Rod Bamford


  • Rod Bamford
  • Area

    School of Arts & Humanities


    Head of Programme

  • Rod Bamford joined the Royal College of art as Head of Programme, Ceramics & Glass, in January 2017. He works across the fields of art and design. As practitioner and researcher he draws on experience in the field of ceramics, digital media technologies, print and related media. His exhibition work investigates the aesthetics of tension between development, redundancy and waste, where generative agglomeration and fragmentation are persistent themes in his practice. A member of the RCA’s Digital Craft Network, Rod’s current research extends this discourse to explore relationships between natural and technologically encountered experience and an interest in ethical paradoxes around creative agency and consumption in art and design.

  • Biography

  • Rod Bamford completed his formative tertiary studies at the National Art School in Sydney Australia, undertaking further studies in India before embarking on an exhibiting career from his studio in Uralla NSW. Critically acclaimed exhibitions in Melbourne and Sydney preceded a series of international residencies and exhibitions in the USA and Europe.

    Engagement with industrial experiences during this time influenced his practice and a desire to understand emerging fabrication technologies and explore their use in studio practice. Returning to Australia he completed a Masters of Design at University of Technology Sydney, worked as the Ceramics Industry Specialist for NSW Technical and Further Education and served as President of the Crafts Council of NSW where he led the establishment of the respected journal Object Magazine.

    Joining the Cone9 studio partnership marked the extension of his practice into architectural ceramics and tableware design. During this period he developed new processes that combined 3d printing, scanning and mapping with digital transfer printing to create work for exhibition, design and manufacturing commissions. 

    In 2006 he joined the College of Fine Arts (COFA), now UNSW Art & Design as an academic where he continued research into digital fabrication processes and how the symbolic language of technological making effects our interpretation of objects from personal, cultural and environmental perspectives through materially driven changes to aesthetic understanding. Various research projects during this period introduced innovative methods of integrating computational design, visualization and material thinking to facilitate form and surface transformation in a range of media.

    In 2015 Rod received an Australia Indonesia Special Project Grant for the Digital Bamboo collaborative research project and subsequent exhibitions in Bandung and Sydney’s UNSW Galleries. In 2014 he was one of eight artists included in the ground-breaking HYPERCLAY national touring exhibition, selected for their pioneering approaches to the medium, and in 2014 was appointed as ‘Key Thinker’ for the Australian Craft Initiative. 

    His work is represented widely in major collections, including the National Galleries of Australia and Victoria, the Powerhouse Museum Australia, The Sir William Dobell Art Foundation Collection Australia, John Michael Kohler Arts Foundation Collection,USA, Kunstgewerbemuseum, Dresden, Germany, WOCEK International Ceramic Collection Korea, and the Today Art Museum, Beijing.

    He joined the Royal College of Art as Head of Programme, Ceramics and Glass, in January 2017
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  • Practice

  • Rod exhibited at the Potter’s Gallery Sydney, the Devise Gallery Melbourne and the Shepparton Regional Art Gallery prior to major solo exhibitions at the Roslyn Oxley Gallery in Sydney during the 1980’s. His characteristically over-scaled and precarious ‘fragment’ works were acquired by numerous collections and selected for major exhibitions including Urban Debris at the National Gallery of Australia in 1992. In 1989 Rod completed residencies at the Ohio State University and the John Michael Kohler Foundation in Wisconsin, where he exhibited work at the CAZ gallery in Los Angeles, and was awarded the Australia Council New York studio residency.

     During the 1990s his exhibition works began to include new industrial and social narratives inspired by residency experiences in Europe, and were included in major Australian survey exhibitions at the Kunstgerwerbenmuseum 1997, Dresden and, Museo Internazionale Faenza 1995 , and  SOFA, Navy Pier, Chicago 1997.

    This period saw his practice expand to include designs for architectural tile and tableware. In 1999 his studio received the National Interior Designex Award for best product surface, for ‘Soft Metal Ceramic Tiles’. That year Rod also began designing exploratory tableware for the Belmondo Restaurant in Sydney, which marks the beginning of a long standing collaboration with chef Stefano Manfredi and Manfredi Enterprises resulting in the design and commercial production of The Oil Dish, The Cup Suite, Librare La Forma, and other tableware. The Cup Suite range of porcelain tableware (2000), now in its 17th year of production, the design employed concepts that link emotional connection with multifunctional strategies and manufacturing metrics to reduce environmental emissions in production and prompt considered consumption.

    In 2004, for a research project supported by the National Trust of Australia & Lindsay Foundation (2004), Rod developed a ‘trans-dimensional’ printing process that incorporated novel digital and analogue visualisation techniques to conserve 3 historical vases painted by the artist Norman Lindsay. In 2005 he received an Australia Council Special Project Grant to support the extension of this research, resulting in a series of digitally augmented limited edition ‘vutilities‘, dynamic multifunctional ceramic artworks for urban spaces, which were included in the major Australasian exhibition Smartworks at the Powerhouse Museum (2006). The ceramic artwork Sonic Loop, shown at the 2010 Australian World Expo Pavilion in Shanghai, and later acquired by the Today Museum Beijing, employs 3D visualisation and 3D printing to embed an expression of musical within a physical porcelain form. In 2014, Bamford’s direct 3D printed ceramic work was included in the pioneering Australian exhibition HYPERCLAY, which was published on a mobile phone app.

