Saturday, July 31, 2010

London's VIctoria and Albert Museum - WOW

I have been to this museum before and went with some hesitancy as the rooms and rooms of ceramics in old Victorian cabinets, stacked high and rather randomly, would be gone and a remodeled collection would be in its place. I loved those old rooms!

I missed seeing the Queen when she dedicated the new galleries just a couple weeks before. I was more than pleasantly surprised. I could have set up a cot and lived there a week or so to give all the rooms and rooms of work justice in my review. Alas, I only had one full day.

I am focusing on the historic as that was my research agenda, but the study collection goes to contemporary artists and there was a terrific show of contemporary British ceramic artists and one of Richard Slee’s work. Other favorites like Lucy Rie (her studio is reproduced in one of the galleries) and Hans Coper were well represented. Leach, Cardew and Hamada as well. There is a ceramics studio in the room dedicated to ceramic techniques that offers classes and there is a Visiting Artist set up working for 6 months at a time for visitors to watch.

They have a study room and you can make arrangements ahead to have work set up in a room for you to touch and research. Not all, but much of the collection is on line now so it is relatively easy to get information.

This is a must see museum for any serious study in ceramics. They have, as the Brits tend to, some of the best of everything from around the world. It is a stunning collection and it is out for all to see!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Staffordshire Pottery in Stoke on Trent, England

My visit to Stoke started with a most amazing experience – a private tour of the Wedgwood Factory by one of its managers. I was able to see every part of their production. Their diversity of techniques and products made for a fascinating and instructive tour. I then spent the rest of the afternoon in the award winning Wedgwood Museum. No pictures allowed in either place. The afternoon was well work the trip!

The next day I went to the Potteries Museum. It has an excellent collection of Staffordshire pottery and allowed pictures. Lack of labels was a bit frustrating but the rooms of display are great. They also have a special collection of British Studio pottery including such noteworthy potters as Leach, Cardew, Rie, Coper, etc.

From there I walked through the town center to the Dudson Museum. The kiln is located inside one of the original pottery’s bottle kiln! You have likely not heard about them but you very possibly have used their wares. In the 1800’s they made typical Staffordshire ware. The owner realized demand was waning and so found a niche market in “caterer ware” or what we call restaurant ware. They make dinnerware for hotels, ocean liners and even Disney.

Today I went to the Gladstone Pottery Museum, which is actually a “living” museum. It was a Victorian pottery and saved from demolition when it closed in the 1970’s. There are 5 bottle kilns on the property, demos and recreations of the original pottery’s functions. It was very interesting and informative.

Stoke on Trent as a town is depressed due to many of the potteries closing and factories moving production to Asia. Many of the famous potteries have merged, for example Wedgwood with Royal Dalton and Spode with Portmeiron. I am ready to move on to the exciting city of London tomorrow.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Edinburgh - a magical place

I am convinced all of Scotland is magical. Edinburgh is a very contemporary city masked by its rich past. I went there not for the porcelain, but to explore the contemporary art scene. I visited with Gordon Munro who runs the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop. They will begin building a new building with apartments for visiting international artists, studios and exhibitions spaces this year. I hope to be one of those artists in the future. We also discussed some possibilities for student exchanges with Edinburgh College of Art and SA+AH.

From there I walked along the North Sea to the Leith area where I met with friends of mine that work at the Coburg Studios. I met Frances Priest last year through my dear friend Tony Franks, fellow member of the IAC and former dean and professor from Edinburgh College of Art. Frances has a studio at Coburg and it turns out a previous acquaintance of mine through the University of Dundee ceramics program, where I taught a workshop some years ago, Craig Mitchell, does too. This is a large building with many artists’ studio of all media, an exhibition space and a special section just for ceramics. Frances had phoned up Tony and I was able to visit with them all and see the studios.

I found work of another acquaintance of mine, Ken Eastman, from Glasgow School of Art at The Scottish Gallery. This is new work was made at Royal Crown Derby Porcelain Company.

By the second day it was cold and rainy in Edinburgh – just like it is supposed to be in Scotland this time of year. A welcome change from Florida weather.

Berlin - new city made of glass

Berlin, as you might imagine, has a great deal of new construction, renovation and restoration that has either recently happened or is currently happening. I wish I had stock in the glass company that supplied the glass for new buildings like the Sony Center, Sanofi Aventus, Train Station, and Reichstag etc. Spectacular!

There was a Meissen anniversary related show at the Ephraim Palais – again, a beautiful building housing the decorative arts. Wish we had that concept! This collection was more than just Meissen. It included all the important porcelain manufacturers in Europe of the 1700 and 1800’s. I found the exhibit helpful in making comparisons as the work was grouped by country. I was not allowed to take pictures, alas, just I took lots of notes.

Another interesting comparison I found at the Brandenburg Gate plaza, where the American Embassy is housed. If one looks across the square they can see the Kennedy Museum and then next-door Starbucks, of course. Also on this square is the Academy of Art (Kunst), which unfortunately was closed on a Sunday, but it is another glass wonder.

There was an eerie feeling to this city and I was reminded of its history through the Jewish Memorial, Libskind’s stark Jewish Museum, Check Point Charlie and the double row of cobblestones that mark where the Wall once stood not so long ago.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Source: Dresden and Meissen

Dresden was my biggest surprise so far – and a most pleasant one. I expected it to be like Düsseldorf, mostly buildings from the 50’s and 60’s since the city was also bombed out during WWII. However, Dresden made a commitment to rebuild many of its historical buildings with exact attention to detail and it is truly spectacular. My destination was the Japanese Palais for the main 300th Anniversary of Meissen exhibition. It was an amazing show, with examples of Meissen from museums all over the world – the best of their production. It was organized in a didactic and thematic way. Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed but there is a book on the show, which I will buy when I return since it would use up my weight allowance for luggage it is so comprehensive! It was also amazing to see this show at the Japanese Palais, as it is where August the Strong had his collection on display – one floor for the actual Asian imports and one for Meissen’s exacting “copies.”

