Rimma Tchilingarian’s Colour Vases

Published on May 8, 2015

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The vase is probably one of the most original porcelain objects. In ancient China the surface of the vase was used as a canvas to depict colours and shapes.

Rimma vases are made of premium-quality porcelain kilned at 1350 degree Celsius. The petrol coloured topside is placed on a slate blue bottom and the irregular line patterns are worked into the surface by hand. Each vase is unique and manufactured at a studio in Berlin.

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Rimma Tchilingarian studied Industrial and Communication Design at “Fachhochschule Potsdam” (University of Applied Sciences Potsdam). Since graduating in 2013 she works as a freelancer in Berlin. During her studies Rimma already worked and experimented with porcelain. The focus of her work is set on the dis­tin­guished char­ac­ter­is­tics of the material and on types of pro­cess­ing tech­niques. Achieving a balance between traditional crafts­man­ship and con­tem­po­ra­ry depiction was at the core of the stu­dio pro­ject.

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In re­cent years there have been nu­mer­ous devel­op­ments in the en­coun­ter with the white, trans­lucent ma­te­ri­al. How­ever we of­ten have the image of gold­en-framed with flow­ers de­pic­ted por­ce­lain still in mind. This might be seen prob­lem­at­ic but al­so as an op­por­tu­ni­ty to over­come out-dat­ed per­cep­tions and raise a new aware­ness of this beau­ti­ful unique ma­te­ri­al. To re­vise this out-dat­ed per­cep­tion and to em­pha­size that por­ce­lain is a raw ma­te­ri­al which can be expe­ri­enced and in­ter­pre­ted in dif­fer­ent ways over and over again was the greater in­ten­tion of this stu­dio project.

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The white and smooth sur­face of porcelain invites us to apply colours and struc­tures to it. There­fore different ma­te­ri­als were added to the raw-mix­ture. For ex­am­ple pa­per was used which in­cin­er­at­ed while burn­ing leaving only the initial shape of the pa­per be­hind. Out of these test series evolved a line of two-parted vases con­sist­ing of a top and bot­tom piece which might be com­bined in­divid­ually. The obser­ver feels en­cour­aged to reach out for the por­ce­lain ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the hap­tic mo­ment and re­vis­ing or broad­en­ing his form­er view of por­ce­lain. How­ever the utmost con­cern of the stu­dio pro­ject is to il­lus­trate the com­plex and mul­ti­fac­et­ed rich­ness of por­ce­lain, which be­comes ob­vi­ous in the mo­ment when ex­plor­ing some­thing one has not seen before.

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Since the origin of por­ce­lain manu­fac­tur­ing con­tin­uous ef­fort has been un­der­taken to reach a state of per­fec­tion. In an on­go­ing pro­cess urged by the need of ut­ter per­fec­tion new tech­niques and technologies have been de­vel­oped to bring out the most dis­tin­guished qualities and fea­tures of the ma­te­ri­al. With indus­tri­al­i­za­tion por­ce­lain reached the next stage of its ev­o­lu­tion. Less com­plex forms and pat­terns and more stand­ard­ized and prac­ti­cal prod­ucts evolved char­ac­ter­ized by smooth well-pro­cessed surfaces. The ob­jec­tive of the in­dus­try con­sists in manu­fac­tur­ing everyday ob­jects in se­ri­al pro­duc­tion. These goods are not dis­tin­guish­a­ble from each other any­more and cope with the need for norm­a­ti­vi­ty.

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Today there are many desig­ner and art­ ists who ded­i­cat­ed them­selves to por­ce­lain. Ques­tion­ing existing stereo­types thus de­fining modern design ap­proaches is their core interest. This pro­ject is strong­ly in­flu­enced by those ideas and il­lus­trates that the ev­o­lu­tion of por­ce­lain is still in pro­gress. The pur­pose of this pro­ject and the ad­junc­tive ma­te­ri­al study is to ac­quire a better un­derstand­ing of por­ce­lain and by ap­ply­ing an ex­per­i­men­tal ap­proach high­light­ing new kinds of pro­cess­ing por­ce­lain.

