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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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