Learn the art of pottery

Make your own pottery creations at thejamjar

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Explore the secrets behind ceramic artwork at this exhibition with Irish artist Michael Rice.

Dubai has plenty of artistic workshops and now art enthusiasts can watch Irish ceramicist Michael Rice sculpt and create unique pieces through ‘The Art of Ceramics’ at thejamjar’s project space until Tuesday September 16. The new pieces will feature in an exhibition at the end of his residency.

The Dubai-based artist, who has recently taken up the post of the associate professor of sculpture at the American University in Dubai, has a degree in Fine Craft Design and a master’s degree in Multi-Disciplinary Design from the University of Ulster in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Having relocated to Dubai in 2009 to teach in schools, colleges, universities and arts centres across the emirate, he is no stranger to the city’s pottery scene.

‘The Middle East has a huge history of ceramics. I found myself looking at Islamic domes a lot and I’m hoping to do something which has more of an Islamic slant in this project. As a student, I studied Islamic ceramics and there’s such a wealth of it here. A residency is a really good space for an artist to make a concentrated body of work without the distractions of daily life,’ explains Michael.

Michael discovered his love for ceramics at the age of 22 when he took a course in various art disciplines. It was only when he came to ceramics that he found his calling. Since then, he has had exhibitions in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and his native Northern Ireland.

‘Once I got to work on the wheel I knew it was what I wanted to do. For this residency at jamjar, I’m hoping to expand upon the ideas that I’ve already talked about in my previous bodies of work, which have to do with form and symmetry and philosophical ideas. I like to make things that look as if they came from nature. I look at the sand dunes here in Dubai and the ripples in the sand and I’m just fascinated by them so I’ll make pieces that reference that,’ says Michael.

The exhibition focuses on the ancient art of pottery and how difficult it is to actually create a vessel from clay. The public are welcome to come and watch Michael at work and see how his large scale ceramic pieces take shape. Each step in the overall pottery process is an art in itself. Glazing and firing affect the finished piece as much as the throwing process. The glazes and their reactions to the clay body, heat reductions and chemical reactions taking place inside the kiln are what you see on a finished piece of pottery.

‘The steps that you make in ceramics are small because you’re working with so many variables and things can go wrong. To the outside person they don’t see the change but when you’re taking part in the process you will see that a small step can actually be a very big step,’ says Michael.

His work is inspired by the forms and textures of the natural world and his pieces have a timeless yet contemporary quality. ‘I want to create some 2D wall pieces. There will be wheel-thrown ceramic sculptures too that will look like antiquities from a museum. If you walked into a burial chamber of some ancient, long-forgotten civilisation and found these things, you would think that they would exist from that time period. I want them to be timeless and not speak of now but at the same time I want them to be really contemporary. People are going to be able to recognise it, there’s concepts in there, but the forms will be recognisable. I’m not interested in conceptual art that people have difficulty understanding. I want them to look like archetypal objects that are from no real culture, they’re from everywhere and they don’t have a place,’ explains Michael.

Creating any single piece in ceramics can take up to two weeks, starting from the initial rolling of the clay, to shaping it on the wheel and putting it in the kiln to the finishing techniques. Michael will also be holding pottery and ceramics workshops for adults and children over the course of his residency. ‘Clay is brilliant, everyone wants to try using the pottery wheel. It’s fun and messy. You can learn a new skill and be inspired to try something creative,’ says Michael.

From design training to working with clay, enthusiasts will have the opportunity to create everything from show pieces to fun home decor.
The Art of Ceramics. Open Mon-Thu, Sat 10am-8pm, Fri 2pm-8pm. Until September 16, thejamjar, behind Dubai Garden Centre, Al Quoz, www.thejamjardubai.com (04 341 7303).

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