Creating objects of beauty from clay
By Sann Oo
WHEN U Aung Myint, a modern artist and the secretary of the Myanmar Ceramic Society displayed a ceramic pot that had been deformed while being baked in a kiln and pronounced it a sculpture, the audience reacted with surprise and amazement.
Ceramic ware that was damaged while being kiln-fired litters the area around Twante, a township about 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Yangon that has been a centre of ceramics production for hundreds of years.
But U Aung Myint believes that with minor modifications, the damaged pots can transformed into art objects.
To emphasis the point, he displayed two pots which had fused together while being fired in a kiln and would normally be discarded.
“I will try to create something with this,” he told the audience during a presentation at the inauguration of the Twante Ceramic Society’s learning centre on December 22. “It can be a flower or, if I make a hole in the base for an electric cord, it can be a beautiful lantern.”
About 20 percent of ceramic ware is damaged in the firing process and members of the society are hoping to turn objects that would otherwise be discarded into highly-valued works of art.
“During the baking process, some ceramics can be damaged or deformed because of overheating, but we regard these objects as naturally-created sculptures,” the chairman of the Myanmar Ceramic Society, Dr Myo Thant Tin, said at the inauguration.
Dr Myo Thant Tin said the idea of using ancient techniques to create contemporary works of art could help to generate greater interest in the production of ceramic ware in Myanmar.
The MCS, which has about 100 members, was formed in 2000 with the objectives of preserving production techniques which were in danger of disappearing and promoting the creation of works of arts, which can fetch high prices on international markets.
“We can make normal ceramic ware into highly valued objects through artistic creativity,” said U Zaw Than, a vice president of the MCS.
U Aung Myint radiates enthusiasm about his mission to create a higher profile for ceramic arts in Myanmar.
“Artists use various mediums, and I am interested in clay and earthenware,” he said.
“If earthenware is damaged while being baked it is normally thrown away; but we want to turn it into a vase or a sculpture, we can use deformed ceramic ware to create art.”
U Aung Myint urged artists to be courageous and dare to express their feelings in their creations.
Dr Myo Thant Tin said conceptual artists often acknowledge the role of nature as a source of creativity and there was no reason why those who create ceramic ware should not be similarly inspired.
He said the MCS was considering calling ceramic ware that had been deformed while being fired as ‘glazy.’
“It is a combination of glaze and crazy,” Dr Myo Thant Tin said.
He said turning simple, ordinary ceramic ware that has no artistic value into fine art objects can be a lucrative.
“Ceramic ware is the result of a combination of the four elements which are earth, water, fire and air; when we create a replica of the ancient wares, the value rose ten times, or hundred times,” Dr Myo Thant Tin said.
The MCS is hoping not only to increase the value of ceramic ware but also to show the world the creativity of Myanmar artists who prefer to work with the four elements.
The society is seeking the join the Seal of Excellence (SEAL) program for handicrafts products in Southeast Asia. The program was established jointly by UNESCO and the ASEAN Handicraft Promotion and Development Association in 2000 to establish quality standards and to enhance international awareness of handicrafts from the 10 ASEAN countries.
The society hopes that its efforts, and its membership of the SEAL program, will help to protect and preserve Myanmar’s rich tradition of ceramic ware production and help to increase the earnings of those who like to create works of beauty from clay.