Creating ToTeM

Kemel Uludag Ceramics Art + Perception 109 2018 Technical Home

The creative process of each work of art is a distinct adventure. What makes it distinct is the artist’s attitude to research, concept, design, sketching and implementation. This attitude is determined by the artist’s frame of mind, world view, and sense of art and style. What makes each work of art unique is the subjective and original manner of the artist. This adventure is experienced by the artist themselves, however, in my opinion, it would be conceptually and technically beneficial to share such experiences within the field of art. Hence, in this paper, I would like to share my experiences in the conceptualization, design and implementation phases my work titled ToTeM.

The concept first emerged in June 2008, while I was listening to the presentation of ceramic artist, Emre Feyzioglu, during the Sixth International Avanos Applied Ceramics Symposium and Salt Firing Workshop, where I was an invited artist.

I had long been planning to represent the destruction of freedom and the self-incarceration of humanity by its own material and spiritual creations by incarcerating a human being in a cage or a capsule.

After I had drawn the sketch, and before the phase of implementation, I was horrified by the shocking news of an honour killing – a woman had been brutally murdered by her family.
This made me change my mind about ToTeM: it should not be about the self-incarceration of humanity in general, but the intellectual and behavioural incarceration of women inside male sexuality by a dominant and paternalistic culture.

In John Berger’s words, “To be born a woman is to be born within an allotted and confined space, into the keeping of men.”

In John Berger’s words, “To be born a woman is to be born within an allotted and confined space, into the keeping of men.”

The original design included abstract human figures which could not be transformed into female figures, as previously I had always used genderless figures without any indication of sex. A modification was inevitable in terms of design. I decided a woman should be involved – a real woman. I loved the idea. It would be better both in terms of representation and technique, as I would be able to emphasize the imprisonment of the woman, and I would not have to suffer from the difficulties of producing a large monolithic figure. In the initial design, the size of ToTeM was the size of an average individual, about 170 cm, and it was to be fired in one piece, or in a few pieces, due to the size of the kiln – a universal problem when working with ceramics. However, the modification in ToTeM’s design automatically solved many problems.

The next step was the implementation phase. The cage/capsule of humanity had to be of a size of an individual, however, as the size of the kiln limited it to a diameter of 60 cm, which meant 55 cm after firing, the inner diameter being 46cm maximum: It was a size where an average man could not be imprisoned, but an average woman could.

The most suitable method of modelling and reproducing the 60 cm diameter hoops with 5 cm height was by production of molds after having been shaped on a plaster lathe. At both tips of the incomplete circle hoops, I planned to add the abstract human figures I had traditionally been using in my ceramics.
The human cage/capsule ToTeM consisted of 60 cm diameter hoops on top of each other reaching up to 170 cm height. If the hoops were fixed to each other in pairs, not only would it be easier to carry the work, but also it would be more robust with fewer units.

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