I am deeply influenced by the flagrant excess present in the ornate history of the European Decorative Arts, in particular porcelain and silver centerpieces and service ware. These objects flaunt their position at the center of the table as well as their owner’s position in society. They serve food, however their greater intent is to serve as status symbol. Looking back at these objects, we may still recognize this intent in their opulence and stature, however these symbols have been tarnished with changing tastes and made vulgar through modern cynicism. There is honesty in these ornamental vessels, an unapologetic willingness to reveal our innate human need to define our social position through objects, a need that persists today.
My current work questions how the ornament and intent of this service ware operates when expressed through a contemporary studio pottery practice. My pots reference an extravagant history, however they falter under the pressure of maintaining a flawless facade. The ornament in this work is squished and distorted by the act of scoring, pinching and assembling. What remains is a tangible display of the struggle between form and ornament. The more complex and visually assertive the form becomes the more the ornament recoils, yielding to the demands of form and utility. My pots are not gilded or cast from fine metals; instead their metal saturated glazes appear tarnished and worn revealing their gold surface as merely a guise. Historically elevated porcelain is replaced by deep red clay, fired rich and dark as it strives for the strength and status of its valued ancestor.
There are moments of utilitarian consideration where the vocabulary of contemporary studio pottery is unmistakable. There are also moments of ridiculous opulence where handles and knobs serve little purpose other than visual pleasure. There are places in this work where the initial assertion of ornament is left intact and there are places where it is completely lost in form. These pots balance on a fine line between sincerity and irony. They are sincere in their careful craft and potential for use; yet become ironic commentary on how we assess value and define our place in the world.
— A. Blair Clemo