Progression from Undergraduate to Postgraduate study can sometimes be a mysterious and daunting prospect. Here, Sarah Younan, a BA Ceramics Graduate of 2011 talks about her transition to Masters level study. Sarah completed her Masters level studies in 2012.
I have a sensitivity for material things, for artefacts, that finds expression in my work. In my vision of the world objects are highly charged carriers of meaning and emotion. Walking past a teenage mother I am most likely to notice her pink pram, when I walk past an old lady I might spot her plastic hair comb, chatting to the cab driver I could become fascinated by the nail he lets grow long on his pinky finger. All these things convey meaning and lead me to construct narratives, interpretations of what is going on around me. Objects often appear as extensions of us human beings to me and in turn, sometimes I view humans themselves as animated artefacts. Not in the sense that I want to de-humanise, but I see the effort we put into constructing our image for the outside world as a craft form and the persona we construct and wear as its product.
In 2009, during the second year of my BA I began to explore this notion of the human object. This process started unconsciously at first, I simply felt compelled to create ceramic costumes and wear them. I followed this up with my final BA project, the Tea Party, in 2010-2011. For this project I invented the Little Teapot, a heretic domestic vessel…I created live and on-film performances based around this character. Towards the end of the project I grew wary of the attention my physical presence in the work was attracting and produced some object-based pieces in response.
When I started on the MA course in 2011, I initially experimented with projecting on to ceramic surfaces and objects. Some months into the course I got offered the chance to work with 3D scanning and printing technologies through WIRAD (Wales Institute for Research in Art and Design). I was very excited to use these technologies and turned to the National Museum of Wales to ask permission to scan an object from their ceramics collection. Andrew Renton, Head of Applied Arts at the museum, was kind enough to show me through their storage facilities in Nantgarw.
Of all the artefacts I saw I chose the Bonbonniere, a screw-top box in the shape of a ladies head. It was made about 1780-90, probably by the Leeds pottery, it is creamware, slip-cast and enamelled. I was struck by the drama of this little head, bodiless, made as a container for candy, tucked away in storage but still smiling out sweetly at the world.Scanners work with lasers, as light travels in straight lines undercuts and bends cannot be registered by a 3D scanner. The thinking one has to apply to the scanning process – how to position the object, how many separate scans are necessary – mirrors the technical considerations that go into mould-making. Digital 3D files are 'cut' into layers prior to printing and 3D printers build objects up by putting down layer upon layer in succession.
I had the 3D object printed at the PDR centre in 3 different sizes , the easy re-scaling of objects is an advantage of using digital files as opposed to traditional craft processes.
Because of the high cost of 3D printing I turned back to plaster casting to make more reproductions of the Bonbonniere. The layers put down by the 3D printer remained visible on the surface of the casts and I would clean seamlines of very roughly, so that traces of both printing and casting processes would remain visible on the objects. I decided to add chains to the Bonbonnieres I was producing, chains can not be cast or scanned and added another process to this project; handbuilding.
When I first saw the little original Bonbonniere she seemed to reflect a state of melancholy, unrequited emotions and loneliness I felt within myself at the time – this and the chains quickly led to a title for the piece; Ball and Chain. In the hope that viewers would find their own reflection in the Bonbonniere I made a mirror out of her face. Visitors to the MA show passed this mirror on the way to the Ball and Chain installation.
I have now started a practise based Ceramics PhD course at CSAD. My research will explore ways of using 3D scanners and 3D printers to foster audience engagement with museum artefacts. My aim is to continue using 3D scanning, editing and printing technologies to appropriate and alter museum artefacts and produce artwork that stimulates new perceptions of museum artefacts.
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