Friday, 23rd Februray
Theme Development as a response to museum visits.
Visiting the Museum of American Design and the 9/11 Memorial Museum, I was able to pick out different aspects of collective identities. Whether is is through the memory of loss through an epidemic event, or actions of triumph over racism, or a multiplicity of layers of familiar objects and landscapes, we are always subconsciously part of a collective identity. I want to develop my project theme of Inner-city Cafés by portraying this sense of collective identity which I feel is present when individuals are sharing the same space.
I decided to start by investigating familiar experiences and emotions of city goers through photography.
Monday 26th Feb
In class, we held discussion sessions through "speed-dating", where we both gave and received advice through discussing our themes. My partners were Digby, Beth and Anne-Marie. It was interesting to hear about other people's projects, and it made me realise how the context of other people's projects can relate to and illuminate my own. Digby's project was on human interaction and identity, and as this related to my project which also needs to look at human behaviour and space, he recommended me to look at books on people's perceptions according to materiality. Discussing his research at the Foundling Museum taught me how such little material and overlooked objects can hold enormous significance to individuals. Speaking to Anne-Marie, I found some similarities in our project themes which may seem completely unrelated at first. Anne-Marie's theme was Buddhism, and her research concentrated on spiritual objects and aesthetics that make people feel calm and peaceful. I felt that my project theme, coffee shops, is also akin to spiritual places where people seek both seclusion and community, peace and warmth. I managed to find out more about Anne Marie's opinion about certain large coffee brands that she prefers. Interestingly, she had an unexpectedly negative impression of Cafe Nero, which she claimed has dark lighting and a dull atmosphere. However, she seemed to have a positive impression of Starbucks, stating it is open and welcoming. This view was completely contrasting to my own view of the two brands, and I probed Anne Marie to try and figure out her reasoning. She explained that back Home, in Singapore, the Starbucks there have very open spaces, is clean and bright. This made me realise that people's familiarity with brands greatly affect their opinion of its products and interior space. Because Starbucks is International and commonly seen, it creates familiarity for users, and thus even when customers are not in their own country, they feel like they can have a piece of 'home' when they use such space.
I found the speed-dating workshop very useful, particularly the two conversations mentioned. I considered both the objects at the Foundling Museum and the sense of familiarity that is important in attracting users to products. I decided this sense of familiarity needs to be incorporated in my design, whether it is through its materials, pattern/shape or function.
Abstract Summary of Theme in 3D models
When thinking of words which describe my project, I came up with words such as calm, busy, fast, sacred, secluded, warm, comfortable, relaxing, energising, and social. This exercise helped me direct my idea development, as I can now think about these simple words to brainstorm design ideas.
The abstract 3D models also helped me explore materials and the varying emotions it portrays. For one of my 3D models, I only used metal, but I learned how the same material, metal, can conjure contrasting atmospheres . When shaped into circular shapes in wire form, it gave the impression of continuity and relaxation, but when shaped with sheets into triangular shapes it gave the impression of chaos. Through combining these two contrasting shapes, I was able to interpret my impression of the 'fast' business in cafes.
For my other word, 'sacred' I realised that I subconsciously used a dome shape, which I must have remembered from religious monuments. I had also used white-painted wood as my main material for this word. It seems that I instinctively associated the word 'sacred' with purity and blankness, which drew me to the white scrap material.
This workshop made me realise the instinctive associations we make with certain materials, colours and shapes.
26. Feb. Materials Wall: peer's work that I like
26. Feb. Learning from peer's work
I was struck by the use of bright colours on some of the abstract 3D objects. The ones I really liked were Hwajung's. I asked where she got the colourful materials and she informed me they are from Poundland. I admired how resourceful and wise she was, given the short period of time, in selecting stand-out pieces of materials and utilising them in the most effective way possible. I should learn to make use of shops around the vicinity more.
27. Feb. Research Analysis Workshop
27. Feb. Research Analysis Workshop
As a group we categorised our research images, and we chose to use 4 axes to do so: private <--->public, small scale <---> large scale
I understood the purpose behind this as we should be selective and analytical about our research, but I did not find this particular exercise very useful as I felt it was done at a very basic level.
Tuesday 6th March
In order to get a more concrete image of how my design will look like when stacked, I made cardboard models of the shape of the cups. This also made me work out the dimensions of the cup better as it should ideally hold around 250-300ml of liquid. I also worked out the dimensions of the bottom half for the cup to be able to stack.
I should use photoshop to try and get an image of how these will look when stacked in masses.
Friday 9th March
The progress tutorial with Kathleen was very productive. I realised that my deceivingly simple design is in fact very technical and complicated in terms of making a mould out of.
