Digital Pots
Analogue Pots
Text & Statements
Artist Resume
 
 
 

Selected Answers to Questions from Students and Press 2012 - 2017

For this document I have loosely edited my replies around the following common topics. Other Texts & Statements

- On why 3D Printing and when did I start
- On how I work
- Icebergs
- Morphologies
- Seeds
- Sound
- On coding and computation
- On the use of computation in ceramics
- On the strengths and weaknesses
- Open source community and building 3D printers
- On Tradition
- On Skill
- On the hand
- On material
- On process
- On teaching and learning
- On collaboration
- On value
- On public reaction
- On the future
- The Fourth Way

On why 3D printing and when did I start

Working digitally or making use of the creative possibilities of computation came first, before 3D printing for me. I was visualising and sketching on screen forms and ideas that I would not have consider without the technology – using sound to pattern the surface of a vase for example. Having generated this work through digital means 3D printing was the obvious solution to realising it as real, physical objects. The ideas came first and the 3D printing was the solution to realising the ideas. (2017)

Since 1999 I had become interested in how computer 3D modelling software offered new ways of visualising form. This interest has now developed to where I am using computer code to generate my pot shapes. Conceptually my concerns are in the area of ‘art and nature’ and how computer code can be used to mimic the patterns, structures and processes of natural codes. Having generated my work in the computer I needed a way to get this digital information out into the physical world and 3D printing allows this. So technically it was the obvious development and I had been researching studio based ceramic 3D printing since 2007. I always wanted the printer as a tool in my studio (like the pottery wheel) so I could fully interact and understand the tool and incorporate it into my creative process. Although it was 2007 that I first began to researched how to do clay printing it was not until 2010 that I first adapted a DIY kit plastic 3D printer to print with clay. Antwerp based design studio UNFOLD first did this and I copied their setup. (2015)

The shape morphology of printed objects certainly do not have the limitations of wheel thrown forms that are inevitably vertically symmetrical. Moulded forms offer more variation but printing is not limited by the inability of moulded forms to be changed easily. Prints can be iterated or developed without much trouble from piece to piece. I often refer to ceramic 3D printing as ‘computerised coil building’ as of all the traditional clay forming techniques it is closest to coil building. A limitation of coil building is often the speed of production that with printing is much approved. Ceramic 3D printing is unlikely to be used for mass production in the near future so that could be seen as a limitation but its strength is in customisation and the ability to generate unique objects quickly. I tend not think of limitations as the advantages are so interesting. (2015)

In 2007 I began to look into ceramic 3D printing because I had forms in my computer as digital files that I wanted to get out of the virtual world and into the physical world. I could see that 3D printing in clay would just be computer guided coil building – coil building being one of the oldest pottery techniques there are. So the driving factor to go down the route of 3D printing was because I was working digitally. I was creating my work on computer and the only way to get it out of the computer was with the technique of 3D printing. I use ceramic as I have been an artist who makes sculptural pots since school. Pottery is the expressive medium I work in and clay is synonyms with pottery. (2015)

My main interest is in art (what we make) and nature (the resources to make with), and how we are part of that very same natural system. Put another way the 'biology of beauty' - how us human have evolved out of the very same systems, patterns, natural codes that we see all around us. Our psychological/emotional makeup is inexplicably connected to our environment or what is often called 'nature'. Back in 1999 I had the opportunity to explore digital media in relationship to my artistic practice. From then I became interested in how digital technology and computer code can be used to mimic and explore natural code and natural systems. This had developed to the point I generate or 'grow' the forms of my work in computer code. I started first in 2D producing animated drawings that could be screen grabbed and printed as 2D prints. The idea was always to develop this into 3D but back in 2007 access to 3D printers was remote. I determined to incorporate the
3D printing into my studio practice and have the printer in my studio to stand alongside the pottery wheel. In 2010 DIY kit 3D printers came onto the market and a Belgium Design Studio called Unfold where the first to attach a syringe filled with clay to one of these machines. The printers were intended to print with plastic. I visited Unfold and copied their technique and since then we have become good friends.
So to answer your question, I became interested in 3D printing because I was generating this work in computer and wanted to get it out of the computer and into the physical world as objects you could pick up and feel, and 3D printing offered the technique to do it. So for me it is about the way of working. I can do all the technology stuff but ultimately it is nature that interests me, or our relationship to nature.
Working with technology is the means by which I can explore this interest in nature, the technology is a means to the end. The interest is not really in the technology although I accept it becomes part of the process and I am happy with that as I would like my ceramics to be an expression of my age, the digital age. (2013)

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On how I work

So I have developed a working process whereby the shapes of my forms are written in computer code. This digital information is passed to my studio based self built 3D printer that I have adapted to print in clay. Layer by layer the pots are printed out – a sort of mechanical pottery coil building. After printing the ceramic is fired and glaze in the normal way. An important point to make is that this offers a very new ways of working. I see no point in just replicating in printing what could be done with other techniques. So it is the way of working, of generating forms through computer processing, forms that one would otherwise probably not visualise or comprehend that becomes important for me. While 3D printing is not new it is the availability of the equipment to sit in the ceramic studio next to the pottery wheel that is new and offers a very exciting way of working. The 3D printer becomes a tool that enables me to make the objects that have been conceived within the computer. Like all tools, like the pottery wheel, it is how the artist uses their equipment that is of importance and I seek to engage with the process and to manipulate it towards my own ends to craft the objects I am looking for.

I do not remake the same piece but there is endless opportunity to iterate or edit pieces very easily. I am constantly editing during the process.

