Ability-saurus Vs Technology-zilla

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Art and Design By: Please log in to see tutor details
Subject: Art » Art and Design
Last updated: 20/11/2017
Tags: art practice, ceramics, craft, pottery tuition, sculpture

This is how it usually goes...and it applies across the board for subjects taught in Universities in design fashion, applied arts and crafts, 

'our fashion faculty has digital embroidery machines can stitch out 256 colours'

'in our school of ceramics we have the very latest full colour digital ceramic printing machines and the reproduction results are incredible'

'our design studio is equipped with a new, direct metal laser sintering 3D printer which can create intricate objects in high grade titanium in layers of 20-40 microns'

Now don't get me wrong, I love technology, I really really do. I'd be a hypocrite to state otherwise, given some of the equipment I sometimes use to create my own work. Yet my role as a guest lecturer at Universities up and down the country gives me a glimpse into many Fine Art, Design, Applied Arts and Fashion Departments and how fabulously well equipped many are. It's entirely understandable that these high-end facilities in state-of-the-art faculties are an integral part of attracting prospective students and once enrolled, equipping them with the skills and knowledge for specific career paths once they leave University.  

Yet here's a question I always ask my undergraduate audiences up and down the country. What happens when you've created a style of working, a body of work, or a collection which is entirely, or even partly dependent on one of those fabulously expensive pieces of equipment? ....and you graduate and suddenly the access to that piece of equipment has gone. You then discover that hiring access to similar equipment provided through a commercial vendor is prohibitively expensive. What do you do?

The answer is to go analogue. Or if you were smart, you make sure that a part of your practice involves creating by hand, at minimal expense and without a reliance on specialist facilities. It might sound old fashioned but the ability to create with that most amazing thing, your imagination, in partnership with those other amazing things, your hands, is one of the most valuable assets you'll ever have as a creative. Particularly if your budget dictates, which as a new graduate it often will.

In response, I'm often asked by students about my own fashion accessory work. Their assumption being that I must use specialist equipment to fabricate my designs. 

"But where do you get your acrylic laser cut?", "What machine do you use to polish the edges?" and "What heat process do you use to bend, shape and fabricate?"

When I explain that I don't use the material they assume I do, and that all I need to make the work is a scalpel, a steady hand and a hole punch, that's when jaws hit the floor. Understanding the dynamics of the material I use, combined with hours of practice have resulted in hand made work that appears to have been machine made, yet displays qualities and nuances that are without the need of, and beyond the capabilities of digital aided fabrication. 

The objects you create with the aid of technology can be amazing. The objects you create with just your hands and your ingenuity can be astounding and infinitely rewarding.

Combine these two approaches, and world domination is at your fingertips!…. but always make sure you have something exclusively analogue in your creative back pocket.


Patrick Hartley Art and Design Teacher (East London)

About The Author

I am a artist/designer with 25 years of professional practice in visual arts, ceramics and fashion accessory. My practice is diverse and I emphasise versatility and an open mind to exploring new materials, techniques and processes.




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