Ceramics Departmental Philosophy
The landscape of ceramics is a vast open-ended question, with links to design, the crafts, the art world, industry and engineering. The Ceramics Department at Cranbrook sees these links as a language to explore and as a way into our work. The open structure of the program allows for students to find their own interests within the material world of ceramics and its contextual opposition.
Think of the Ceramics Department as a hub. It is a place where we look deeply into the ceramic spectrum, finding strength in its position as a material and as a strategy for conceptual form and idea making. Within this hub we look outward and inward, back through history and forward into the unknown. Out into material possibility and back into its relationship to clay. It’s a discussion.
In the same way that ceramics is a living document, so is our departmental philosophy. As ceramics records time and place through its material properties, we will also record our time and place through our work in the studios. How long will our document as a group exist? One year? Two years? A lifetime?
In the Studio
Several words and concepts come up in the studio – in the morning, at night, during critiques and over lunch. A selection of those words are below. Check back periodically, as they may change:
Static/ Generative/ Abject/ Beauty, (Yes, Beauty)/ Impossible/ Discipline/ Formal Content/What does it mean that work can’t fail?/What consequence?/What audience?/What is the difference between the reference and the real thing?/ How does ceramics bridge the gap between disciplines?/Are we too tied to the conventions of the ceramic process?/Can one material answer all the questions raised in our work?
Central to the Ceramics Department philosophy is dedicated time in the studio. We work. This cannot be emphasized enough. We choose to work through ideas, to explore the range of ceramic possibilities from the humble pot to a tape cast pre-fabricated translucent chip in order discuss the issues that may stretch beyond the material itself. All of these processes hold a language that afford us a way to express the opportunities of singular material examination without being hemmed in by material specificity.
Finally, Cranbrook Ceramics embraces the multiple working methodologies that the clay and ceramic processes have to offer. There is no singular way to make. Only a singular dedicated vision and rigorous work ethic that the Cranbrook Ceramics Department and community strives to foster.
As a group, we have formal mandatory critiques every week. These weekly critiques are where a few students present their work to the entire department. Critiques are also open to other departments and students, making for a lively interdisciplinary discussion through the lens of ceramics. Here we take a long concentrated look at the work and discuss current issues and future possibilities. In addition, students have access to the Artist-in-Residence through individual meetings that occur on a weekly basis.
Each year, we have multiple visiting artists, critics, curators and thinkers coming in from all over the world. Due to the size of our department, students have a unique opportunity to spend time with our visiting artists and critics and to gain valuable insight into their work and process. We visit museums and collections, studios and factories. Cranbrook Ceramics also engages in the real world of ceramics, collaborating on larger projects with artists, designers and art directors, giving students first-hand experience into the world of ceramic production.
In 2002, the Ceramics Department moved into our current building. Built by the internationally renowned architect Raphael Moneo, the studios are a flexible space that shift with the dynamic needs of the program.
All students have their own studio, and the Artist-in-Residence has his own studio within the department. We can move the kiln carts into the studios if necessary to allow for adventurous projects that challenge the conventions of form and structure. When more space is needed, we have a dedicated open space for large scale and installation work. This room can be signed out for several days if more space than your studio allows is necessary.
Central to the studio is the kitchen and dining area, which acts as the social center and main gathering place for students and the Artist-in-Residence. Many students cook in the department and therefore many interesting conversations tend to carry over from the critique spaces and studios to the kitchen table.
We have 3 large energy efficient Dutch Blaauw gas kilns fully computerized with additional kiln floor carts. We also have several medium and small electric kilns as well as salt and soda kilns. The studio is also equipped with all of the essentials and more: blunger, hydraulic extruder, tilesaws, spraybooth, grinders, sandblaster and a large network of point-of-contact dust collection arms. We are always looking to improve the facilities and find new ways to approach the clay and ceramic process. The whole department has wireless Internet access.
The Academy also offers access to 3D milling machines, a 3D printer and 3D scanner, a laser-cutter, large format printers and most other high-tech equipment, as necessary. We offer training in this machinery as well as 3D modeling.
As mentioned, central to the philosophy of the department is dedicated studio time, and that anything imaginable in that space is possible. We have the facilities to accomplish those goals. In this way we hope to not only work within the already established ceramic tradition, but to challenge the material, its process and its place in contemporary ceramic art and design.