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The city of Selb was once the cen­ter of the Ger­man por­ce­lain in­dus­try. Even though hard­ly any por­ce­lain is pro­duced there any­more Selb is still worth a visit. The “Porzellanikon” lo­cated at the former Rosenthal Factory which closed down in 1969 contains the European Industrial Museum for Porcelain, the European Museum for Technical Ceramics as well as the Rosenthal Museum.

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Breaking with the smooth white sur­face in order to induce tension is some­thing one is not used to from in­dus­tri­al pro­cessed por­ce­lain. This new per­spec­tive is appeal­ing and in­tim­i­dat­ing at once. Just as the fear of the white pa­per, it is also chal­leng­ing to work with fresh raw por­ce­lain mass at the very begin­ning. These doubts had to be put aside in order to sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly test dif­fer­ent ways of working with por­ce­lain. The focus of this stu­dio pro­ject was set on surf­aces and col­ours.

Basics in ma­te­ri­al prop­er­ties, pro­ce­dures and kilning are partic­u­lar­ly helpful in the begin­ning. The daily work at the studio con­tin­uously testing and thus im­prov­ing the results and skills was an en­rich­ing expe­ri­ence which enhances everything one already had learned from books and no­ta­tions. The out­come will be in­stru­men­tal for further product lines and projects in the future.

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While conducting the material study at the stu­dio the first thing to do was taking the por­ce­lain out of its broader context and to focus on analyzing its material-dependent char­ac­ter­is­tics. To identify the limits of working with the material was the higher goal of the work at the studio. The cast­ing slip Mont Blanc pro­duced by Wittgert was used for the entire study. It has a kiln range of 1250 to 1350 degrees and has a dis­tin­guished snow-white body.

Traditional porcelain manufacturers as for example Meissen still produce their objects by hand just as 300 years ago. In the age of in­dus­tr­ial mass-production only a few man­ufac­tur­ers are still able to preserve this old and worthy tradition.

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During the material study special coloured pig­ments were added to the liquid cast­ing slip. These pig­ments are high-fired pig­ments com­posed of different chemical sub­stances and are normally used for colouring ceramic glazes. For this project coloured glazes were de­lib­er­ately not used in order to set the focus on the por­ce­lain itself. While working with the pig­ments it became ob­vi­ous how important but difficult it is to find and re­pro­duce the correct ratio of pig­ments to por­ce­lain. In­di­ca­tions from rel­e­vant lit­er­a­ture stated a large spread from six to twenty percent. There­fore the correct ratios had to be ascertained by trial and error until the com­bi­na­tion of pig­ments and snow-white cast­ing slip lived up to the ex­pec­ta­tions.

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The experience made throughout the study provides the fun­da­men­tals to upscale the results to a larger dimension. Con­tem­plating what might be the best depiction of the gathered results brought the focus back to the history and tra­di­tion of por­ce­lain itself. In relation to the ancient Chinese porcelain the shape of a vase was chosen since it re­sem­bles the epitome of finest porcelain. Vases were not used to be just everyday prod­ucts but were used as a sur­face to tell for example stories from days long gone. Arts, culture, tradition, cer­e­mo­nies, lifestyle and crafts­man­ship were depicted on the vases. In a similar way the vases which evolved from this study serve as a canvas to ac­cen­tu­ate the findings of this studio project. It re­sem­bles a link between the rich and unique tradition of porcelain and new ways of ap­proach­ing this raw material over­coming its out-dated per­cep­tion.

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Due to the initiative and the passion for collecting of Saxonian King August the Strong Europe’s most com­pre­hen­sive porcelain collection came into existence. In­ven­to­ry sheets document that until his death 1733 he collected about 35.000 pieces. Today this enormous collection is located at the Zwinger Palace in Dresden.

Rimma Tchilingarian

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