What the technician told me could be a three part mould now looked like it was going to have to be a four-part mould.
Talking about my progress also made me a lot more aware of the short time period I have left to finish making my product.
As for some of the technical issues that flagged up, I had only left around 3mm for my cups to stack, but Kathleen pointed out that I I need to leave at least 1mm for the glazing, and some extra for the stacking.
Talking about my design, I was encouraged about my idea for the project, having the '+' sign shape for the cups to represent people coming together. My doubt caused by a peer pointing out his preference for one of my other initial designs could be dismissed.
I went to KGX to speak to Andy the ceramics technician.
He agreed with Kathleen about making it into a 4-part mould, and also flagged up the point that we cannot use the workshop there until the week beginning 19th March, when BA students are done.
I realised I have even less time to test and work with the slip-casting and glazing.
I asked whether it is possible to use the workshop for testing glazing this week, and this permission was granted.
Andy also told me to source Methaline Spirit and button polish and to mix it 50:50 to saturate my wooden model, ready for plaster moulding. I had to plan to ask a friend to source this for me, because of my full-time working hours over the weekend.
As for the aesthetic design of my product, both Kathleen and Andy seemed to prefer the angular linear shape handle rather than the spherical one, saying that it complements the shape of the main body more. I decided to consider this advice.
Monday 12th March
Wood Workshop & Plaster Workshop
Having worked out the exact dimensions of the bottom half of my cup so as to allow stacking, I drew onto a piece of tracing paper the exact measurements and stuck it onto the wood piece. I developed precision and accurate craftsmanship with the bandsaw, ensuring that the thickness of the blade does not encroach onto the desired area of the model. This bottom half seemed to be notably neater than the top half, which I made through cutting wood panels first, then sticking together into shape. I realised I should have stuck the wood panels first to begin with, before cutting the desired shape. Though I do not have time to remake the top half of the model, I will remember this for future projects.
Addressing the advice from Kathleen and Andy, I showed David the plaster technician at Archway my model and told him I need to make a four-piece mould. However, contrary to the plan, both the technician and Hangjae a class member working on ceramics, said that it should be fine as a two piece mould. Hangjae had already finished his mould and it looked really good. He was confident that the two-piece mould would work, and so was David. I was glad that I had a lot less work ahead of me, now that I only have to make two moulds. I also made moulds with the plastic beads, so that I can use it for the handle, if I decide to go ahead with the spherical aesthetic. Although most people seemed to prefer the linear shape, I wanted to keep my options open.
One of the times I mixed the plaster, due to the plaster being from an old batch, and because I mixed too much plaster and stirred a lot with my hands, it heated up too quickly and was too solid for pouring. I learnt how accuracy is very important in the process of mould-making.
Tuesday 13th March
Today was a disaster. The mould from yesterday was a complete failure. As soon as I tried to release the mould, I knew that I should have gone with the original four-piece mould plan.
When David examined the wooden model again, he said that due to the swelling of the wood from the coating of button polish, an undercut had formed where the two ‘+’ parts met, meaning that instead of a 4-piece mould, it would have to be an eight piece…!
I felt devastated. David apologised for his inexperience and for not having paid enough attention, but I knew that it was my fault for desiring short-cuts in the making process.
I learnt a valuable lesson that I shouldn’t try to skip stages of making unless I am 100% sure it will work, even if I am running on a very tight schedule.
My second attempt at making one part of the eight-piece mould also failed, as one wall cracked. This was due to forgetting to put vaseline, and also due to the lack of thickness in the plaster-wall.
I only managed to re-do the first part of the mould which is left to dry.. I am not even sure whether it will work this time.
Again, I learnt how complex the process of working with ceramics is, particularly in the mould-making stage. It requires enormous patience, perseverance and immaculate checks at every stage of making, ensuring there are no leaks, ensuring that the plaster is mixed well, but not too much that it becomes too hot and solid, that the model is polished enough, that the plaster wall is thick enough.
Wednesday 14th March
Plaster Workshop: Completion of Mould Making, Understanding of Batch Production.
Thankfully, the first part of the eight-part mould from yesterday had succeeded. When speaking to the technician who was in today, Kat, she told me I shouldn't need an 8-part mould and should be fine with a 3-part mould. Now that the first had succeeded, I was more confident that I could also do this. So i decided to go with Kat's advice.
In order to save time, I decided to make two parts of the mould at once: one third of the bottom half and one third of the top half. Because I was in a hurry however, I left an unnecessary slab of clay in one of the corners of the bottom half before pouring the plaster. This meant that there was a gap in the mould. Though it was annoying I had to make this mould again, I was more confident about the mould-making process now and felt I am better at deciding what will release and what wont.