The physical forms are solely created with 3D printing but there after traditional technologies are used to fire and glaze the objects.

The colour comes in the glazing and the firing not from the 3D printer although you can put different coloured clay through the printer. The 3D printer makes the form and has no further influence on the colour other than producing the surface texture that breaks the glaze and gives variation of tone and shade, while it is the code that generates the form and surface texture. I fire the glaze in a gas kiln that further enhances the shade of the colour in the glaze. The colour is the natural outcome of the clear glaze in the reduction kiln atmosphere. (2015)

My way of working has developed slowly over years. In 1999 an opportunity to explore digital media with regards to my ceramic processes got me started with 3D computer modeling software. I have always been interested in form and became fascinated how digital techniques could generate forms I would otherwise not have conceived of. This exploration of form feed back into thrown and constructed and large coil built ceramics. From back then I wanted to get this digital information out of the computer and into physical tangible ceramic form. 3D printing was the method and to keep this brief as a lot took place in between, it took until 2010 before I got to the point of printing directly in clay from digital files. During this time I had also begun to teach myself to work in computer code. I have always been interested in the processes, patterns and systems underling nature and was seeing how computer code can be used to mimic this natural code. By working at the level of code I am interested to ‘grow’ my ceramic forms using computer simulations of those natural processes I have spoken of. (2013)

So my way of working relies on digital techniques from generation to execution. The digital printer is however just a mechanical coil building device so the traditions of ceramics are just been updated. As much as the pottery wheel was also a device to speed up turning a lump of clay into a controlled form. Personally I see no divide between digital and other techniques, its all just how I work. As I have indicated there is a lots of hand work involved but I accept the expression of the work is not coming through my hand. I love drawing so I am no stranger to the concept of the personal gesture that can be communicated by the hand. What I am interested in is where this communication is coming from. Often the best drawn marks are made when the artist has managed to release themselves from the self-conscious gesture and find a natural unconscious expression. What I am doing is to see if I can find that same ‘natural’ connection between originator and audience through a simulation in code of our biological makeup - those patterns, processes and systems in us that are part of the greater natural world out there. I am still trying to think and work this trough but I have a sense there is a connection to be had between what is valued in the uniqueness of the ‘hand’ and the combinations of the code I am working with. Obviously I am working at an abstract level and one soon realizes the viewer becomes as important as the originator. The viewers desire to offer a subjected interpretation completes the work. Is the unconscious ‘hand’ of the maker not connecting at some level of communication that is read by the viewer because of the commonality of our biology? Can this commonality of biology find expression through computer code? (2013)

Digital fabrication is simply required to realise or output my ideas. The restrictions or shortcomings of the primitive printing technique I use certainly influences my ideas but I have always had a policy of working within my means. (2013)

The computer code is written using Processing, an open source programming language based on java. 3D files are captured or exported from these sketches and cleaned up in the open source 3D software Blender. In the Blender program I may adapt and recreate the initial mesh quite considerably. The 3D file is then further processed through the printer software, BfB Axon to produce g code that is read by the printer. (2012)

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Icebergs

The Iceberg forms are generated out of a mathematical function or algorithm called ‘Perlin Noise’. So what I am interested in is how similar the Perlin Noise pattern is to the natural patterns of erosion to be found in nature. So how the ice erodes, or melts or how Ant hill erode. So I am not taking measurements directly but using computer code that mimics the natural patterns and processes. What I am fascinated by how us humans and the natural environment are connected and want to show how human maths is an extension of natural phenomenon. (2017)

The expression I am looking for in my work is not that of a scientist, I am not trying to copy as much as give the viewer’s imagination something that they can begin to make their own story from. It that point of poetic stimulus where the viewer finishes the piece. (2017)

Yes a new original and unique piece is made each time I run the code as the variables are such that the chances of duplication is unlikely. I see this as a strength of my way of working. Often using machines is considered for reproduction but I am using it for uniqueness. I can also change the parameters in the code that will give different results. (2017)

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Morphologies

I tend to work in series based around an idea or creating morphologies of related works. It is the sense of growth and endless reproduction and evolution of forms in nature that fascinates me. A strength of 3D printing is the ability to slightly change the computer file each print, producing a unique object each time. With this I am interested in the sense of time that you get, a sort of animation captured in time – the progression becomes set in fired clay. The flute morphology series is a simple but very pleasing group of seven beakers. Starting from a vertical fluting the form is progressively twisted offering a sense of growth and movement through the set of vessels. Made in porcelain clay and glaze fired in a gas reducing kiln atmosphere the forms have a translucent quality with a slight tonal variation in the surface glaze. Although using digital technologies to generate the forms I want to mix old and new by combining very traditional ceramic techniques. After all in time digital techniques will just become part of how artists and designers will work with clay – it will become part of the tradition. (2013)

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Seeds

This collection is about the evolution and morphology of form. My working method lends itself to slight alterations in the computer code to generate related and evolving shapes. Being able to then print or build these unique and individual forms directly from the computer with my 3D printer represents the strength of this technology and fulfils my desire to explore the possibilities of ceramic form. Like all tools, like the pottery wheel, it is how the artist uses his or her equipment that is of interest to me. I seek to engage with the 3D printing process and to manipulate it towards my own ends to craft the forms I am looking for. For these more rounded forms I have needed to develop a further adaption to my 3D printing technique where as the extrusion of clay builds the shape it sinks into a void so I can spoon powdered clay around the soft wet clay to support it and dry it. This enables me to make much more complex forms but requires me to work with the machines – this is still a very hand on process the way I use it. Seed Bed is more about the fundamental concept of evolutionary morphologies. My working method lends itself to altering the computer code to generate related and evolving shapes. Being able to print these unique and individual forms directly from the computer represents the strength of this technology and fulfils my desire to explore the possibilities of form. (2013)

