A duo consisting of two objects is another form of multiplication and whole, where one object depends on the other, which may be different, but represents a certain idea.
What changes occur when an idea is applied in mass production? Energy is consumed, but the product is not sold or used. This raises questions about the environment and living conditions.
Can such a product be sold or given as a present? Can the production be better adapted to environmental needs and less geared to making a profit? Can the idea of a product and its packaging rely more on local raw materials?
Constance Kristiansen, design manager at Figgjo porcelain factory, wrote in the catalogue for the Art of Reverse Fabrication: ‘If the product is cheap, we are often more tolerant about defects. But the relationship between the price and tolerance of flaws can be the reverse. People who buy more expensive products often accept imperfections, considering them to be something that results from the properties of the material. Sometimes, for instance, shades of a colour or small air bubbles in glaze can be regarded as indications of a “hand-made product”, for which these customers are willing to pay. The so-called middle market usually makes the highest demands of manufactures as regards both price and quality.
Here, the customers pay relatively high prices but not high enough for them to feel that they are purchasing anything but an industrial product. And this industrial product should be perfect, so that its price is justified.
Customers may think that they have paid more than enough to expect perfection. However, the value is assessed on the basis of what the customer is willing to pay, not the item/product itself.’
In this context, the mug is for some reason at the bottom of the hierarchy.
Having less or no knowledge about the production process has also changed our perception. In the past, when production used to take place closer to the user, we knew more about how things were made. Nowadays, new technological processes and physical distance have deprived us of this knowledge. We are no longer aware that many steps in the production process may be performed manually and that not all processes are equally easy to control. This applies to mass production, but not the technology used in porcelain production.
From working with porcelain in China and Norway, I have experienced that production is very different, and, especially in China, less energy is used in the production of high-quality porcelain.
That is why our tolerance of imperfection has changed. There is a difference between lack of perfection resulting from the properties of a material, or how it is produced, and those caused by poor craftsmanship or production. Deformations arising during the firing process are a typical example of lack of similarity due to the material itself.
Today’s users do not necessarily have the knowledge required to distinguish between values. This ability is a skill the designer can acquire by being mobile and gaining global experience. In my case, I have experience of Chinese and Scandinavian porcelain production.
In a few exceptional cases, Figgjo has sold products that were damaged or were basically waste. In these cases, they marked the defects on the surface using blocks of colour and turned them into decorations. They had customers who were interested in the challenges represented by waste and second-quality products, individuals concerned with social and environmental issues. This is meaningful mass production.
From Industrial Design to Art
The experience gained during the project
The Art of Reverse Fabrication did not address people from a specific profession. Half the participants were art students and the other half were design students – from five different countries in Europe. The project focused on the manufacturing process, which was supposed to present human relationships, using visual stories and narratives. How do we live and what is around us? No distinction was drawn between designers and artists. The overriding idea was related to people’s lifestyles and attitudes, and the environment, and the students could come up with unique ideas and interpretations.
The plates were delivered to us at the academy from Figgjo porcelain factory. They had a narrative, a well-known one that it was easy to identify with. In a few cases, it became the basis for the idea behind their reworking. Initially, the project seemed a bit like ‘suicidal acrobatics’, but it proved to be feasible and was implemented. The ideas were supposed to develop and transform for six days. The participants were to communicate and discuss, then the production process was to be carried out, and to crown it all, an exhibition was planned. In the middle of the week, as the project progressed, I was thinking about the contract with Bergen Art Museum KODE , about the exhibition opening at 2 p.m. on Saturday. It was important for me to remember all the people who had volunteered to participate –about my colleagues who made up a team with diverse skills, which meant that enormous resources were available that would be helpful in preparing and organising the exhibition.
Design and fine arts are professions for individualists who are able to work as a team and aim for a common goal. These professions are very much about managing and executing projects.