Therefore, for the bottom half, I decided to only make two pieces instead of three, so that it would be a 5-part mould.
The result was thankfully a success..! Though the mould-making process is very time-consuming, I felt that I can now confidently calculate mould-division with numerous different shapes. I do feel that I understand batch production a lot better now.
Being in the plaster workshop all the past few days also exposed me to the different methods other students go about for their projects. I observed making a silicon mask of a student's face, the aesthetic outcome of resin, and the effect of colour added onto the white, blank look of plaster.
Thursday 15th March
Work in Progress
The WIP workshop today highlighted the differences in each of the three 3DDA areas.
JFFA is very visual, personal and emotional.
PDC seems to be practical, varied and user focused.
ASD is contextual, technical and multi-layered.
Looking at other student's work developed my critical analysis, and I was able to re-confirm what kinds of visual communications are effective in both portfolio sheets and in the sketchbook.
Sketchbooks that had a clear narrative were definitely a lot easier to follow, in terms of how their design is illuminated by their research, and how their design ideas develop.
Sketchbooks with sketches or writing or even background decoration / colouring which describe the general narrative or content of what is on the page really helped to absorb the information in it.
Pages with research images communicated in collage form, particularly when there is ample blank space incorporated into the collage, clearly communicated the thought process of the designer.
Incorporation of colour strips or coloured pieces of paper, and also other cut out materials could either be very effective and visually pleasing, or somewhat tacky and overwhelming. I learnt that colours should be used with caution, and when using collage, I should think about the overall message I am intending to portray.
One of the student who did this very effectively was from ASD who was, to no surprise, picked to present her work: Bianca. Her project was on colours in the city. I wasn't sure how economically practical this would be, and thought that this would be very difficult in terms of getting colour into architectural materials, however I guess at this Foundation stage, your ideas are more important than economic practicality. Her use of colours and patterns to communicate different functions and layers of buildings were extremely effective. I should try using this approach to communicate some of my ideas.
I saw that my sketchbook lacked a lot in 3D design development and problem solving. As this was one of the issues that was flagged up for the ASD group from the other disciplines, I need to ensure that I do more 3D problem solving and show that in my sketchbook.
Things learnt from looking at JFFA:
The communication in the sketchbook was very visual, with large images, collages and drawings. Use of colour in drawings were particularly a strong point compared to other disciplines.
Some exploration of materials from the JFFA was quite unusual: this made me think about other materials I could combine with my ceramics products for my project. However, Kathleen pointed out that from a Product Design perspective, the less materials a product is made of, the more economic it is. This therefore made me reconsider my idea for a tray that was going to made of a metal frame, wooden body and leather handles. Perhaps I should eleminate the leather handles and try to work out a way of making them in metal.
15. March WIP
15. March WIP
Monday 19th March
Today I learnt how inexperienced I am in casting moulds. Because I had tried casting with a variety of moulds for the Vessels project, I thought that my mould would be very straight forward to slip-cast too. However, I was wrong. The only reason why slip-casting was straight forward for the previous project was because the moulds were immaculately made and the shapes were very simple.
Due to the many corners that my mould has, (48 corners in total!), and due to its shape being so angular, it was extremely difficult to release the mould without getting cracks or distortions in its shape. Also, I realised I had made a terrible mistake when making the mould. I should have made it an open mould as it is supposed to be a cup.. however I had made it into a closed one, which meant that I had to hand-cut the opening. This meant that my shape was not accurately flat at the top. It was essential that I get this accurately in order for my cups to stack.
Moreover, the because the handle was so thin, it broke so easily. Even when it was fairly dry, if I touched it ever so lightly to smoothen it out, it crumpled off the body.
Though I could mend the handles that came off by applying slip, it meant that the appearance would look messy.
Nevertheless, I managed to get my cups to stack, and upon seeing this, I realised that it actually looks better without the handle. My initial plan was to underglaze the main body of the cups in a pastel-light-blue, with the handles in bright colours of pink, orange, yellow or red. I hoped to achieve the appearance of an abstract painting when the cups are stacked, with the handles cutting across the body of the cups.
Upon looking at the stacked piece of ceramics, I realised that it looked a lot like tall buildings, and I suddenly got inspired, picturing the skyline of New York that I loved when doing my research there during research week. If I make the cups look like skyscrapers, it also fits in with my theme of the '+' sign, where things stack together to make something grand. I decided to only use one colour glaze to achieve this appearance of a concrete jungle. This would also help me save time.
