MADE IN SPODE
Photographer Katya De Grunwald on the power of the humble plaster mould.
I was working on an editorial piece that celebrated new ceramic artists exhibiting work as part of the British Ceramics Biennial in 2013 and we used a factory setting in Stoke-on-Trent for the pictures - specifically an immense dusty room known as The China Hall.
I was then given a tour round a disused factory with one of these vast mould storerooms. It was an incredible sight to behold - the room was full of thousands of plaster moulds balanced on rickety shelves that vanished upwards into the rafters. I stepped out of the room but the strange, quiet white objects in that dark room stayed with me. I realised I was witness to an extraordinary legacy. They appear like relics or monuments, bearing testament to the workers that were once there. They seem charged with a sense of loss. Dust had settled on each object and framed each white porous shape.
The moulds were immediately inspiring to me on a visual and formal level. I enjoy making delicate imagery using resonant objects. I soon asked permission to return to make new photographic work based on what I’d seen and from that point knew it could be a photographic book. I wanted to capture and preserve in print this striking, beautiful sight and this industrial history. I was drawn to the reduced monochrome palette, their sculptural forms. The plaster casts allude to absence – there are no cups, saucers, bowls or plates – but as finely crafted templates they are highly associative, they retain a sense of the object that they once created. Focusing on the sculptural form, the textures, and imprints - I see the moulds as humble, tomb-like inside out objects.
Made In Spode is now available as a photographic book published by Piper Press and available at katyadegrunwald.com.