In 20I4 I was invited by Stephen Grimmer to be part of a 3D Printing residency at Medalta, a ceramic residency program in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. The idea of the residency was to use the tech and printer that was developed by John Balistreri and Greg Pugh to design and make ceramic objects.
I hadn’t been thinking about that 3D print process at all, so I needed to figure a way in, objects to make that made sense for the ideas in my work. I was having a retrospective at the time, and was aware that people who were viewing the work at the museum did one of two things: they either tried to touch the work, or tried to hear the echo of their voice as they sang or spoke into the larger vessels. I was intrigued by this, and thought that since my work is all about the sense of touch, I’d explore how sound might be an idea to play with.
I asked Titilayo Ngwenya, a wonderful singer that I know, to sing into the vessels. We recorded her voice, and used the sound patterns as a building block for the 3D prints. We made the sound waves into 3D spindles, and then built cylinders on the computer using the Maya platform. These cylinders were then manipulated into tea bowl forms. Due to the limitations of the size of the prints, I didn’t’ want the pieces to feel like ‘models’ of the ceramic forms I make. I wanted the prints to be in a scale of 1:1, so the tea bowl was a perfect form to play with.
We printed 6 different tea bowls at Medalta. I brought them back to my studio in Dartmouth, MA, and fired them in my anagama wood kiln. I was interested in taking a 21st century technology and mixing it up with a 16th century firing process. I wanted to bring the ‘hand’ back into it, and by using wood firing as a means of finishing the work, the coldness of the process of the printing came alive with the process of firing. The idea that originally formed from the pieces at my retrospective came full circle, playing with both touch and sound, all in a 3D printed piece.
After Medalta, the technology was purchased by Tethon 3D in Omaha, Nebraska. I went out to work at their facility with Greg Pugh in 2015 and made 60 different tea bowl prints. I’m currently in the process of firing them.
This entire project was a good one for me, getting me thinking in ways that opened a new door with my work. I think the difficulty in 3D printing is how do you bring the process into your work, where the technology offered actually adds to the ideas you’re working with? Most 3D printing that I see in clay is cold, not having a lot of connection to ideas. It seems more tech and process based, more about the ‘wow’. What’s interesting to me is how to reconcile the 3D printing process with the ideas. It was a great project to ask that question.