Michael Eden brings 18th century Wedgwood forms into the 21st century in his most recent exhibition History Re-printed (November 21- March 28, 2016), a commission for the Holburne Museum in Bath, England. He took inspiration from the museum’s collection and wove the risks and variables of studio pottery-process into these digitally created counterparts. The series began in 2006 and compares an icon of the first industrial revolution with the current “new” industrial revolution brought on by Additive Manufacturing technologies, like 3D printing.
Above Image: Michael Eden, History Reprinted Exhibition, Made by Additive Layer Manufacturing from a high quality nylon material with a blue soft mineral coating.
“A well-respected and established potter, Michael Eden completed an MPhil at the Royal College of Art in 2008, concentrating on the development of a new body of work that explored the abstract qualities of the container. Utilizing and developing the combination of drawing, 3D software, traditional hand skills, and digital technology, his research brought together revolutionary tools and materials for the first time and the launch of his Wedgwoodn’t Tureen. Since then Michael has continued to push digital technology further producing more complex and larger works whilst staying true to his original intention that each piece should be a unique object.” (Adrian Sassoon Gallery)
In an essay, Eden explains the risks in digital processes,
“As a maker whose life has spanned the digital divide, going from whittling sticks to whittling voxels, there is a temptation to be wowed by the truly fabulous box of tricks that I sat in front of right now as I write this. But, technological enchantment leads down the slippery slope to the ‘media of attractions’ as being ‘Artefacts of digital culture whose appeal is essentially their perceived novelty. They attract less for what they mean than for the fact that they are’ (Lunenfeld 2001: 173).”
Similar to “technological enchantment,” ceramics with all its love, loss, function, transformation and intimacy can also create a hypnotizing effect, but one rooted in romance rather than novelty. Eden takes the romance of ceramics and weaves it into the 3D design process, revealing a connection between Eden’s work as a studio potter and his work as a digital potter.
Eden continues, telling how he gives life to objects born from digital process:
“In order for [design software] to be efficient and effective, the program designers have created numerous shortcuts, where for instance, any user can easily produce geometric primitives after some very basic introductory training. The risk has been removed. Having come to the software after years spent giving life to clay, I am trying to apply the same sensibility to objects through the mouse and keyboard. The process normally starts with the creation of simple shapes, but then the challenge begins where I am improvising, using tools in ways that they may or may not be intended for. And that is where the risk comes in.”
The History Re-printed exhibition achieves a brilliant balance, not overpowered with novelty or romance, but elegantly integrating the concepts. He uses Additive Manufacturing (AM), regarded as the new Industrial Revolution, to recreate an object from the first industrial revolution. He strips the object of its containing properties, transforming it into an icon for the time period and juxtaposes the traditional form with a new sculptural design. His updated forms are only now achievable as manufactured items with the advent of technologies like digital design and 3D printing. Additionally, Eden’s sculptures are one-of-a-kind, highlighting some major benefits in this second coming of the industrial revolution – rapid prototyping, customization, and uniqueness.
If we were unsure how this technology is going to change the world, Eden presents the future of manufacturing in a tight comparative package, with compelling form, surface, and color. Initially the objects are as mysterious as new processes themselves, but the art slowly reveals and educates. Making exciting, mysterious, candy-coated art may be the perfect strategy to transform the digital-age luddites into supporters of Additive Manufacturing, the future of industry.
Justin Crowe is a Writer and Director of Operations at cfile.
What do you think of Michael Eden’s reimagined Wedgwood pottery? Tell us in the comments!