    From 2013 he has led the Digital Bamboo international collaborative research project engaging UNSW and ITB Indonesia, speculating on the potential future impact of digital fabrication on the social and material ecologies of traditional bamboo making communities in Indonesia.

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  • Publications, exhibitions and other outcomes

  • Forthcoming: Book

    Estimated publication date July 2017

    Macarthur, I., Bamford, R., Miller, B., Fang, X. (eds) (2017) Investigating the visual as a transformative pedagogy in the Asia Region, Illinois: Common Ground Publishing. Estimated publication date Jan 2017

    Forthcoming: Book Chapter

    Estimated publication date July 2017

    Macarthur, I., Bamford, R. (2017) ’Emerging Asian Paradigms - Visual Pedagogy, Culture and Technology’ in: Investigating the visual as a transformative pedagogy in the Asia Region. Illinois: Common Ground Publishing. Estimated publication date Jan 2017

    Selected Publications

    Bamford, R. (2016) ‘The Internet of Craft things?: making, resilience, and proximity’, Making Futures, 4, Plymouth College of Art

    Bamford, R. (2016), ‘Accident, determinism and hermeneutics: relationships between analogue and digital fabrication’, Making Futures, 4, Plymouth College of Art

    Bamford, R. (2013) ‘Crafting the Void: Trans-Dimensionality in Digital and Analogue Craft Practice’, Making Futures 3, Plymouth England

    Bamford, RJ. (2013) Craft Arts International, Janet Deboos. Hybrid Places, 01 Jul, 46–51

    Bamford, R (2013) ‘3D Printing in Clay: Building Objects in Coiled Layers’, Ceramics Monthly, American Ceramics Society, 60–64

    Bamford, R.J. (2013) ‘Transdimensionality in Craft Practice’, Making Futures Int. Conference Proceedings, Making Futures, 3, Plymouth College of Art 2013

    Bamford, R (2011) Securing Norman Lindsay-The Trans-dimensional Printed Vase, IMPACT 7: Intersections & Counterpoints’, International Multi-disciplinary Printmaking Conference, Monash University, 27–30 Nov, 2011. Proceedings.

    Bamford, R. (2011) ‘Ecology and the aesthetics of imperfect balance’, Craft + Design enquiry, 3, 1–28. FoR  1905.

    Bamford, R. (2010) ‘Wikis and dust: aligning virtual and physical studio teaching practice in an art and design school context’ ConnectED International Conference on Design Education, Sydney, 28 June–1 July 2010. Proceedings

    Bamford, R. (2009) ‘Clean Green Lumpy & Brown: Challenges, Opportunities & Persistent Values in Ceramics’, 3rd International Triennale of Ceramics, Sydney, 17–20 July, 2009, Celsius, 1, 163–71, July 2009, University of Sydney

    Bamford, R. (2009) ‘Sustain Me’ – Exhibition Catalogue Introductory Essay. Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Sydney, July, 2009. Online catalogue

    Bamford, R.J. (2008) ‘Lynda Draper. Wonderland & the Irony of Memory’, Ceramics - Art and Perception, 73, 3–8

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  • Awards and Grants

  • Australia Indonesia Institute (2015) Special Project Grant funded exhibition of the results of the Digital Bamboo Project in ID space Bandung and UNSW Galleries Sydney.

    The ‘Contestable Funds’ UNSW Grant (2013) supported the Digital Bamboo Studio Research project to investigate the impact of digital visualisation and fabrication on traditional bamboo craft practices in Indonesia.

    Australian Government funded DEEWR Mobility Grant (2011) funded student participation in the Syntropy Sarawak Malaysia, a hybrid ceramic and textile design project with University of Southern Malaysia

    UNSW MREII grants (2008 and 2010) funded the purchase of CNC and 3 dimensional Scanning equipment to support research in trans dimensional mapping and digital fabrication.

Selected work


Research interests

Rod’s research aims to elicit new insights into the effects of technologically mediated interactions on human experience and understanding, particularly with respect to the creation and interpretation of ’cybernetic’ objects. The method of examining these themes is commonly through practice led provocation, employing a combination of traditional and emerging recording, fabrication, interaction, computing and robotic technologies, which are framed by the idea of ‘trans-media’ objects.

