My research and work are at the forefront of a trend where both industry and design play roles in studio art practice. I am an advocate of this approach and endeavor to continue researching this subject by exploring models throughout Europe, particularly in Scandinavia.
Through my work, I strive to inform my audience of who I am as an artist, educator and human being. I am interested in reaching beyond the confines of the art world and interacting with a variety of individuals from around the world. Our knowledge of the objects used in the dining ritual, and their assigned functions, which is born of historical usage and innate familiarity, is limiting and lacks creativity and vision. I explore the possibility of changing the way we treat the vital ritual of dining. By designing functional tableware, I seek to direct the eye, hand and mouth to treat food differently.
My work raises awareness of the situation and sparks contemplation before merely devouring the elements. I am focused on creating new ways of containing and using these functional objects. I question function through combining the common and understood methods of use, and proposing new formats. I take simple objects, functions or aspects, and combine opposing elements through multiplicity, size or orientation. A prime example that puts my vision into practice is utilizing the concept of the waiters’ serving tray and morphing it together with an enlarged spoon to create a truly unique appetizer platter.
I continuously pose questions to myself that enhance the guidelines and starting points. By broadening my scope, the possibilities for containing or displaying food become endless. It is easy to get stuck on the idea that a cup or bowl must take on a specific shape in order to serve its purpose. I do not really think in those limiting terms anymore. I focus my energies on thinking about a container, without preconceived ideas, and I know that my container can be any shape or size that I desire.
My pieces are influenced by the objects that surround me or that I surround myself with. I find inspiration in architecture, nature, shapes, and non-ceramic design. I see myself rediscovering function through the process of design. I sometimes make a particular vessel with a specific use in mind, and later find enjoyment when a user surprises me with their unexpected intended use. In this way, the user also has an effect on my work and development.
I do not feel the need to utilize unnecessary decoration on the surface of my work, but rather to embrace the clarity and simplicity of the forms. The decoration I do use emerges from necessary process. The essential step of waxing the bottoms of ceramic work, for example, becomes the decorative element.
It is interesting to find that others are surprised at how much my hand is used in the making of each piece. The aesthetic or hand of the artist and the clay itself are not always evident to outside viewers. In my need for clarity and refinement, decoration or process are always erased, sanded away, or removed. My work consists of carefully considered forms and highly refined surfaces.
One might ask why I do not just have my pieces mass-produced, however, I enjoy my present circumstances because they afford me the ability to use my personal aesthetic while hinting at the ideas of contradiction and the industrial hand. My creative approach combines industrial clarity with unique artistic execution that requires intense amounts of handling. Even though it may look simple, it is not easy. The clarity and finish on my pieces is intensive, time consuming and laborious. Each piece is generally handled and refined so much that it looks like I never touched it.
Essentially I desire to make my ideas known, popular, valued, and understood through the use and development of my objects and teaching. I welcome design as a source and not as an adversary. I find it crucial to know what is going on in the artistic community, so that I can stay fresh in my own work, and so that I am able to participate in scholarly discussions in the field. I yearn to be challenged, and I try to achieve this by challenging others. People interact with my work, and I interact with them through it.
I am interested in changing how ceramic design practices are seen in America and how American studio designers are viewed abroad. I have willingness to look beyond our borders and traditions for answers, ideas, and stimulation. By broadening the conversation artistically, socially, politically, and geographically, I will be a part of the movement to train the new generation of artists who are reacting to this post digital time. I am focused on forming a new curriculum with new ideas and models for the development of design, not only to attain my own artistic goals, but also to pass along these findings to my peers, mentors, and students in the United States and abroad. My future goals include developing a ceramic design collective where I will be the principle designer, continuing on my quest for a design-oriented ceramic aesthetic, and becoming a full-time professor at the university level so that I may continue to push the limitations in the fields of ceramics, design, art and craft.
Heather Mae Erickson
“The Industrial Hand: Tableware Design”