs made with porcelain stoneware. Fired at high temperatures to ensure resistance and durability, each leg is unique. The ‘Extrusion’ jar is an unusual piece whose shape is formed when pushing the clay through a die. The cylinder is thrown on the potter’s wheel and worked from the inside out so as to preserve and accentuate its unique marks.
Ilse Crawford and Studioilse
Famed British designer Ilse Crawford’s eponymous venture, Studioilse, recently created the SINNERLIG collection for IKEA, a set that includes a range of ceramic stoneware. In SINNERLIG, Crawford explores those natural materials and simple forms conversant with everyday living. The collection is comprised of objects that are honestly crafted and tactile, appealing and affordable. There are of course similar examples of commercial ceramics produced on a grandiose IKEA-like scale, yet SINNERLIG is notable for its designer’s view on person-centered design and a common-sense approach to living. The collection extends Crawford’s typically high-end design philosophy to a wider audience.
Finnish brand Iittala (founded in 1881) has had a hugely positive impact on the world of ceramics, with designs that are notably avant-garde and utilitarian.
Iittala’s ‘Teema’ series was designed by Kaj Franck in 1952 and is the perfect example of ceramics that are wholly remarkable and at the same time unremarkable. With Teema, pieces add meaning and value, knowingly or unwittingly, to everyday moments. Epitomizing Nordic design prowess, Teema offers users a wide range of combinations, colors and shapes, and remains as relevant today as when the collection was first introduced.
Royal Copenhagen and Lyngby Porcelæn
Venerable Danish institutions Royal Copenhagen and Lyngby Porcelæn each hold a place in Denmark’s esteemed design history. Royal Copenhagen’s hand-painted wares are highly prized and individual. One example is its ‘Blue Palmette’ collection. The name makes reference to the company’s 240-year-old ‘Blue Fluted’ pattern, where ‘palmette’ refers to the stylized palm leaf hand-painted on all of the items.
Lyngby Porcelæn’s Tsé series, a collaboration with designer Pili Wu and the Taiwanese Han Gallery, is a rendering of Chinese heritage paired with modern thought. The ribbed pattern on the porcelain pieces was inspired by the structure of throwaway plastic wares found in Taiwanese roadside restaurants.
From celebrated designers to established brands and small design studios, the aspiration to create new forms and dimensions in ceramic is resolute. Imaginative and experimental, clean and simple, there are evidently many examples of ceramics that represent both artworks and functional pieces, and range from the eccentric to the everyday.