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Sound

The sound surface series was stimulated by an interest in the relationship musical structure has to natural systems. The overriding interest I have in my artistic practice as you have probably found is the relationship between art and nature – between us humans and the system that makes up our ecological environment. My interest is at the abstract level, to explore that beauty that we respond to in a instinctual manner. Through my pots I want to show how we are connected to our environment at a very basic level. That by giving three dimensional form to the rhythm and composition of the audio there would be interesting visual results. (2015)

The software is creating the shape of the pot. I do not interfere with the process but I have set up the process to begin with. I have written the computer app that generates the form. So I work in something called Processing that is a coding format that has been designed for artists to work in and uses the java computer language. (I have no computer or coding education an am self taught) So thinking like a potter, that I am I have coded for a pixel to spiral in virtual space (as in the video) like a coil pot building from the base up to the rim. I then play the sound on my computer as the pixel spirals and grows into a mesh form. The time span of the sound is represented from base going up the form. The digitally captured sound data is added to the radius of the spiral resulting in the texture on the surface. I have coded the shape to grow into a basic vase shape – I create the shape of the pot. I have total control of the whole process and can change any of the forming parameters. (2015)

Yes there are differences between the sound used – I say sound as I have used birdcall and human music. The differences are shaped by the tool/app/computer program that I have made. Orchestral sound or a wall of sound shows as an increase of radius and so the vase gets fatter. Broken sound gives a much more interesting texture, so a pulsing beat or intermittent bird call. Jazz music is better than classical orchestral. I chose to explore Bach keyboard music as it is the structure of his music that I am interested in and to see if there is a visual dimension to the structure. For the same reason I have explored the music of the American minimalist contemporary composer Steve Reich, his drumming pieces. (2015)

For different reasons I am very pleased with the Benjamin Britten 4 Sea Interludes piece in that you can very clearly see the contrast of the mood in the interludes and by using the same default vase shape how the volume changes with the character of the sound and the height represents the length of interlude. Each interlude is around four minutes so each vase takes that time to generate. I am interested in something I call the ‘Language of Pots’ and that is the visual language or communicative structures of pots from around the world and how the content of pots is carried in the form and surface. I live in the area where Britten composed this music and it represents the Suffolk coastal soundscape for me and that my pots represent the same landscape. I have used the Britten music but produced a work that represents something greater than just the sound transformation. (2015)

The surface texture might be able to be decoded if you had a digital tool that could reverse the process but the fidelity would be lost. Obviously the result on the surface is similar in principal to a clockwork music box mechanism. With regards reading the pot there is lots more work to be done in this series of work. I do not have enough musical structural knowledge to code the form generation so that the pot takes on readable composition structure as on a music score. You can certainly ‘see’ the character of the sound over its time span as it spirals up the form. (2015)

No I do not play the music when the work is shown. My interest is in the form and surface and whether the beauty we find in the sound can be transformed into the physical object - whether the structures and rhythms that we appreciate in the audio can have a visual equivalent. This relates back to my underlying interest of what is the relationship between our appreciation of art and nature. Because we have evolved out of that same system that we call nature what are the underlying structures that we find beautiful and why. (2015)

Having long been interested in the structure and patterns of music and song I developed a series of work that I have called sound surface. A pixel is coded in virtual space in the computer to spiral, and as it grows into the pot shape a three dimensional computer mesh is created. The surface of the mesh is progressively textured by adding the data from digital sound recording. The surface, from base to rim becomes a time representation of the tone and rhythm of the music or sound named in the title of the pot. I am interested to see if there is a visual similarity in the resultant textures between human music and bird song. (2013)

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On coding and computation

On the premise that the technique used to create form influences the form itself I have made extensive use of the computer to evolve ideas. I do not use the computer as a design device but as a piece of new technology, as a tool that will generate forms not typically visualised or created by other ceramic techniques. This working method I have now developed to a point where I am using the computer code to explore shapes and generate three dimensional objects. Stimulated by my interest in natural systems, patterns and the unseen numerical code that underpins all nature this offers a very new way of working. Being able to work with the material of digital computation, in the form of java computer language I am able to grown my forms in virtual space. 3D printing enables me to get the information out of the computer and made directly in clay, offering a physical object that can be held in the hand in a very short time span.

I work at the level of code so I use a platform called Processing that makes use of the java computer language. It is probably my interest in material and process that makes me use code as I then have a much better understanding of just how I am manipulating and generating the forms that I make rather than if I was using a software program such as Rhino and Grasshopper. My 3D modelling program of choice is Blender because it is open source and once I have generated my work in code I will import the digital file into Blender to do further editing. (2017)

We live in a world surrounded by digital equipment and the sooner it is a given that fabrication is influenced by the digital all the better. (2015)

I am excited by the new possibilities that working digitally can offer. Whether working digitally is any less ‘creative’ obviously comes down to personal interpretation of creativity. Personally by extending my box of tools I feel I can be more creative. It comes down to how you use your tools. Musicians play on very similar instruments but some are more creative and sensitive to how they play and do a better job. For me the computer is not necessarily a precise tool. You can use it in a precise way but you can also use it in a very random way. Working in code, a lot of the time I do not know what I will get when I push play. It is being able to find ways of working that you are on the edge of having control and allowing chance that interests me. With code decisions are made at the numerical level and the visualisation only comes after. Working in groups or morphologies of work allows for more exploration of the small differences that make noticeable changes to objects. A sense of time can be added to static objects. (2014)

