An exploration of the commercial and aesthetic potential of using improved digital printing technologies to decorate high-value ceramics, including identifying social & technical barriers to adoption.
At a glance
- A two year project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
- The project consortium, led by the RCA, included leading UK ceramics manufacturers and the UK subsidiary of the German patent holder of the new digital ceramic pigment technology.
- The project combined technical experimentation, aesthetic explorations and ethnographic field research.
- The success of the project led to a follow-on research funding award from the AHRC.
Adopting digital laser printed transfer systems could improve the qualities, speeds and economies of commercial ceramic production, but this potential was not being exploited by the UK ceramics industry.
It was anticipated the results of the research would help revitalize the UK ceramics industry and so support regeneration across the UK in locations where ceramics manufacturing is currently situated.
The findings would also potentially assist innovative start-ups in the creative industries working with digital surface decoration techniques that could employ the new technology in product development and small batch production.
Staff in the School of Arts and Humanities at the Royal College of Art collaborated with MZTT, inventor and patent holder of the laser printed ceramic transfer process, their British partner Digital Ceramic Systems and two industrial ceramic manufacturers: Royal Crown Derby and Steelite International.
The project assembled a consortium of innovators to explore the potential of digital printing technology in large-scale ceramics manufacturing, prototyping and small-scale batch production.
Professor Martin Smith of the RCA, an expert in combining ceramics and print, was Principal Investigator for the project. Dr Steve Brown was the primary researcher for the technical activities. Dr Peter Oakley was the Co-Investigator, undertaking the ethnographic fieldwork and an analysis of the social implications of adopting this technology.
Professor Smith and Dr Brown responded to briefs constructed by the Creative Director of Royal Crown Derby, relating to past production and aesthetic issues, such as the quality of screen-printed imagery or the high cost of multiple colour screen printing. Both researchers concurrently created new decorative designs drawing on their expertise in developing surface pattern.
- Smith, M. (2017) Design Prototypes for Tableware Decoration
- Brown, S. (2017) Design Prototypes for Tableware Decoration
Brown, S.R. (2015) Extending the Potential for the Digitally Printed Ceramic Surface in IMPACT 9 International Printmaking Conference, Hangzhou: China Academy of Art Press, 301–7
Oakley, P. (2015) Digital Crafting: Re-evaluating Promises and Pitfalls (English text with full translation into Korean) In: Making Futures Korea: Craft, meeting the new through changes in perception. Cheongju: Cheongju International Craft Biennale Committee, 159–74
Oakley, P. (2016) Digital Crafting: Defining the Field in 2015 Making Futures, vol. 4
Oakley, P. (2018) Creating a Brighter Future? Responses to the commercialisation of a new ceramic print technology Making Futures, vol.5.
Brown, S.R. (2015) ‘Extending the Potential for the Digitally Printed Ceramic Surface’, at IMPACT 9 International Printmaking Conference, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, 22-26 Sept 2015
Oakley, P. (2015) 'Digital Crafting: Defining the Field', at Making Futures IV conference, Plymouth College of Art, 24–25 September 2015
Oakley, P. (2015) 'Digital Crafting: Re-evaluating Promises and Pitfalls', at Making Futures Korea, part of the Cheongju International Craft Biennale, 9–10 October 2015
Brown, S. R. (2016) ‘Digital Print for Ceramic Surfaces’, given at the Ceramics and New Technologies Symposium, Holburne Museum, Bath, UK, 26 February 2016
Oakley, P. (2016) ‘Intelligent Making at the RCA’. Seminar delivered to the Arts Faculty, California State University Long Beach (CSULB), Los Angeles, California, US, 12 April 2016.
Oakley, P. (2017) ‘Towards A Brighter Future: The risks and rewards of new ceramic print technology’, ISSSM 2017, Sapporo, Japan, 17 January 2017.
Oakley, P. (2017) ‘Protecting Productive Crafting: identifying and supporting crafting in industry in the 21st Century’. Presentation at the Crafting in Industry workshop at Making Futures 5 conference, Plymouth 21 –22 September 2017.
Smith, M. & Brown, S. R. (2015) Extending the Potential for the Digitally Printed Ceramic Surface – Work in Progress, British Ceramics Biennial, 26 September – 8 November 2015.
Smith, M. (2015) Red and Black with Blue and Yellow, Marsden Woo Gallery, 18 November – 19 December 2015.
Smith, M. (2016) work exhibited in Blue and White: British Printed Ceramics, Victoria and Albert Museum, 31 January 2015 – 3 January 2016.
A selection of Professor Smith's and Doctor Brown's digital print decorated prototypes were displayed on the AHRC Design Research for Change stand at the London Design Fair 2018.
Professor Martin Smith
“The research not only enabled us to understand how the new digital print technology could meet the existing needs of commercial manufacturers, but also to demonstrate its capabilities beyond the current expectations of ceramic designers.”Project Co-Investigator and Reader in Material Culture