To sum up, though I consumed a lot of time with many stages of the slip-casting process today, it has helped me cultivate some key craftsmanship skills and decision making skills:
1. how to cut clay slips accurately and perpendicularly by hand.
2. recognising exactly how wet/dry each part needs to be before removing each of the moulds so that it doesn't rip or stick to the mould.
3. knowing how best to adapt the design of the product when it doesn't look quite right, recognising better aesthetic potential
4. adjusting the design plan for the finishing of the product in order to finish to a higher quality on time
19. March - stacked cups with handle
19. March - stacked cups no handle
20. 3 Inspiration from my photo of NY landscape
Wednesday 21st March
Today I learnt that in order to make ceramics stack, it is a lot more complex than one might expect. Even though I calculated the extra space for stacking including the 10% shrinkage, during the decoration process and smoothening of the cups, some of them became slightly distorted. I was also told that each ceramic piece may not shrink exactly the same amount, which meant that firing them all separately is risky. However, if I stacked them together before firing, there was a risk of the pieces sticking to one another. The disassembling process after the firing them may break some of the pieces. I realised that due to my pieces having so many corners, there were indeed so many places that could go wrong for them not to stack.
I decided to stack them in pairs before firing, and hoped that they won't stick together.
I visited Tiranti's on Warren Street to source glazes for my cups. I discovered how expensive the glazes are at the store: 12.65 per colour! Fiona informed me that the same brand can be ordered for 5.65 online, however they did not have the colour range that I was hoping to purchase. Through spending a lot of money buying several colours, I learned the literal value of adding colours to ceramic pieces, and it made me understand my plain white ceramic products are far cheaper than coloured ones.
I used some of my favourite Fine artists as references to choose the colours for my cups. I also used my own photographs of New York again. The typical colours of New York buildings were sienna, turquoise glass, grey, charcoal, taupe, cream, pastel orange. I picture inner cities as colourful and vibrant, and I wanted to represent this on my products. However, I wanted to avoid my pieces ending up looking amateur and toy-like, which I think often ends up being the case if colour is not used wisely. It was difficult to imagine the sample colours on my actual products so I used photoshop to aid in picturing the final outcome.
12. 4. 18 (photo day)
12. 4. 18 (photo day)
Friday 13th April - Further Photo Shooting
Monday 16th April
The initial proposal for my project focused on efficiency in cafes and designing a product that could generate profit for café owners. However, after undertaking extensive research in museums and galleries, I wanted my project to represent a broader theme that reflects urban society. For this reason, I changed the topic of my project to “The Third Place” which is not merely about functional outcomes but one that reflects a collective identity of users sharing a common space.
Having completed my project, I have had the chance to spend some time reflecting upon what went well and what I could have done better.
With my now superior technical knowledge of mold making and slip casting, if I could start my project again, I would be more thorough when making the mold. Instead of using wood for the model to make the plaster mold, I would use plastic, as the shape of the wooden model distorted in the process of making it impermeable. I also used button polish and methylated sprit which made the wooden model swell; resulting in the surfaces of the rectangular shaped cup coming out uneven. This affected the form of my clay slips and it was difficult to make the shape even once it was cast. Moreover, when glazing, I would design a border around the bottom to leave unglazed so that my product wouldn’t be left with stilt marks after firing.
The least successful aspect of my project was in the design of the handle of the cups as the surface area of the handle that adjoined the cup was too small and the depth of the handle itself was too thin. Due to this, the handles continually broke off and thus had to be removed. As a consequence, the cups become quite hot when drinking hot beverages, which is a critical functional aspect.
I am most pleased with how the cups stack as it is possible to stack up to ten cups, making it easy to carry. My product can also be effectively stored due to its shape as it fits neatly into storage boxes.
I believe my strengths are in developing my ideas conceptually and presenting my progress coherently and methodically. My main weakness lies in the technical aspects of design and being able to sketch quickly.
Looking back on my project, there is a lack of material research and exploration and I feel I could have definitely investigated with secondary materials such as wooden trays or metal framed handles for the cups if I had more time. Widespread research on other ceramicists is also weak and had I done more, I could have learnt from the techniques they use and thus developed my own techniques further which would have improved my design.
I achieved what I set out to do in my proposal, however I feel it may have been better if my design was more abstract as I had originally planned. Overall I am pleased with the learning experience and the final outcome.
Looking ahead, I believe I can take my proposal idea further and develop it into a brand called “Plus Coffee (+Coffee)” and design additional products to go with the concept such as dessert plates and bowls in similar shapes that can also be stacked.