I would suggest it is because contemporary ceramics is reflecting the more complex times we now live in. I was too young to really remember the sixties but on reflection and looking back on work from that period, specifically your reference to minimalism, there was a sense of idealism, a sense that certain systems will keep life in balance - that if these systems could be understood all would be good. The influence of oriental and Zen thought was noticeable. We now live in an age where there is the same interest in systems (evolution for example) but with more understanding there is the realisation of the complexity that is to be found in even in the most simple systems. Socially there is now much more cultural diversity and respect for cultural difference that also makes for a much more complex society. The speed of information technology and social media results in life styles that are just bombarded with more and more stuff. I think creative work is just reflecting all this. Some work is trying to simplify and offer something of the essence of all this 'noise' and underneath often a complex surface there is a more distilled centre - that might almost be minimal. (2013)

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On the use of computation in ceramics

No, I do not think contemporary ceramics has taken up on 3D printing. On the whole I do not think it is a distrust I think the technology has just not proved its self. It is however a chicken and egg situation. Without the drivers to develop the technology the ceramic community will not see what and if there is some potential in it. My analysis is it requires money and commitment to do the required development and this is lacking. Within 3D printing in general there are spurts of development as investment is put into it. There has been an explosion in public awareness of 3D printing in recent years because of the growth in DIY built machines. The technology has got to a point where enthusiasts could develop it with little financial investment but lots of time and expertise. While it is left to investors unless they can see an immediate payback it does not happen and this is the case with ceramics. Dentistry has been interested in ceramic for teeth but that technology has not really helped the studio world. The ceramic industry I am sure have looked at it and soon realise in the medium term it will not outperform the mass produced moulding techniques they use so are waiting for somebody else to put in the spade work. The strength of 3D printing is individual, unique objects. (2013)

There has been a lack of investment and development in ceramic 3D printing. Without the equipment we have not been able to see what a digital workflow and production might look like. There are just not the case studies out there to gain an appreciation and general understanding of what is on offer. I accept there is, particularly in studio ceramics with its emphasis on traditional making, a resistance to ideas of using technology and I guess digital technology definitely crosses that line. However looking around I think it is more that there are not the examples of ceramic work that has come out of a digital way of working that is more of a hindrance currently for the uptake of the process. (2013)

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On strengths and weaknesses

What I consider to be important is that an artist and/or designer make work that is an expression of their time. We live in a digital age so I would expect contemporary work to reflect contemporary life styles. In the realm of personal communication you cannot give up on handwritten letters in preference to email or text and then not expect producers of material culture to not also make use of the conveniences of their time. I don’t think it is necessarily important but I do not understand how they can avoid doing so. (2017)

The technology is developing very quickly so to talk of limitations is to very much set a statement in time. I would like to say the only limitation is the creative ability to get the most out of the process. However in more practical terms using the clay extrusion technique for printing there is the problem of the soft clay slumping when printing so round and curved forms have been limited but improvements are being made all the time. Clay powder type printing overcomes these problems but currently there are only high end machines and reports I have had is that they have technical problems. Studio based ceramic 3D printing is almost entirely done with extrusion type machines. (2015)

The positive is that it is a material with a huge history and tradition that it well respected the world over. While the 3D printing technique is new to the public, clay as a material is immediately understood and respected. Clay is easily recycled and is a cheap material to use in printing. It is a natural material and in its wet state, during printing and as a finished material has not health safety issues.
On the negative side clay has been difficult to adapt to 3D printing. Until it is dry it will not carry its own weight so there is difficulty in having clay at a consistency that it can build up in a print but then also hold its own weight shape. The technique of powder printing as in the Z Corps 3D machines overcome this problem but then the prints have the problems of not being strong enough in the firing process, that is a requirement of ceramics. (2015)

Currently the use of computer programs and technology further complicates the ceramic process, but computer technologies/programs/apps are becoming more user friendly all the time so it might not always be the case. I have also spoken about the need for the machines to evolve, and with that the ease of use will improve. In time I think it will be easier than making one off moulds. I think people will continue to hand build and throw because of what the maker gets out of the process. But certainly if it the end product and not the process that interests the artist then in time computer aided techniques will become more and more popular. (2013)

I have a very pragmatic attitude to using this technology and while there are many short comings there are no barriers as I chose always to work within my limitations. I am more interested in exploring my own creativity and this technology offers me new tools and a new working process that are exciting. The current shortcomings are limited scale and that the build is very vertically orientated. The software is open source. There certainly has been a huge learning curve but these are skills and knowledge I have gained over a period of time and that I want to know to enable me to fully understand and be able to use this technology in the most creative way I can. The initial setting up cost was helped through Grants for the Arts and thereafter the running costs are no more than conventional ceramic studio cost. (2012)

There is some way to go as my ceramic 3D printing is very primitive but my conceptual, formal and spatial language has certainly increased with the aid of digital tool. Whether beyond predictable dimensions I would not like to say. How many dimensions are we talking about, or are we not considering string theory?

