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Ceramics & Glass (MA)

Graeme Smith

The red, blue, the maroon in this work, come from the temperament of iron, the Earth’s abundant element that was born in the heat of a star. Scientists observing starlight know that iron is produced at the point when a star’s life is about to end. The dying star can collapse, fizzle or silently explode, sending the iron dust into space that will form the foundations of an Earth like our own.


“Maroon, which can have a more general sense of being abandoned without resources, entered English around the 1590s, from the French adjective marron,[2] meaning 'feral' or 'fugitive'. (Despite having the same spelling, the meaning of 'reddish brown' for maroon did not appear until the late 1700s, perhaps influenced by the idea of maroon peoples.[3][4])”

2. "Maroon definition and meaning". Collins Dictionary

3. "maroon"Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press

4. Roberts, Neil (2015). Freedom as Marronage. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press.

“I would go so far as to say that the natural, proper, fitting shape of the novel might be that of a sack, a bag. A book holds words. Words hold things. They bear meanings. A novel is a medicine bundle, holding things in a particular, powerful relation to one another and to us.”

(Ursula K. Le Guin, The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction)

How do you see these things? Where do they live?

They live in and extend my space. They are containers for life or carriers of subjugated knowledge. They hold questions about materiality, landscape, transplanting, and dislocation.

"…A leaf a gourd a shell a net a bag a sling a sack a bottle a pot a box a container. A holder. A recipient."

(Ursula K. Le Guin, The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction

Top view of Maroon and brown glazed ceramic vessel. Vessel has a variegated surface and the a form like a seed or pleated shell
Top view of Maroon and brown glazed ceramic vessel. Vessel has a variegated surface and the a form like a seed or pleated shell
glass bead made with different shades of green on a palm Fiber rope held by a dark skinned hand.
Glass beads responding to research on the transatlantic trade beads held in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum.


glazed stoneware


15cm x 15cm x 25cm
side view of glazed ceramic vessels, form and texture of draped fabric, colours of landscapes.
two vessels rest on a glazed stoneware sculpture with the texture and form of draped fabric but green colours of rolling hills.

textile topography

This series of work is made by painting clay and oxides onto surfaces of salvaged fabric. After layers of material have built up a shell, the fabric skin is peeled off and used for another work. The ceramic islands are both landscapes and fossils of a textile. They superimpose visions of land and the intimacy of the fabrics we wear.


glazed stoneware


dark maroon folded mass of clay cut open
dark maroon folded mass of clay with a cut surface


30cm x 20cm x 30cm

Chinampa (Floating Garden)

"When the Spanish marauder Hernando Cortez and his army invaded Mexico, they met “floating gardens… teeming with flowers and vegetables, and moving like rafts over the waters”; as they looked down on the valley of Mexico, seeing it for the first time a “picturesque assemblage of water, woodland, and cultivated plains…"

(Jamaica Kincaid, My Garden Book

blue glazed ceramic vessel holding an overflowing succulent (Rhipsalis cereoides)
blue glazed ceramic vessel holding an overflowing succulent (Rhipsalis cereoides)


glazed stoneware, Rhipsalis cereoides


40cm x 40cm x 50cm

Ikebana is an everyday art. It has a specific place in the home where it is seen, shared and remade. There is a place you are intended to see it, and way you are intended to look at it. You are supposed to focus on the opening of the vessel or the ‘origin’ of the flora, and appreciate it from the bottom to the top, watching the story the flowers are telling you. But this is not Ikebana. Here you can’t see these origins. They are out of reach. You can’t appreciate or see where this life is emerging from. The outer shell folds into an interior filled with water and darkness.

seed shaped vessel suspended


glazed stoneware


8cm x 8cm x 50cm

Working with clay and salvaged textiles, I explore the potential of subjugated knowledge, and surreal relations with landscape in the wake of our histories of transplanting, and dislocation.

How to explore ancestral histories of forced migrations when it can be too painful to re-live, or too distant to see clearly?

I find alternate histories in the objects and processes I work with; ‘something that may have been’ but has not been made before. Fictitious functions, spatial relations, and traces of metamorphosis evoke an escape from the past and present realities of spatial limits. 

"The country finds itself in the hands of new managers; but the fact is that everything needs to be reformed and everything thought out anew. In reality the colonial system was concerned with certain forms of wealth and certain resources only - precisely those which provisioned her own industries. Up to the present no serious effort had been made to estimate the riches of the soil or of mineral resources."

(Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth)

BUT WHY? Why do it yourself? It’s fucking slow! You don’t know anything about this stuff and time is slipping away… and you are getting old! Like just pay someone to do it for you.

You want to change your space?

You want to transform it? You want to build something for yourself or your family? Get a full-time job! Then buy something!

…Everyone is getting sick and there are no jobs, not in Berlin, Vancouver, definitely-not-London. Just make something. Today. to pass the time, who cares. What do you need? You need tools – steal them, you need clay – it’s cheap/free. Just make it in the simplest way possible.

You don’t have a ‘site’. There are no sites left. You are too late…

..You were the site.

"The human and its subcategory, the inhuman, are historically relational to a discourse of settler-colonial rights and material practices of extraction, which is to say that the categorization of matter is a spatial execution, of place, land, and person cut from relation through geographic displacement (and relocation through forced settlement and transatlantic slavery).That is, racialization belongs to a material categorization of the division of matter (corporeal and mineralogical) into active and inert."

(Kathryn Yusoff, A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None)

This work comes after origin stories, after replanted maroons, insurgent soils, and inhuman perspectives, after my ancestors who never invented anything, and those whose only journeys were uprootings.

Despite the archive, here are new bonds with materials from the earth.

Clay allows me to transgress assumed distinctions between matter and being by transposing material and spatial qualities. No other material offers this potential.

In these fugitive clays from below the ground we can find unyielding and beautiful territory where matter has agency. Clay can evoke a sense of being in matter, and a sensitivity to natural phenomena.