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Turning the page: a new dimension to the language of ceramics with reference to wayfaring, porcelain paperclay and the archetype of the paper page

This research establishes an original clay form – a clay page – that stands apart from traditional clay-based archetypes such as the vessel, the figurine and the tile. The surface treatment and the presentation of the new clay page, formed from porcelain paperclay, all correspond with the language of the paper page.

My research asks how this new physical clay page can be developed, and what it might mean. These questions are examined by conducting practice-based investigations. In the studio, the primary research involves tests and compositions in which the clay page corresponds with international paper sizes and the characteristics of the paper page, such as thinness, flatness and lightness. Outside the studio, the research engages in wayfaring (as theorised by Ingold) predominantly in the urban environment of the UK; information is recorded using a camera and brought back to the studio.

Layers of coloured slip and glaze are applied to the clay page surface to construct abstract compositions that respond to the clay page form, and which reflect wayfaring. The clay pages are then composed into a group, using the grid, and are presented on the wall. My research explores repetition and variation; grids and edges; borders and framing; levels and layers; lightness and minimality; the ordinary and the everyday; colour and spatial organisation; series and progressions; arrangement and rearrangement; temporality and flexibility. It involves an ethos of working in a self-sufficient manner.

The meaning of the clay page and its surface is interpreted as a story of the self, finding a place in the world, seeking joy and freedom within a framework of restricted order and balancing tensions, elevating ordinary, everyday experiences into the extraordinary. The interplay of subject, object and place is grounded in Modernist abstraction and colour theory (Itten) and later theoretical frameworks of the grid (Krauss), the parergon (Derrida) and the overlooked (Bryson). Besides fine art and anthropology, secondary research also draws on poetry, economic theory, philosophy and ceramics. Continual processes of making and material thinking, alone in the street and the studio, are the means by which the new clay archetype develops. Through these collective research procedures, the clay page achieves the aim of the title: a new dimension to the language of ceramics.

The research expands the potential of paperclay, ceramic practice and its theorisation, and will be of interest to both specialist and interdisciplinary constituencies.

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More about Alison

2014 MA Ceramics, Royal College of Art

2011 Diploma Ceramics, City Lit

2004 Art Foundation, Wimbledon School of Art

1992 BA Archaeology, University of Nottingham

In 2015, I won the Design History Society’s Postgraduate Essay Prize for my research into the life cycle of London’s post-war ceramic murals. You can read more about this research hereDesign History Society Essay Prize Winners

2022 Unruly Encounters, Lake Gallery Southwark Park, London

2019 Undertow, 171 Morning Lane, London and online at Undertow Research

2019 There is Something Lurking in the Shadows That Might be Interesting, Royal College of Art, London

2018 Flight Mode, Assembly Point, London

2018 Materialise, 7 Wetherby Gardens, London

2018 Work in Progress Show, Royal College of Art, London

2017 The Emerging and the Established, Christies, London

2017 Work in Progress Show, Royal College of Art, London

2015 Winner, Design History Society’s Postgraduate Essay Prize: Physical Reminders: Tracing a Ceramic

Mural’s Presence and Absence in Post-war London

2014 Degree Show, Royal College of Art, London

2014 Ceramic Art London, RCA Student Show, London

2014 Work in Progress Show, Royal College of Art, London

2013 Anima, Asylum, London

2014 Ceramic Art London, RCA Student Show, London

2014 Work in Progress Show, Royal College of Art, London

2012 New Designers: One Year On, Business Design Centre, London

2012 Open studios, Vanguard Court, London

2011 New Designers, Business Design Centre, London 

2011 Open studios, Vanguard Court, London

2011 Diploma Graduation Show, The City Lit Institute, London