Burberry: the Ceramic Cape
Just over a month ago, I was invited to participate as an artist maker of ceramics in an amazing special project with Burberry. I thought, what a fantastic opportunity to work alongside such a talented and brilliant group of designers, but wondered what on earth did they want me to create, make and then fire in such a short space of time and make it wearable!
The campaign is inspired by the life and work of Henry Moore (which is a dream of a topic for any 3D artist) and at first I had visions of crazy sculptural pieces in my head, but then realised this piece had to be worn on the runway and would be extremely heavy not to mention hazardous, so I worked with the designers to come up with a piece which was easy for the model to put over her head (no give in a lump of fired clay) and was light enough to be worn for the occasion.
The piece was to be unglazed but smooth and yet still have an interesting surface…so I set about experimenting with different clays which were strong and malleable to which I added materials I’ve used previously for added strength and random flecks of varying tones of browns and black, which was the colour palette.
It took the first couple of weeks to make the first few pieces seen in these early images but the most challenging aspect was the firing process because the forms don’t have a natural base making it pretty impossible to survive the kiln firing.
After the first 5 pieces I eventually perfected a method of firing but I was running out of time. I decided to do 3 more! Each one worked but I wasn’t satisfied with the colour of the clay and I only had time to produce one more batch!
I was so delighted when the final piece came out of the kiln in one piece and was the perfect colour… but the stress wasn’t over yet! It still had to be polished with a stone polisher to reveal all the flecks of colour and make a perfectly smooth marble like surface. I spent a few hours grinding and polishing the surface until I was happy with it and left it to dry. It was a massive relief to have finished it and I thought to myself…I hope that’s the one they choose because it’s the best! A very simple looking form but a nightmare to fire!
Whilst working on the ceramic piece I was asked if I could bend wire! A wire cage cape was to be made and as I’d done quite a bit of wire work I thought I’d give it a go! At least there was no firing involved and once it was constructed, that was that! It filled in the gaps between clay firings and the timing worked out extremely well. It was packed off down to Burberry HQ to have beautiful white feather flowers attached and the finished result is stunning. Unfortunately it wasn’t included in the show but the photograph of it is in the book (on sale on the Burberry website) and its probably one of my personal favourites. Here’s a small detail of it.
There are several other artisans who also worked on the project in metal, wood, glass and anthracite to mention but a few, and there are a total of 78 ‘capes’ in the project. These are currently on show at Maker’s House, 1 Manette Street London, W1D 4AT and then after the 27th February the exhibition of capes will travel to Paris, Tokyo and Los Angeles.
I feel privileged and honoured to have played a minor part in this project and will never forget the amazing experience.
Take a look at the exhibition pictures below, there’s some incredible work on display.