Ceramics for the Anthropocene

Commissioned to develop a project that would ignite innovation in the long-standing traditionl artisanal ceramics industry of Albisola (IT).

The project involved the community of ceramicists of Albisola, the Engineering Department of the University of Genova, Savona Campus, and the digifabTURINg robotic fabrication research lab based at FabLab Turin.

I led the project from conception to realisation, drawing on the expertise of my collaborators.

Historical and Ethnographic Research

Having engaged in in-depth discussions with ceramics historians, museum collections managers and the local community of ceramicists and clay technologists, I built a thorough understanding of the unfolding of the Albisolese ceramics production over 900 centuries.

The ceramics production of Albisola has heavily relied on indigenous clays until the 17th century, when new materials were introduced as a result of the huge effects on the landscape caused by the exploitation of the local resources.

I observed how contemporary craftsmen have completely abandoned the local materials, relying instead on industrial products. The industrial clay they use functions as a blank canvas for complex pictorial glaze decorations. None of the craftsmen I interviewed created unglazed objects nor knew the origins of the clays they were working with.

The whole material research process we undertook aimed to reconnect with long-standing local traditions, highlighting the incredible material know-how of ceramicists and their connection with the soil.

Developing material know-how

Collaborating with expert ceramicist Marco Tortarolo and his ceramics laboratory, we organised field trips to particular areas of Liguria to meet other craftsmen working with local materials and to collect a range of material samples.

We visited and collected samples from abandoned clay pits, geological landmarks and private households.

We then spent 2 months refining the clays through various processes. We then learnt how to create mixes that would perform as the industrial counterparts and produce a beautiful colour palette.

Melding digital and traditional techniques

My aim was to explore the full expressive potential at the intersection of analog and digital fabrication tools.

Through a highly iterative process we tested and tweaked a range of parameters afforded by the robotic platform. As a result, we developed a library of extrusion effects, based on the use of custom asymmetric nozzles and horizontal fabrication approaches.

I aimed to reproduce the layered effects that often characterise geological stratifications, crafting a mix of hand-made and computational design strategies.

I pushed the team to work at a big, challenging scale.

I encouraged the exploration of new tools, bringing in a series of haute patiesserie nozzles that al- lowed us to achieve material struc- tures never seen before in the field of digital clay fabrication.

By leading and facilitating the col- laboration, we successfully cross- pollinated the traditional know- how with cutting-edge digital fabrication techniques. Both part- ners have since integrated in their own practice the new approach to materials and crafting tools.

Artwork Fabrication