108: new/old modes of production
108 cups – finding joy in humble, but unique cups
In 2016 Eden Café at Otago Polytechnic banned service of coffee in disposable takeaway cups to stop 1000 paper cups heading to landfill each week. This inspired a re-consideration of the vessels used to serve coffee. In response and in order to enhance the café experience, Otago Polytech ceramics students created 40 ceramic cups for the cafe.
In 2017 I decided to continue this project by creating a further 108 hand thrown cups for Eden Café . These cups are made from Dunedin-sourced clay bodies and/or clay bodies prepared by ourselves.
Being an avid coffee drinker myself I had never much liked take-away cups or mass produced white cups/glasses made by industrial mass production.
I felt inspired to introduce others to a more human experience – unique and handcrafted: each cup feeling different from the next; challenging expectations on what vessels are used in a café; finding joy in a humble, but unique cup; and creating a special experience.
In some way this provides a daily escape from the capitalist machine: a small but perhaps significant jolt away from mass production and consumption.
My aim is to instil a desire for the hand crafted, against the mass produced. Today there is a tendency for the handcrafted to be expensive, reserved for ‘posh’ people. Yet here I aim to show that we can escape the mass-produced, by providing handcrafted, locally made cups.
Of course learning to throw was another aspect, but I did not hope to learn to become a production potter – imperfections and differences are desired features.
I chose six different coloured glazes to represent the six senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch and extrasensory perception. To emphasise different throwing technologies I threw half the cups on a kick wheel (past/future), the other half on an electric wheel (present). To ensure a human future I only use safe, non-toxic materials. All glazes are free from toxic metal oxides such as cadmium, manganese and cobalt. All cups are stoneware and gas reduction fired to 1280 °C.
When the Sustain Exhibition (December 2017) to raise money for the Dunedin Night Shelter was mooted I immediately felt inspired to throw 108 bowls and donate all of the proceeds to the Night Shelter.
My aim was to make the bowls affordable and beautiful, with each one unique, but similar enough so people could buy ‘sets’ of them.
I decided to use only three glazes: a classic Hamada Green; Rye’s Old Yellow (my variation of the Old Yellow glaze), and a blue Chun from a recipe provided by my friend RIchard.
Again to ensure our human future I only use safe, non-toxic materials. All glazes are free All bowls are stoneware, gas reduction fired to 1280 °C.
Why 108? I needed a number!
The number 108 is imbued with significance in a number of spiritual traditions, from Vedic India to old Germanic Sagas, from ancient Peru to ancient Rome, as well as having astronomical significance.
108 – the distance of the Earth from the Sun is about 108 times the diameter of the Sun
108 – the number of possible feelings as described in Buddhist thought