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Build Back Better

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posted on 09.03.2020 by Zoe Hillyard

Ceramic patchwork is a creative and distinctive solution to the challenge of mending broken ceramics, exploring the potential of a traditional hand-stitched process within a different context. Researching fragility, resilience and impermanence through colour, pattern and form, they are intimate practical investigations into tension and structural possibilities. Stitch is used functionally, with the mechanics of construction laid bare and the endeavour of making made explicit. Born of cross-disciplinary inquiry, pieces sit somewhere between solid and broken, beauty and flawed, ceramic and textile.

Inspired by remote communities, where lives are fundamentally shaped by landscape and climate, I am interested in how textiles and craft skills often play an important part in livelihood activities. A year working in Mongolia provided a valuable insight into nomadic culture and a less materialistic approach to living. Reviving the fortunes of discarded items, ceramic patchwork seeks to extend the lifecycle of objects, creating artistic statements from mass-manufactured outputs. Focus is placed on treasuring rather than amassing possessions and celebrating the associations and imperfections that materials can gather.

The work exhibited is a series called Build Back Better. It is the result of field research following the devastating 2015 earthquakes in Nepal and considers the impact of multiple cycles of trauma. It reflects the pride expressed by craftsmen in continuing generations of family involvement with reconstructing cultural sites after such events. Each structure represents the journey of a unique set of materials through cycles of physical change, studying their reaction and resilience to the forces experienced. The work also became an exploration of personal risk-taking, as at times, action was required that put in jeopardy qualities that were precious and had been hard won. The structures invite discussion about sustainability and the basis of value judgments in the context of different communities and cultural experiences.


Futurescan 4: Valuing Practice Exhibit

University of Bolton

23-24 January 2019


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