More on Paperclay
Similarly, the increased spontaneity arising from the ability to
stick together then pull apart and rejoin dry parts of paperclay
art, opens up the possibility of artists making pieces, sending
them unfired to other artists who might add to, subtract from, and
modify the work before firing. This offers the possibility of physical
transcultural exchanges in ceramic art – an 'Internet of Objects'
rather than text or images. Delicate unfired pieces may be traded
or shipped around the world, assembled and fired for exhibitions.
The resulting reduction in insurance and freight costs may open
up international exchanges in lighter and more delicate work.
As whole unfired works can be broken apart and reassembled again
and again until a satisfactory result is achieved, for me the result
of working in this way has fostered an even greater degree of irreverence
to material traditions. The impact of this cumulative process is
best illustrated when I find myself continuing to break off and
add pieces to the work even after firing. Sometimes this involves
adding unfired paperclay and refiring, or works are designed to
have pieces broken off after firing. This may challenge the general
perception that a broken work is damaged and devalued, but some
potters find this irreverent attitude personally liberating in their
By building with dry pieces and rods, the conventional vessel
wall and illusion of mass may disappear. Viewer attention can be
drawn away from the profile towards gaps in the wall and glimpses
of its interior surface and space. This can be taken further in
that the lines formed by the rods suspend or support themselves
in space. It is as if the work is a three dimensional drawing in
space, rather than the conventional painted lines of glaze on the
surface of the vessel wall. That is, the 'lines' of clay have real
mass rather than being merely an illusion of mass. Prior to paperclay,
this effect required considerable skill in joining and drying this
type of work; now the same effect can become quick and easy, as
well as increasingly spontaneous.
Thus paperclay increases the number of ways of building in clay,
increasing the visual vocabulary of ceramic artists and challenging
them to become more irreverent about their own and others' work.
It challenges established traditional ceramic skill hierarchies
but, provided it is taught in an open manner, it may increase the
appeal of ceramics as an artistic medium. Perhaps its greatest potential
lies in its pre-fired strength and dry-to-dry joining. These properties
suggest a number of new and real ways for ceramic artists to interact,
regardless of distance.
Thanks to Graham
Hay, ceramic artist from Australia. This article was first published
Technical. Reprinted by permission.
Caplan, J. (1993). 'Paper and clay'. Ceramic Review, (144), p.11.
Ellery, D. (1995). 'Profile – Sold on Paperclay'. Pottery in Australia,
34, (1), p. 20-21.
Gartside, B. (1993). 'Paperclay'. New Zealand Potter, 35, (3).
Gault, R. (1992). 'Amazing Paperclay'. Ceramics Monthly, June/July/Aug,
'The Potential of Paperclay'. Ceramics: Art and Perception, 18 p.
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