My career in art began with ceramics and I suppose that my relationship to it might be compared to having a first pet, first child, first of something important. I learned a great deal about art through ceramics and I learned a great deal about myself as well. It will always hold a special place for me, though I haven’t thrown on the wheel in a few years.
Ceramics has a funny place in the art world. Is it art or is it a craft? Or is it both depending on the maker and viewer? I believe the installation by Molly Hatch at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia points me in the direction of calling this particular display a work of art.
The installation was commission by the museum and was directly inspired by two 1755 Chelsea Factory plates. I love the integration, or perhaps update, to the older plates. Not only does it inspire a new appreciation for the art painted on the 1700’s plates, but I also enjoy the connection of nodding to the past in creating the future. I saw it mentioned that the plate installation recalls pointillism such as Seurat’s paintings as well as Chuck Close’s artwork. I don’t disagree with that analysis.
When looking at the hundreds of plates together, it is easy to say “That wouldn’t be that difficult to do.” That’s because the artwork was done well. I will say that with ceramics, predictability is not ever part of the equation. The underglaze (the liquid colorant applied to the greenware or bisqueware) can look different depending on the length of time spent in the kiln, a few degrees variant in the kiln, location in the kiln (hot and cold zones) and humidity in the air, or, in some unknown circumstances, breathing too close to the kiln. Most of the time underglazes are consistent, especially when using an electric kiln that can be programmed. But there is still that level of unpredictability that drives most artists to hate ceramics. What you put into the kiln may not always be what comes out.
I would say ceramics is a labor of love and a master class in patience. One ceramicist friend of mine said she has a love-hate relationship with ceramics. But I’m glad people push forward and create artwork such as what Molly Hatch created for the High Museum.
If you have time, you should visit Molly Hatch’s website and see her other work. http://mollyhatch.blogspot.com/ At the time of me posting this, her main website was down, but her blog has great information about her projects. You can find her pieces at Anthropologie too.