Materia Matrix
Martha Daniels Ceramics Friday 14 Jun 2013


This gilded ceramic screen was designed (with an innovative use of materials) to include the mark of the hand, a sense of clay, and a quality of randomness within a geometric framework, in an object adaptable to multiple uses and sizes. It may be used as an interior or exterior screen, wall-hung backdrop, room divider, or stand-alone art object. Materials used are very durable and can withstand exposure to high outdoor desert temperatures and some degree of frost.

The screen is composed of hand-made open clay cubes of somewhat variable size, in the form of approximately two-inch-deep and square, open space frames. Variation in cube size creates random patterns, yet allows cubes to be fitted into a rectangular frame. Patterns are more random than those created by algorithms, yet follow biological organisational ideas similar to formations within an insect's wing or botanic growth.

Cubes are fired in the low temperature range (04-06), then painted, gilded, lacquered, and assembled, using epoxy, within a welded steel frame on legs with casters. Although this particular screen measures 6 ft tall X 6 ft wide, it weighs less than 150 lbs and can be moved easily. Materials are also very tough, including the clay cubes, which are made of low-fire tile clay that resists chipping and exposure. Surface is gilded using traditional gold leafing methods, then sealed with lacquer. This allows a sense of light, reflection, and transparency.  Different reflected light effects occur in daylight at different times of day, and with different types of interior illumination. Gilding appears to add another visual dimension. Depth of open cubes, at only about two inches, provides transparency yet a sense of solid space division as one passes by the screen or views it at an angle.

A variety of other surface treatments besides gilding are possible. Aside from being made of clay, screens can also be scanned and 3-D printed, or moulded and cast into bronze or other materials such as Ductal. The organising idea allows variation in size and dimensions. Cubes can "grow" larger or smaller, or screens can be assembled into different configurations by attaching frames together or layering different screens of the same or different sizes.

The use of clay in this manner is innovative, combining a sense of the hand with architecture. The design brings air, light, and transparency into ceramics. The gilded surface adds a light quality rarely found in ceramics. Although made of a natural material, tile clay, this application brings a new sense of the haptic possibilities of clay. Method of construction also creates a physically strong "field" of clay which can be of any size, up to extremely tall and wide, and which extends beyond the size limitations of the kiln. The screen has the qualities of a unique art object, yet it lends itself to replication, and in a variety of other materials.

One client will be incorporating a screen within a wall cut out in the reception area of their new office building (still under construction, no photos available yet). Foci of the business are giving, community development, and resource exploration.  Use of natural materials, references to biology, innovative use of relatively humble materials, and a sense of psychological expansion due to reflected light of gilded surfaces, made this screen thematically appropriate for this client. The client also was drawn to the meditative quality created by the spatial organisation of cubes within the field area of the screen. While acting as the centrepiece of the reception area, the screen also will divide the area physically and suggest activities beyond, while screening the business area.