Article by Alexandra McCurdy

Y WORK has long been inspired by the patterns and motifs drawn from the intricate quill work of indigenous Mi’kmaq and women’s textiles such as quilts, hooked rugs, and embroidery. I am also influenced by women’s central role in Western textile history, and by my mother’s involvement in the British yard goods industry in the 1930s and 1940s.

My new series of boxes merges the techniques of textiles and clay, decorative surface and form. Through a complex process that I have developed, I am able to duplicate woven fabric in porcelain. I am, in essence, weaving the slip, with a warp and a weft. The resulting boxes are microcosms built of fragile layers with screen-like optics.

By combining techniques used in ceramics and textiles I am creating vessels that push the envelope of traditional ceramics. The fabric texture of the porcelain, combined with the woven slip, tricks people into taking a second look. The boxes connect conceptually to the hidden potential of Pandora’s Box; the black box of an aircraft—influenced by my pilot father, who was shot down during World War II; and the Perspective Box by Dutch artist Samuel van Hoogstraten.

The box is a potent metaphor for women in ceramics. It is the perfect vessel for containing what we cannot control, and for putting a lid on strong emotions.

From Spring/Summer 2015 Ornamentum. Click here to subscribe.

Alexandra McCurdy is a ceramist/printmaker/ independent curator based in Nova Scotia whose work has been shown nationally and internationally.

My Method
The thixotropic, coloured porcelain slip is trailed, layer upon layer, in opposite directions, onto cheesecloth-covered plaster bats until enough thickness is built up to support itself. When sufficiently dry, each tile is carefully lifted off the cheesecloth, which has left a fabric impression, and holes are made at each corner. Each component is fired to 2,500°F, then wired together to form a closed box and embellished with coloured computer wire, metallic thread, raffia or textile symbols used by women over the centuries. (There is always a great deal of warpage during the firing, so I generally make about 20 components in order to get six with corners that will meet to make a box.) The accompanying wall pieces are made in a similar fashion, and the components are mounted onto a silk-screened larger tile. The silk-screened image on the larger tile is of a Xeroxed woven tile.

Black Box with Weaving, Alexandra McCurdy, 2014 (and accompanying wallpiece). Porcelain (wire and beads as connectors)
11 x 11 x 11 cm (box) 19 x 19 x 19 cm (wallpiece)
Photograph: Steve Farmer