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Open source community and building 3D printers

Ideas of 3D printing have been around a long time. While there have been recent significant developments at the high end that have rightly caught the media’s attention it has been the explosion of the lower, every day end of 3D printing technology that has caught the public’s imagination. I fear some media stories are getting over hyped and there is a glaring gap and misunderstanding between the public expectation and reality. Further, for me the real story is the driving factor behind this growth of the lower end of 3D printing and that has been the geeks, the hackers, the tinkerers and the enthusiast. The open source ethos practiced by this community has been vital in the proliferation and spread of knowledge around 3D printing. There is enough information out there on the internet for somebody with reasonable DIY skills to acquire all the bits, and while not fully understand all the complex computer engineering and software development, to put a working 3D printer together as I have done. (2014)

Annoyed and frustrated by 3D Systems buying out and then stopping the production of the RapMan 3D printer. This was the first kit printer Belgian design duo Unfold adapted to print with clay and has subsequently been copied and widely used by others. I decided to develop my own replacement 3D printer. Based on the delta type of 3D printer my aim was to use parts that can either be made with basic DIY tools and skills, or ordered off the internet. The design is specifically for printing in clay but could be adapted to work with other materials. Many other self build 3D printers use parts printed in plastic but with this project I did not want to be reliant on already having access to a 3D printer. The online build document is not a blue print for making a 3D printer but more my documentation of what I have done. My experience is as an artist and not as an engineer or computer specialist so I am sure there are many improvements that could be made but this is what works for me. By 3D printer standards this is a rather primitive tool set, but it does offer an accessible way into a very exciting new way of working with clay. Being more interested in what might be creatively produced with 3D printers I am happy to contribute openly to the growing knowledge based around clay and computerisation but it come with a warning. As difficult as it is to pull all the technology and computerisation together I suggest it is even more difficult to do something creative, fresh and meaningful with this technology. (2014)

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On Tradition

This is a point I feel very strongly about and is a question often asked – I see myself as a traditionalist and printing is not a treat it is just a development. Digital techniques offer new possibilities, they offer a new toolset for working in clay but traditional techniques will continue alongside digital techniques. I do not see why it has to be either or, there is enough diversity in ceramic practice for all. Not everybody will want to get involved in working digitally and I believe some practitioners will always chose other ways of working for the satisfaction derived by the process and the specific aesthetic qualities they offer. For example slip casting is much more efficient than throwing but thrown pots remain because people enjoy making them and using them. I don’t see why this will change just because there is a new technique on offer. (2015)

I consider traditional craft and digital technology to co-exist. Digital techniques offer new ways of working that are not in competition with traditional techniques but just extend the possibilities. It is not an either/or, they co-exist as it is about using the correct mode of production for the job you want to do. Sometimes digital techniques will be more efficient and other times tradition techniques will be the only way to get the result you want. (2015)

While I do not see printing as necessarily a threat to traditional practices I do think it is a game changer – it is going to enable many more people to work in clay who previously did not. I have spoken of new opportunities and I think it is still too early to see what these might be. But people without knowledge of how to make things in clay will be able to make objects in clay. Objects can be quickly realised in computer software and made into physical objects, so speed and flexibility of single item production will change. Using a digital format offers the easy transfer of digital data from any source such as scanning so we can expect new and different ways of generating ceramic form. None of this is a threat it will just expand what in time will become the new tradition. (2015)

I am a great traditionalist and just see the digital work as an extension of what I have been doing. It is a new way of working but before long will become tradition. While the forms of my work might make use of digital computation the output, the printing can be thought of as computerised coil building. Coil building being almost the oldest way of making pots. (2015)

I could not disagree that and interdisciplinary approach would not help but I would suggest equally important is the need to cut through the jargon and hype around digital techniques and ground these techniques back to everyday creative practice. They are just a new tool box to include with all the old stuff and the correct tool must be used for the correct job. It not one or the other it integration as you imply. (2015)

I do not differentiate between tradition and new ways of working. Two things, firstly what seems new now will in time become traditional, tradition is a continuum so I just get on with what is at hand. Then secondly the important thing is to use the right technique for the right job. I consider good skill is to have the ability to use the correct tool for the correct job. Sometimes that might be a computer aided tool, sometimes it might be an analogue or hand operated tool. (2017)

I see the new ways of working that are on offer through increased computation, digital techniques, as an add on. They will not necessarily take over but be incorporated into traditional ways of working. Traditional handcraft techniques have been lost as much by cultural change, by changes in consumption patterns, changes in economic patterns, leisure activities and labour values as by changes in digital technology. (2017)

No I do not see 3D printing as becoming the ‘main’ method of making but it will be part of the mix. Weaving and knitting still hold out against each other on the high street, as much as the hand thrown pot and the mass produced moulded pot do. People like variety. Objects are much more complex than just how they are made. (2017)

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On Skill

I think the skills will be different. There is a lot of skill in good 3D software modelling or computer coding. Then if you think just within traditional skills a contemporary maker does not have the skills of say an African person who has only made coil pots all their lives. Skills are continually being lost but also gained, and then not only between generations but also between cultures. Notions of ‘making’ continually changes and I am more interested in what is made rather than necessarily how it is made. However highly skilled work might be if it is uninteresting or irrelevant or does not communicate the skill alone will not make it good work. (2015)

I am a long way off being fluent but I have been using 3D computer modelling programs for about 12 years on and off, and (trying) to work in computer code for about 5 years. Being self taught it has been slow and much trial and error. (I started working on the pottery wheel at school and so have been throwing for nearly 40 years, good skills take time) (2013)

