4.5 Contemporary Ceramics

This project still needs a lot of development

You’ve been asked to create a range of illustrations for contemporary ceramics that draws on the visual history and symbolism of pottery in some way. You can start with any historical period, draw on any tradition of image-making within ceramics, or perhaps make reference
to the symbolism and visual storytelling of the blue and white Willow pattern, but you need to bring this up to date through your own illustrations.
Create work within the context of plates, cups, saucers, teapots or vases. Either find cheap white ceramics to work on directly or mock up your work via Photoshop. It’s a good idea to work at the same scale as the ceramics themselves, so you may need to increase the scale of your line to make your illustrations larger and bolder.
In your learning log reflect on the experience of applying your llustrations to a surface other than paper. What did this opportunity offer you and how can you take what you’ve learned back into your paper-based work?

My work for this project uses images from my work on gender issues with coffee companies, particularly a process in Tanzania called ‘Happy Family Happy Coffee’. Gender issues – addressing violence and land ownership – are an integral part of improving coffee quality and hence incomes for farmers and profits for companies. 

See my blog page: http://gamechangenetwork.org/africa/tanzania/mbinga-ngima (needs updating from an earlier blog – this will be done in October)

The idea is a set of promotional plates and mugs that the coffee companies would sell as part of their brand image and to popularise the gender messages. Using the images and narrative of the participatory process with farmers.

The ceramics would probably be glazed, though as I develop this I might also look at traditional unglazed pots as a range of options.

Original images

The original images chosen so far are from a workshop in Mbinga, Southern Tanzania in March?2015. I plan to look through other photos and add some more images. These need to be properly vectorised with simpler, thicker lines before being transferred to the crockery.

The aim is to make the figures stylised but still faithful to the original drawings. I would need to experiment with single colour and up to 4 colours of line – the colours of the markers we use being green, blue, black and red. 


One form will be plates with a central image and narrative around the edge. There will be a decorative circle – the sun vision in the methodology. With rays out to the edge. Each section will then be in an alternating colour. I experimented so far with browns for coffee, and Tanzanian colours of yellow, blue and black – Tanzanians like their national flag colours so that might be a selling point.


Another form would be coffee mugs of different design.


In the above I used masks, blends and curves in Photoshop. But might just continue in Illustrator. I will do mockups first. But if I have time I hope also to experiment with actual ceramics.


Tanzanian art and pottery the pottery here is highly stylised and quite colourful

to look at:

Grayson Perry

Edmund de Waal