Wednesday, November 11, 2015

2015 Warren McKenzie Awards Progress I: Jacob Raeder

On September 25th, I arrived in the small town of Oisterwijk, a 30 minute train ride from Eindhoven in the Netherlands. My residency at the European Keramic Work Centre (EKWC) had begun.

I had worked as a volunteer at the EKWC in 2012 while I was finishing my studies in Amsterdam and although the EKWC has moved into a new facility, this was something of a homecoming for me. Ranti Tjan, the tireless Director, greeted me at the door, and I was welcomed to my new home for the next three months.

Currently there are 15 other resident artists coming from eight different countries.  I would say I'm one of the artists who has the most prior experience working with clay, and there are some artists that have never worked with the material before. It has been a constant pleasure to walk in and out of the other studios, having coffee or drinks with artist from all over the world in all stages of their careers. This situation reveals the paradox of 'expertise' where I feel that knowledge can be more of a hindrance than a help. There is a  level of conservatism that I constantly battle with, and no time more so than when I see someone breaking what I thought of as an cardinal rule and getting fantastic results. In such close proximity to so many talented and inquisitive artists, I have learned more in the past six weeks than I ever could have working on my own.

Peter, one of the main technical support staff, helping and instructing us on how to load the largest gas kiln.
My ambition to come to the EKWC was to conduct a series of material experiments, which I am happy to say are beginning to yield some interesting results. Working with graphic designers and photographers based in Amsterdam, I will be making a small publication focused solely on cone 6 crawl glazes, an area of specific interest of mine for several years. Without getting too technical, I hope to create the beginning of an encyclopedia of ceramic surfaces, easily used and understood by even the most casual ceramic user

A batch of test tiles working on red crawl glaze.
While the crawl glaze research has proceeded rather methodically and scientifically, in another avenue of investigation I hope to capitalize on the more mystical side of ceramics concerned with scratching at the bones of the earth and praying to kiln gods.  My dog's bladder stones, fossilized shark teeth collected from the beach, a silver quarter my grand father owned, some of my baby teeth, the ashes of letters from an ex-lover. These are just some of the materials I brought with me and have started to add to glazes—results pending.

Foaming clay test with chemicals used in making cellular concrete.

My Residency is just about halfway through which means it's all studio, all the time. Oisterwijk is a pretty small community and it helps to stay focused on my work that there are so few distractions. I have been able to take some time away and spent a few days at Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, checking out the fantastic work at the Design Academy Eindhoven's graduation show as well as all the other exhibitions and venues. It was incredibly inspiring to see the different avenues of contemporary design but a standout project has to be Olivier Van Heprt's clay printer. A beautiful feat of engineering and the first time I have really been able to appreciate the aesthetic quality of the process.

Olivier Van Heprt's 3D ceramic printer. Part of the End Exam Exhibition at the Design Academy Eindhoven. 

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