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O'Neill, C-J., 2019.

Clay Networks: connecting to others through making, mapping and combination

Output Type:Artefact
Venue:Stoke-On-Trent and Cardiff

The community of practice connected to 3D print in clay is generous with shared knowledge - largely open source this leads to incredibly interesting work and objects - but how do we acknowledge the unseen others that are present in the resulting objects?  Can digital technology, so often associated with developing online networks, actually help to facilitate more meaningful connections to others if combined with making in clay?
The research investigated the connections within this community of practice - and beyond - materialising these through printed clay objects in a series of different ways at the British Ceramics Biennial 2019. Crossing the boundaries of material culture and contemporary ceramic practice - drawing on theories of materialising the self (Tilley, 2006), actor-network theory (Latour, 2005) and dispersed creativity (Leach, 2004) - the research unites these disparate approaches in a socially engaged practice to materialise new insights to the field through making.
Working with a 3d clay printer1 developed from Jonathan Keep's delta design, an experimental residency at Spode interrogated through practice, issues of authorship, collective learning and collaboration. Responding to material, mould, people and context - a network of objects emerged that began to acknowledge the valuable (sometimes unseen) others in the work we do by making each connection between individuals who had contributed to the knowledge gained to bring the project to this point tangible in clay.
During a series of workshops across four sites of the Biennial, staff and visitors were documented in silhouette in the same way, thereby extending this initial community to include each person encountering the project. The process encouraged a curiosity and a finding of another who we may otherwise not have met - the resulting objects could not have been made in any other way. This was not simply about printing clay objects, individuals within the mass were documented and made physical, materialising the digital, demonstrating the networks that can be built through making and highlighting the valuable others in the objects we encounter.
The project was presented as a keynote at the CoCA symposium and printed objects have become part of collections at Wedgwood Museum, Potteries Museum & Gallery, Middleport Pottery and Cardiff Metropolitan University.
1 This printer was built by Rudi Morris, Annie Crowe and Duggie Reid at Manchester School of Art, and developed from Jonathan Keeps' open source plans with detailed advice from Lauri Kilusk and Madis Kaasik of Estonian Academy of Art. Plans are available for use by others.