The next day I boarded the train to the town of Meissen where the factory, museum and visitors center is located. Try as I might, I could not get a tour of the factory. They have a slick demo program in the “Workshop” for visitors. They did allow me to take pictures and videos. They had people throwing, using molds, underglazing, and china painting. Then there was the museum to visit. It too was beautifully displayed with one section by country theme. I topped off the morning with coffee and pie in their café that serves on Meissen ware. That was about as close as I could afford to get to the dishes as even in the “outlet” store has the cups priced at a few hundred dollars each.

Since I had an early start I managed to get back in time to see more of Dresden and while looking over the map I noted there was porcelain at the Zwinger – a Baroque complex of buildings with a huge courtyard inside with gardens, fountains, etc. Well, was I surprised to find that this was THE collection of August the Strong. During the war the German’s wisely took the work out of the Japanese Palais and stored it for safekeeping. The Russians “appropriated” it when they occupied Dresden but returned the collection in the late 50’s. Then in the early 60’s the collection was moved to the Zwinger for display. In 2006 the space was remodeled and designed to show how the work might have been displayed by August the Strong, typically in arches on the wall, pots on fancy shelves and in a symmetrical pattern. The Asian import ware was beyond belief in quality and variety. There was a special display on Bottger, enslaved by August and forced to discover the Arcanum. Eventually he succeeded in discovering the formula for a porcelain comparable to the Chinese porcelain. It was after that the Meissen Manufactur was started by August 300 years ago.

Great story, great collection, great city.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The porcelain pilgrimage continues to Budapest and Vienna

I had a short day in Budapest on Sunday before leaving Hungary. I went for the second time to the Museum of Decorative Arts. Last time was in 2005, when one of the curators with connections to the ICSHU sent her intern around with me to visit store rooms full of ceramics of all ages and types. There was a Zolnay show up in the galleries, too. This time it was textiles but they also had a wonderful show of their collection up with some great European porcelains included. The building itself is spectaclar with, you might have guessed, Zolnay tiles for the roof and entrance. I have also included a photo of the main market with Zolnay tiles.

Vienna is a beautiful city, so bright, clean and well run. Their Decorative Arts Museum (MAK) was amazing. It is also housed in a spectacular building (are you getting the idea that the decorative and applied arts and design are more appreciated in Europe than the US?). They had a ceramics study collection of almost 1000 pieces. My biggest frustration is that they did not allow photos, not even with an extra fee. I had a book in German as a guide and I took copious notes, some in German, for my research. Vienna had an active porcelain production. I am looking for similarities and difference in the major porcelain producers, in techniques, quality and imagery. The final image included is the Majolica House - and people live in it!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Visit to Pecs for Zslonay luster

Pecs is a beautiful, award winning and sophisticated city (please disregard the MacDonald’s on the corner of that building in the lovely square).

Pecs was the home of the Zsolnay factory, famous for its lusterware production, including the colorful roof tiles gracing many buildings in Hungary. The factory has been closed for some time, but the town has a museum of the production. I have included some examples.

The tour included some interesting architecture on the way and a stop for a wine tasting on the way home in Hungary’s famous wine region.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Trip to the Herend Porcelain Factory

As part of the symposium we participated in two field trips. The first was a trip to the Herend Porcelain factory and museum. We had a private tour – this is a rarity I might add but the connections at the ICSHU opened this door to us.

First we were taken to the showroom, where only serious shoppers and wholesalers are brought in to see their entire line - others are relegated to the factory shop to buy. Then we were taken around the factory (managed to get one picture until they told us they were not allowed) to see all phases of their amazing production. I now know why they charge $300.00 – 500.00 for a cup and saucer – everything is handmade and decorated! No decals here.

The tour was given by one of their 3 major designers Tamas Akos. The factory was amazing - clean, people dressed in white uniforms talented people working with impressive equipment that made this production possible to make.

Afterwards, we had a run through the museum and topped the visit off with coffee and pastries served on Herend plates and cups at the café. We boarded our mini-bus to head to Lake Balaton for a meal at a restaurant overlooking the lake. We took a ferry across on our way home. All in all, a most informative and enjoyable time was had by all!

My studio in Hungary

I had about a quarter of a large room to work in although I spent my first few days in the plaster rooms making about 8 molds of the 3D rapid prototyped models I have a fired example of one of the 35 objects I made with the molds. The pieces are not finished yet and I will be china painting, lustering and adding to the objects after I get home. The work was made in Herend porcelain, which I will write about, in the next post. It is amazingly beautiful fired in reduction to cone 12 – a cold white.

I was able to see the work I made in 2005 while at the ICSHU which is in the collection spread out in attics and basements throughout the compound. Some of that work and the work of Joe Bova and Marc Leuthold, both had also been there prior, are on exhibit at the ICHSU’s museum. It was very exciting to go back and see the work again, especially on exhibit at their elegant museum.

The Symposium - Pot on the Spot at the International Ceramics Studio - Kesckemet, Hungary

I have left Kesckemet and am in Budapest. I am hoping to catch up with this blog on my 2 weeks of adventure there now that the work is done and the crate is packed. It was a whirlwind couple weeks shared with an amazing group of people. It will take a number of these posts to catch up on all that happened and I will only be able to give you a touch.

This post is about the International Ceramics Studio and you can see the gates to what is basically a compound, private and for people serious in clay. Joe Bova, our fearless leader (although he would claim not to be our leader) had t-shirts made for us all.