Sunday, September 10, 2017

Matters of Taste - The Universal Flavors Collection

The relationship between food, plating, and flavor perception is a diverse network of empirical experiences. Articulating taste in food within the general area of image-making, however, presents its own set of problems. Individual discernment and subjectivity create difficulty in visually defining these elements. Ephemeral by nature, an eating experience is shaped by personal preference. Unable to visually translate ideas of taste beyond my own consciousness, I focused on my own interpretation of meals created by the other resident artists (from Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Estonia, New Zealand, the United States, and Japan).

From a mind and mouth perspective I interpreted the five universally recognized basic tastes – sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami (savory) into shape templates to make molds of. I chose the five basic tastes as a comprehensive approach to categorize the cornucopia of ingredients available for human consumption. I also thought about what food the pieces were meant to contain as related to each flavor and investigated how form, color and texture could visually translate these flavor perceptions into ceramic objects.

Over the course of my six-week residency at Guldagergaard, I designed and fabricated a mold or a group of molds for each flavor. I had not done much mold making previously so I was teaching myself mold making while trying to navigate the project perimeters I invented. It was a fun and fruitful challenge. The center has great mold making facilities and I forced myself to stay off the wheel for my entire stay to really dig into a new process without the distractions of making work I am comfortable making.

In that same spirit I restricted myself to formulating colored slips for casting that would add visual interest without any decoration. My goal in making molds was to potentially integrate pieces into my work that I can quickly reproduce and to explore the importance of design in my work, why and how I use it as a vehicle to communicate ideas through my pieces.

After my glaze firing I brought all the pieces into the kitchen and asked the other residents to play with and arrange them. Through their play, I realized there was a game-like element to mixing and matching the flavor forms, creating different and various combinations. I found this unexpected aspect of the work rather exciting.

The body of work that resulted incorporated the shapes I felt had the strongest association to each flavor from my series of food memory drawings. The yellow coffee cup represented Bitter. The oval bowls were Sweet for fruit or ice cream. Table salt cellars ramekins were for Salty. Bread and butter dishes with spreading knife to represented the flavor of Umami. I had some indecision for the Sour form. I ended the residency making a mixing spoon for lemonade. However, I had earlier iterations of citrus squeezer forms that I hope to revisit and redesign to include in the collection. The initial drawing research had a profound effect on the compositions the pieces took on.

On the whole, I am delighted with how the collection turned out. As for the pieces themselves, I gifted the other residents some of the pieces for their involvement in the project and installed the rest in the kitchen of the resident house to be used for the family meals that inspired them.

Lastly, I would like to extended a BIG thank you to Northern Clay Center and the 2017 Warren MacKenzie Advancement Award for the support to complete this project!

Cottle boards set for plaster pour
Molds filled with colored Royal Copenhagen casting slip

Drying forms in molds

A variety of cast forms awaiting the bisque

I cast each form multiple times in casting slip colored with Mason Stains

Bird's eye view of mango, orange, and yellow dishes

The residents arranged flavor form combinations

It was an unexpected treat to see the multitude of combinations created by the artists.





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