I consider myself reasonably well skilled in ceramic techniques and do not see printing as giving up traditional skills but a development of new skills. (If I did not have the skills in the first place it could be a different situation) I think it will depend how you use 3D printing as to its sensibilities. I am using it to extend my established practice so I see it as a continuation of my exploration of ceramic form. I’ve used the pottery wheel as a tool to create forms, I’ve used the coil building technique when relevant and now I am using digitally aided technology. Certainly I would say 3D ceramic printing offers a new way of giving form to clay. In the past one would think of three ways of working – handbuilding, as in coiling, slab building, pinching or a combination. Then secondly throwing on the pottery wheel and thirdly moulding in its many forms. Making forms through 3D printing does not fit any of these categories and if there is a new sensibility it is as a fourth way of forming clay. (2012)

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On the hand

I have made pots since I was at school so for over 40 years and while I love clay, and working with clay by hand I also really like ceramic ‘form’ and it is how you can generate form in computer code that really interests me. Once you are using digital computation to make your ideas the 3D printer is then needed to get your ideas out of the computer and into clay objects. So I have no option but to use a 3D printer. There is still a lot of handwork involved in my work. I have spent years making pots with my hands so the 3D printer makes for a pleasant change. (2017)

My answer is that making by hand in a developed Western Economy is a romantic folly and an academic ideal. It might offer individuality and uniqueness but I would suggest you will be very hard pushed to earn anywhere near an average UK wage from what you make. All my digital work is unique and individual because each time I run the computer code that generates my forms they are different. Digital production is not without individuality and uniqueness and as for the uniqueness of the hand, by the time the selling point of a plate of chips is because they are ‘hand cut’ it rather loses any relevance. (2015)

The shape of the vessels I make come out of the digital techniques I use, the calculations of the computer code so if that was to fail I would not have the imagination to think of the shapes in the first place. I use the making technique I do because it is the only way to realise the ideas that go into the coding. I would not make the same work if I was still making by hand. (2015)

I am just as attached to my 3D printed pots as I was to my analogue or handmade pots. You need to remember I have made all the tools necessary to make the object. It is the form and look of the object that I am interested in, as well as the ideas behind the object and the digital tools are just enabling me to expand on those ideas and qualities. The 3D printer is not some machine I just hand over the production to, it is part of my tool base along with the kiln and the computer on which I draw/generated the objects. My hand skills are good and I have worked long enough in ceramics to have gone beyond the point of thinking, hey I have made that with my own hands. (2014)
No, I would not use the term hand-made in association with my digital work. Ironically often the finishing that is all done by hand takes longer than the mechanical print! From start to finish the hand, heart and eye is used just as much as with other ways of working. The work I made before using digital techniques I would also not talk about as being hand- made either. It’s just such a loaded term that I avoid it. Mass produce moulded work is designed with irregularities and ‘throwing rings’ to make it look ‘hand-made’ and to trade on the perceived value of the hand made. The hand-made is a complex term. In a market driven society it has taken on all sorts of commercial values – hand fried crisps for examples has wonderfully managed to devalue its populist use. I understand the essence of the term to be about valuing the makers individual expression and the uniqueness of each piece made by hand. A value system that has grown up around the ceramic studio movement and I would suggest the hand-made label will not be appropriate for digital work. (2013)

I feel the term hand-made has been devalued to a point it should not be used. Reference the use of handmade in advertising to give value, hand fried crisps. I would suggest the use of the word ‘hand’ in the term is trying to say maker’s personal expression and individuality. Values that are not imposable to obtain using digital technologies. It is all dependent on how the artist uses the technology. The pottery wheel is a piece of technology that had been used for years. It can be used in a mechanistic lifeless manner or it can be used as a tool for the artist to express themselves with. Digital tools will be the same. They could be used in a way that there is no personal communication between the artist and the audience, the equivalent of the mechanistic lifeless thrown pot. Or they can be used sensitively where the viewer gains a reading of the artist’s intentions. I hope the term hand-made will just get dropped from use within contemporary ceramics and a more diverse and all encompassing value system and terminology be used. Although naturalized British and having grown up in a foreign culture I do think the UK has an unhelpful and outdated desire to hold onto notions of the hand made. Hopefully a technologically rich contemporary ceramic scene will help expand the vocabulary and evaluation of ceramic art and design in time. (2013)

If somebody was to challenge me on the grounds of craft and that the piece was not made by hand that that would be fine by me. I do not have a hang-up about the handmade. Often it actually takes me longer with hand skills to finish off a piece than it takes the machine to build the form in the first place. That is because the machine is rather primitive. I am sure they will improve. Quite a bit has been written on the 'craft of coding' - the consideration of the craft required to use computer code that possibly has more relevance to how craft should be considered in the modern age rather than just thinking handmade. The removal of the human hand from the direct making is a point to be discussed but I don't think is a qualitative judgement but one of difference. The work needs to be considered in a different context. The creative input of the artist is just different. An undercurrent that I am trying to think through is that by extension the hand is part of that natural system I talked about right at the beginning. In ceramics there is the tradition of the artist attempting to take their ego out of the work and allowing their hand to be at one with nature. I am trying to use the computer to explore how we can mimic those natural systems and gain a similar understanding of nature. (2013)

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On material

Material understanding is not diminished as the printer is only the tool of production and the material properties need to be understood to get a good result from the tool. Too often people think they just need to know how to use the machine but certainly in my case it is because of my material knowledge and experience of many different clay working techniques that has enabled me to progress successfully with ceramic 3D printing. (2015)

