Inspired by one potter’s superhuman feats of production, London artist Ian McIntyre challenged himself to produce one ton of white clay wares. The project was commissioned by the Jerwood Makers Open 2015.
A Ton of Clay is comprised of hundreds of stacked plates and bowls. The work is a nod to Isaac Button, a 20th century production potter who was somewhat of a legend for his ability to throw a ton of clay pots in one day, a kind of Paul Bunyan of the kiln. McIntyre made his works on a Jigger Jolley machine, which uses molds that have no discernable end point. The clay “creeps” toward the edge of the mold, and results in wares that have naturally uneven edges.
McIntyre told the journal Cereal that Button represents a point where craft, design, and production exist within a closely-knit system. Button’s works were cheap and were considered somewhat disposable, but McIntyre was fascinated by the constraints the earlier potter thrived under. Button made a living making pots for feeding chickens, for storing grain, and for cooking. These works all bear unique marks of their production.
“It’s this transparency of process and insight into the material that captivates me, not least because it manifests within seemingly anonymous utilitarian objects,” he told the journal.
McIntyre fabricated the work over four months. Button kept up his titan production output with an entire building to fire his works, but McIntyre’s Ton was made on a tiny kiln. He told Cereal that he made more than 900 pieces, focusing on bowls and plates because he wanted the wares to be “workhorses,” much like the project’s patriarch and McIntyre’s preferred method of blending industrial design and craft.
McIntyre has a background in product design and applied art and uses a mix of industrial design and craft skills in his works. He’s collaborated with the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, the British Council, Another Country, Wrong for HAY, The London Design Festival, Officine Panerai and the Victoria and Albert Museum. He is a guest tutor for Kingston University and is studying a collaborative PhD at Manchester Metropolitan University, York Art Gallery and the British Ceramics Biennial.
What do you think of McIntyre’s hybrid of contemporary ceramic art and industrial design? Let us know in the comments.