When given the opportunity to interview any artist featured in the gallery, my mind immediately jumped to Joan and Jack Hardie of Printed Pots. Their display of ceramics in the gallery have been my favourite for a while now. I love the way that they have combined art and technology to create a beautiful precision in their work. Joan and Jack use a 3D printer they adapted to use with clay to print ceramics that still mimic natural forms. I asked if they would be happy to answer some questions about their work and inspiration, this was their response.
What was it that first made you start painting/creating?
We took up pottery almost fifty years ago. Back then it was easy to get started – almost every school had a potter’s wheel, a kiln and an underpaid pottery teacher who was delighted to put on evening classes.
Who influenced your art in the beginning?
In the beginning – nobody at all. We were influenced by what we saw around us, the clay itself and what we could do with it. We very slowly became aware of the traditions of world ceramics and the resurgence of English craft pottery that was happening at the time. I can still remember the African and medieval English pots in the former Museum of Mankind in London and my first encounter with Sung Dynasty celadon bowls in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. We still dip some of our pieces in a celadon glaze just like those old Chinese potters.
Who/what influences you now?
We’re still influenced by the world around us and by constant feedback from a new making method (3D ceramic printing) that often frustrates, frequently surprises and occasionally delights.
Could you describe your working methods?
Put aside the 3D printer and the computer and our methods are nothing unusual. Look about, get a vague idea, scribble on paper, refine a design, mix-up some clay by hand, run a trial print, throw it in the recycle bin and start again. If the piece gets through the throw-away stage then we think about the firing and if the pot is asking us to glaze it.
What materials do you use and why?
We started 3D printing with stoneware clay because we like the high-fired texture and because it’s ‘plastic’ – it stays put when you push it. Later we moved to porcelain which is much less controllable and sometimes seems to have a mind of its own. Porcelain extends the colour range and allows us to mix colour into the clay. Sometimes we use two colours which will weave and mix unpredictably.
How have you used technology to enhance your designs?
Developing ideas on-screen in a 3D computer aided design package is surprisingly like working hands-on with clay. You can push, stretch, twist, cut and scale. You can look from all sides and spin your design around on the screen. The shapes that emerge often have a natural feel to them because that’s how we think and because the 3D space on the screen is designed to follow the same rules as the everyday space that we live in.
What struggles have you faced when trying to take a creative process and turn it into a business pursuit?
Pottery is very time consuming and 3D printing doesn’t change that – in fact it eats up more time. And a successful business requires the same sort of creative energy that you’d put into making a pot or painting a picture. Everyone has to learn to allocate their time and energy in a way that works for them.
What advice could you give to aspiring makers and/or artists?
Don’t be afraid of doing it wrong. Don’t be ashamed of being a learner, part-timer or creative amateur. Mess about, make loads of stuff and don’t pay too much attention to what anyone else is doing.
A selection of their work is available from our online shop