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On process

I leave the mark where the printer layers up the ceramics because it is part of the process and my work is a lot about process. From generation, to production to finish (glaze) I want each process to build the content around the finished work so marks made by the tools are left as a reflection of the making. I must say the ‘layering’ in additive manufacture/3D printing is a very strong visual quality and I am getting a little tired of it and am trying to think of ways to move on from it. So while I am pragmatic about my working techniques I am also constantly looking for ways to develop. I think it will be good to make some composite works where the layering will be set at different angels to create another dynamic. It would also be interesting to see if in the software the density of the layering could be varied. Basically I want to work with the process rather than deny the qualities intrinsic to this way of working. (2014)

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On technology

What are you going to do with this technology? I always make the point - as difficult as all the 3D print technology and technical development is it is even harder to do something sensible and meaningful with it. Designers, artists and makers need to rethink their objects taking into account the strengths of this technology such as the ability to customise or iterate, make developing variations. For them to work through ideas quickly making use of the ever increasing computer toolsets available and then when it comes to making, to us materials in a very efficient manner. For good or bad certain tradition techniques will need to be reassess, to consider whether 3D printing is going to supersede the labour intensive hand skills. (2016)

No I do not think new technologies will take over from traditional techniques. I see it as a toolset to be added to and combined with traditional techniques but I do not see it as threat. In time these new ways of working will just be considered tradition as things move along. Traditional techniques as an indicator of the human desire to make beautiful things will remain. Now that there can be tools in the craft studio that make use of the amazing power of computer computation, like in every other sphere of modern life they will only add to the ways of making things. (2015)

I have been working in clay for over 30 years and my work has always been noticeable for its form. I like the very bodily, tactile emotional response form offers and so have used most traditional ceramic techniques to give form to clay. I am a competent thrower and enjoy coil building - a bit like drawing in three dimensional space. It was the forms I could make on computer that has led me to using 3D printing. Then the need to get this information out of the computer. If you think about it 3D printing is just mechanised coil building. My tacit knowledge of working in clay and making large forms (1 meter high) with coil building have been invaluable to developing the ceramic 3D printing. I do not get too hung up with the meaning of the technology as I treat it as just another tool set at the artist’s disposal. As with any tool you need to consider what its strengths are and to try and use those to the best of your ability. A knife used to cut clay is a technology, the potter’s wheel, the kiln is all technology. This is just a new technology. (2013)

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On teaching and learning

I would prefer not to say yes or no as I think it depends on the individual as to whether they will learn to work digitally. Somebody who is open to putting in the time to learning software and digital techniques can easily make the transition and with their traditional training will be the better for it. Most I would guess will be reticent to put in the time to learn the new skills if they already have the old skills. I would suggest this is more about the younger generation being of the digital age and ready trained people feeling of a different time. (2015)

I have found YouTube incredibly helpful for learning digital techniques especially software. YouTube is also how I have distributed and shared my knowledge. (2015)

Access to the tools both hard and soft is primary, then ease of use and preferably open source. Also access to output tools that are not prohibitively expensive. If the stuff is available then the advantages can be seen by students and they will teach themselves to use the technology. Peer learning has proved to be very successful in this field. (2015)

It’s chicken and egg - until you have a digital file the 3D printer is an irrelevance. The first thing you have to do is make students literate with generating digital files, software, software, software, the part that is hard and takes time. (2015)

It about ‘ways of working’. You need the toolset to express yourself and that requires digital information to be feed to the machines. The most relevant skill will be to be able to generate digital files, be that directly in code or more likely through the interface of a software program. (2015)

All I can suggest is try not to teach it as a highly technical and skilled mysterious science. Digital fabrication has a very basic underlying logic of moving in the x, y and z dimensions in 3D space. Because of the computational ability of computers this can become very complex. Personally I would teach on ‘build yourself’ or the most ‘basic’ machines (3D printers, milling machines and cutting machines) so the whole process is very obvious to the student. So the student can see it as tool that they can be understand and use in a creative manner rather than some closed box with and on off switch. (2015)

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On collaboration

The benefit of collaborating with others is it takes you to places that individually you would not go. Good collaborations are about coming up with a sort of third way that is neither yours nor the collaborators but a genuine synthesis of all involved. (2017)

No it is not important for me to always collaborate, most of my work is my own and not in a collaborative partnership. I do not seek out collaborations but somehow they happen – I think when you have respect for the other parties it just makes sense to do something together. Also the act of creative activity can often be quite solitary so it makes a change to share it with somebody. (2017)

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On value

I am careful with my files but I would be amused if somebody was to use my designs to create their own ceramics. It would be just like coping any other form of work. Hans Coper, Bernard leach’s work has all been copied, faked, it would be the same. When I exhibited my work last year in Copenhagen I published the code that produced the work as part of the exhibition. My thinking is it is like the text of a book. The author is the creator of that text and once published it draws a line in the sand saying this is my idea do not copy it. What I need to do is document my output well to protect people interested in buying my work. That is why I would be amused because the coping is all about the market place, and while I need an income to live from the art market is something else from the production or creativity of artworks – or it is in my eyes. I know there are artists where the motivation for work is about the market but that is not my interest. (2014)

There is the notion that machine made is lesser in value than hand-made. It has its roots in the industrial revolution and the romantic notions of the ‘arts and crafts movement’. I have yet to work out where digitally based ceramic work is going to fall on this divide. I think it will end up both sides. There will be work that for whatever reason gets categorized with the mass produced and there will be work that is seen as unique. I don’t think digitally based methods will necessarily alter the intrinsic value of ceramic work. I think it will just slowly become a new tool set available to the ceramic artist and designer. The resultant works commercial and aesthetic value will be more about the context of the work. Where it is placed, marketed and what the intentions of the creator are will offer the value. (2013)