Research outcomes appears in exhibitions of individual art works, writing and occasionally in commercial product design, and in the curation of exhibitions of collaborative projects

Current and recent research

Sonic Loop & Serpentine, porcelain design works, 2007–10

Sonic Loop and Serpentine, a series of innovative slip cast porcelain baskets, employ hybrid digital and analogue technologies in computing, 3D printing and ceramics to create sculptural utilitarian forms in porcelain. The works emerge from research into the ways technology can facilitate the translation of ‘felt’ experience into tangible, physical forms, and was supported by a MMM project grant from the Australia Council for the Arts. The work was included in the landmark exhibition Smart Work, at the Powerhouse Museum in 2007. Sonic Loop has been a subject of discussion on the Sydney Radio programme By Design on ABC Radio National, and has been widely cited in publications and was highlighted in media presentations for the 3rd International Ceramics Triennial, Sydney, 2009.    

Hyperclay: Contemporary Ceramics – National Touring Survey Exhibition, 2011–14

Funded by Australia Council for the Arts, curated by Object, Australia’s Centre of Craft and Design.

The selected works highlighted strategies that extend ceramics practice, reflecting re-imagined possibilities for the medium. Bringing 3D laser scanning and printing technologies to the ceramic process, using an open source 3D printer modified by Bamford to print organic and inorganic pastes, the works demonstrated the versatile range of forms that can be created from mineral waste.

Bamford’s allegorical vessels created for the exhibition expressed a hybrid process located at intersection of the digital and the handmade, embodying narratives that interpret utility through the lens of ecology, linked to issues of climate change refugees, resource and waste reclamation.

A series of video broadcasts documenting Bamford’s exhibition contribution were included in the iTunes ‘App’ Hyperclay. Accompanying research was showcased at the Australian Network for Art and Technology festival. Research results were published in Ceramics Monthly and the work has been cited in an estimated 250 publishes sources. Reviews include the Journal of Australian Ceramics,, American Ceramics Monthly, and the Guardian.

The Cup Suite Anniversary edition, 2010

For the 10th anniversary of the Ceramica di Manfredi range, a special Anniversary issue of the high quality porcelain Cup Suite was commissioned. The range was revised to accommodate an additional Tazzalta mug and prototype for a desert bowl, in collaboration with *Frost Design.

Cup Suite was originally commissioned by Stefano Manfredi in 1999 for the Belmondo restaurant, designed to accompany Manfredi’s flagship coffee blend. The clean curves were inspired by aspects of early Roman ‘samian’ ware, contributing a contemporary flavor to the Manfredi family’s rich Italian heritage and celebrating their contribution to Sydney’s culinary scene.

The complete suite includes cups, beakers and an innovative, versatile ‘universal saucer’ which fits up to 5 drinking vessels and offers a side serving function, saving space in the café environment. Innovative waste and emission reduction strategies reduce manufacturing and transport impacts, while emotional design strategies build connection with users for extended product life.

The Suite was discussed on Sydney Radio Programme By Design (2007) and included the Powerhouse Museum’s Smart Works exhibition (2007). An example is held in the Museum’s permanent collection.

The Digital Bamboo Studio: Exhibition and International Collaborative Research Project – Indonesia 2013–15

Funded by the UNSW Contestable Funding Scheme and the Australian Indonesian Institute, supported by the Australian Federal Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Digital Bamboo presented the results of research into the augmentation of traditional Indonesian bamboo practices with emerging digital fabrication technologies. The project’s premise arose from asking what might occur if the Indonesian practice of disrupting existing social media technologies and repurposing them for their own community needs, such as ‘twitter trading’, were applied to craft practice or production? Could the ‘internet of things’ include craft objects, and could open design practices help moderate the influence of centralisation in rapidly modernising Indonesia, which affects the livelihood of traditional artisan practices.

Digital Bamboo received critical reviews and public attendance via Sydney Design Week’s Feral Experimental Symposium in 2014, a 2015 exhibition 2015, and the online publication of a documentary video and website.

Roderick Bamford led the project with Dr. Dwinita Larasti of the Institut Teknologi Bandung, Indonesia. 

The Normal Lindsay Vase Project and Trans Dimensional Printing, 2004–14

The Norman Lindsay Vase no.3 is the last of a series of limited edition reproduction porcelain polychrome vases commissioned by the National Trust of Australia and Norman Lindsay Gallery following conservation difficulties with the original vases, painted by the renowned artist Norman Lindsay in the 1950s. Research and production for this privately funded project was undertaken by Rod Bamford, Janine Brody and Cone Nine Studios, Australia, between 2012 and 2013

This project extended earlier research that developed a non-destructive method for reproducing ceramic objects combining ‘slit photography’, digital image editing, rapid prototyping and silk screen printing to form a type of ‘trans-dimensional’ print process that faithfully translates imagery from one three dimensional form to another. 

Research into more advanced technologies to substantially digitise the original hybrid process for the third vase used a simplified strategy, employing white light photogrammetric scanning to map both form and surface geometry of the original vase. Both the new generation form and surfaces were derived from the same digital data. The approach resulted in improved colour accuracy, resolution detail, and reduced waste reductions.