26. Feb. Project Abstraction: "busy"
26. Feb. MATERIALS EXPLORATION WALL
Tuesday 27th Feb
Speaking to Tom, he made me realise that the aspect of efficiency within coffee shops for my proposal is quite narrow and sounds a bit dry or much too liken to a client-brief, (in Tom’s words, “not romantic enough”).
He suggested I broaden the topic, where I can still focus on coffee shops and cafe furniture if I wished, but which allows my research to be more diverse. He introduced the idea of 'the third place' to me, which is communal spaces which is not the home (first-place) or work (second-place). This theme pinpointed my area of interest, and I was excited as it would allow me to further analyse people's behaviours according to different types of spaces, objects and materials. I decided to go ahead with this theme, and change my proposal.
6. March - sketch modelling
12. March. Coating wooden model for mould making
I was glad that I made two models of the handle in different thickness metals. After making moulds for them, I realised that the thinner one, which seemed to me when shaping in metal the ideal thickness, is too thin for the clay slip to pour through. I will still try with both the moulds but I think the thicker one will be better.
14. March - finished moulds
14. March - finished moulds
19. March - failed slip
19. March - failed slip
19. March - handle vs no handle
Tuesday 20th March
Having decided on representing the tall buildings in the city, I turned to my photography images from the landscape of New York in order to get inspiration for further adapting my design. I thought that as the cups look quite bare due to omitting the handle, it needs some sort of decoration. I decided to add windows to one side of the cup by using indentation.
20. 3. Adding detail
20. 3. Adding detail
Thursday 22nd March
Colours of the City
I explored my choices of colour through photography of the New York landscape.
Monday 9th April
I went in to the workshop early to finish off some glazing. Around 12pm, Fiona came and saw my glazed pieces and told me I'm not supposed to have one side glazed if it's shiny glaze, as it will stick to the board. I had no idea about this before so I had already glazed everything all over. I panicked, but one of the MA students said that I can put my pieces on stilts, although they may leave marks. I debated whether I should have annoying marks on mine of have the bottom unglazed. As my design requires the cups to look like buildings even when upside down however, I decided I'd have to sacrifice the small marks.
Andy hadn't shown and it was getting close to 1pm. I asked a lady in the technician's office whether Andy is coming in today. She said he isn't. I asked her whether there will be a firing today. She said no. I informed her there are a couple of us from Foundation and that we all need to get our pieces fired as we have a photo-shoot deadline on Thursday. She agreed to do the firing after lunch so I was relieved.
In the afternoon, we gathered all our things together in the kiln room, and the lady asked us to paint firing boards and to clean some of the bottoms of the ceramic pieces that had parts of glaze stuck on them. Preparing for the firing took a while and it made me appreciate ceramics even more, witnessing all the hard work that needs to go into making ceramics.
The technician explained to me that there is a risk of large parts of my ceramic pieces breaking or having ugly marks if I put them on stilts. I was upset, but I had no choice but to go with it.
Today I learnt about the preparation process before putting ceramic pieces in the kiln. I also learnt about the crucial fact that shiny glaze sticks to the board. I wondered how other glazed ceramic tableware is made as they are all glazed all over. I should look this up.
Our ceramics group also helped each other prepare their pieces, including for the pieces for those who weren't here. I felt that being a part of the ceramics group really helps motivate me and learnt how important teamwork and helping one another are in the practice of Product Design.
Wednesday 11th April
Taking the final pieces out of the kiln
Today was disappointing. Many of our ceramic pieces had cracked.
Thankfully only one of my cups had cracked, but three of my cups were a very strange pink colour, although I painted it in an ivory glaze. For these ones, I had not bisk-fired them before glazing, so perhaps this was the reason. It looked awfully ugly, like aged skin. The satin-taupe colour glaze and grey glaze looked fine on the non-bisk-fired ones so it was odd how just the ivory colour turned out strange. The cracked one was the taupe glazed one that wasn't bisk-fired though, so I learnt first-hand that I should bisk-fire first to minimise the risk of breaking.
Most of the stilts were stuck onto the bottom side of the cup where the glaze was. I broke them off so that they would at least have an even line. Some of them just slipped off making huge chipped marks. I now realised why ceramics is so expensive and highly valued. In order to get it perfect, it must take several tries, which is very time-consuming.
I wish we had a few more weeks to correct these trial and errors so that I have neat ceramic pieces that can actually be used. Though my cups can still be used as the drinking side of the cups are not chipped, I know that chipped ceramics is basically trash. I now have a new found admiration for all the ceramicists I saw in the ceramics show at CSM just before Easter. It must have taken so many tests to get the beautiful forms that were displayed that day. I understand why three years of studying Ceramics as a BA is not even that long.