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On public reaction

I am still trying to work this one out. Just at the moment there is so much hype around 3D printing that I think people just ‘marvel’ at the thought – that actually is very basic, just computerised coil building. Coil building being one of the oldest pottery techniques there are. For gallery owners the ‘story’ is useful to try and help sell the work. It pushes all the buttons of new and novel, and of the moment. As with your question about file sharing however, I am going to have to be careful to retain uniqueness in my works. Obviously there is the point that once mechanically done the public could think mass production. I think what is useful in my case is I have a good body of work behind me and the new work is an ongoing development so I would like to think I can take the public with me. Ultimately the fact that the objects are 3D printed is less of the story than using digital techniques to generate the work in the first place. I don’t expect the work to be interesting just because it is 3D printed. (2014)

I think it is too early to judge. My experience is that the public as yet just, one - do not understand what they are looking at and two - do not have a context with which to judge it by. Currently the ceramic 3D printing method is slow so the industry is not seeing production potential. It is expensive to have somebody else do the printing so for designers it is an expensive option and then to what end. So in my opinion it is makers who are going to drive this technique. People interested in what can be made with this technology as individual unique pieces. Ultimately I think it will just show how versatile ceramics can be. (2013)

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On the future

I do not do futurology. What I can say is I have worked with ceramic 3D printing for four years now and I do not understand why it is not being picked up on faster as it is a really interesting way of working. It is not going to change industrial or mass produced ceramics in the near future but for one off objects, unique objects, customised objects and small batch ceramics there is an interesting future. (2015)

Personally I use the technique because of the way that I generate my work and that is by using computer code. I am interested in how computer code can be use to mimic or copy natural codes and systems. I am concerned with the link between art and nature. From me the work to come will be more exploration of those patterns and mathematical phenomenon that underlies our natural world. The aim is to find the beautiful in all of this and to reinforce just how closely we are connected to the natural world. (2015)

I have no immediate predictions for ceramics. There are still some quite major technical problems to be sorted out before any shape imagined can be well printed in clay. So the evolution of effective machines still needs to take place. All I can say it offers a fascinating way of working and in time we will see some extraordinary things made in clay with this technology. It will not become the dominant forming technique but it will be added to the techniques we have, offering a fourth way - moulding, throwing, hand building and then printing. (Current technical problems are scale, supporting of forms while printing and surface quality) (2013)

The logic would be for ceramic cafes to have ceramic printers, if we are talking about clay printing. The public could then design their own stuff and have the cafe do the dirty work. I think the idea of 3D printers for general use in every home is over hyped. Lots of people might get them but I am yet to be convinced that they will be very busy. There will need to be a fundamental change in design mentality of all products before we will be making our own replacement parts, or making goods from scratch. There is something there, change is on its way but I am also reading lots of ill thought through predictions. Most items are made of many different materials, but multi material printers will be very complex and expensive. Further, technical skills and training is one thing but motivation is another. Why would people bother? You can make your own food and that is technically not very difficult but to what level do people do it. Motivation and lifestyles is a whole other level, as it will be with making things on your 3D printer. (2013)

It will enable designers and artists who are not ceramic specialists to be able to have one off or short run ceramic products produced easier. However I would suggest there is some way to go before an economically viable ceramic printing bureau could be established. The hardware is not there yet.
For artist who see themselves as ceramic specialist it offers a new way of working and we will have to wait and see how that developers. User friendly accessibility is again a problem.
I will add that as difficult as it is to deal with the technology and refining the materials and process to find a relevant visual language to use this technology for is more difficult. (2012)

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The Fourth Way

Within a pottery or ceramics context I would suggest 3D printing offers a new and fourth way of making in clay. Clay has no intrinsic form of its own. It requires some kind of manipulation to make it into more than a lump of stuff. In broad terms I have always previously thought of three approaches to working in clay. Handbuilding, that includes pinching, coiling, slabbing and all its combinations. In each case the resultant form takes on the character of the technique used. Slab made forms having a different quality from coil built forms. Then secondly there is throwing on the potter’s wheel, a more mechanical process where the forms are strongly influenced by the nature of the revolving machine. And finally the third the process of moulding, in all its many forms where the clay is either supported until hard or pushed into shape on or by a former. Now we have 3D Printing. It is not moulding as there are no moulds to be made. There are elements of throwing but the process hugely extends the limitations of the revolving pot. I have referred to my printing process as a sort of mechanical coiling but I don't think you can call it handbuilding! I am suggesting 3D printing in clay, and however it develops will become recognised as a fourth way of transforming formless clay into desirable ceramic shapes and forms.

One of the oldest ways to make pots is with coils of clay and to build up the pot layer by layer. This is what I am doing but combining it with 21st century digital technology. By taking a basic DIY 3D printer design and adapting it to print with clay I can get the virtual forms I have created out of the computer and into the physical world as real ceramic objects to be felt and held in the hand. Touch is such an important sensation in my opinion. This is an exciting new way to work. Computerised 3D printing is nothing new but the availability and price of printers is what has changed, to the point of becoming the kind of equipment you will find in the pottery studio alongside the potter’s wheel. Like all tools, like the pottery wheel, it is then how the artist uses this equipment that is of interest to me. I seek to engage with the 3D printing process and to manipulate it towards my own ends to craft the forms I am looking for. (2013)

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