Aor Suthiprapha - when artist meets good materials
What is a good sculpture in your opinion? Skills of sculptors or good materials used or both of them should go together. Let's listen to the thoughts of Aor Suthiprapha, artist and ceramic designer whom Pottery Clay had invited to talk today
Aor Suthiprapha started sculpting with no interest in sculpture because her first thought was that sculpting was a sloppy job. She was admitted to the Department of Industrial Design in the Faculty of Architecture at Chulalongkorn University which had 5 majors so ceramics was hardly in her eyes at all. Until she met Ajarn Pim Suthikham who didn't teach ceramics just in the classroom but gave students the opportunity to try everything that the department could provide equipment and raw materials for.
“My first thought about ceramics was that I didn't want to study about it at all, I wanted to study interior and wear pretty dress working in an air-conditioned room but when I met Ajarn Pim and tried to make a sculpture I felt in love with it and continued working on it since then. After I graduated, I worked as an assistant to Ajarn Pim in her studio. At the same time I also had a full time job as a ceramic designer for Mae Fah Luang Foundation. I was responsible for designing ceramic works. I alternated between working at the pottery factory there and coming down to work in Bangkok. I felt it was fun to be in touch with materials and raw materials for actual work. My previous thought of avoiding dirtiness has completed gone. Since then ceramic work has always been fascinating stories that I like to follow. This might be the charm of ceramics that I felt in love with without even realizing it.” ”
Ceramic work has no fixed formula and 1+1 doesn’t have to = 2
If you thought that whatever you sculpted previously would come out the same next time then let me tell you that you were wrong. This is because ceramic work has many environmental factors that make the work you thought would turn out the same to become something out of your expectation.
“In each ceramic work, artists have no way of knowing that 1+1 = 2. We can only speculate in advance from experience that when this is mixed with that, it should be something like this. There is no way to tell 100% at all times. So we will say to our customers that it's going to be something like this because with ceramic work you will always have to wait and see the result after firing. It requires precision from experience and at the same time it is fun to play with the workpieces and it is always a challenge for us.”
“Designing ceramics for people to make is another challenge we faced but at the same time it makes us discover that there are still many things that we don't understand especially in technical matters because when we studied we learnt the basics of ceramic work for design but we never studied in depth into the raw materials used to create the work. As a result, when designing it was difficult to understand the nature of the material. It then became a limitation of work. In addition, the question arises every time we see pictures of ceramic works in foreign books. The question is how they did it. Why was it that when we tried to do it, we couldn’t do that? Why was the work of foreigners so detailed? There was a technique that we felt was more advanced than the ceramic we knew at the time. Their ceramic work was not just about crockery but a sculpture that both thin and translucent. It was the same ceramic work but how did they do it?
“When I thought about this I felt perhaps we had to do it ourselves so that we could understand it to get a good result. It was not just doing the design on paper and sending it to someone else to make a model out of it. It was like finding some gaps and wanted to go out to explore and find some answers.”
Artwork "The Cradle" at The Parq building
Let's go on a journey...to find the answer
Since I don't know, I have to find answers and learn by myself. Aor Suthiprapha decided to go to study in this field especially in Sweden. The country that supports education in a way of free study
“The reason for choosing Sweden was because it was a country that offered free education together with the teachers I wanted to study with were there. It was bilingual education. Both English and Swedish were used. However most part of the study were practical part that focused on looking and observing therefore communication in different languages was not a hindrance at all. However I felt that I didn’t have much in term of practical experience so I decided to study all the basics first. If compared to the education in our home country it was like studying in a polytechnic which gave me an opportunity to meet the national artist there who taught me everything and allowed me to understand how they did it according to the book I saw.
“Upon completion of my study, I gained a Certificate in Ceramic at Capellagården- School of craft and design then I pursued a master's degree ofApplied Art, Ceramic at Högskolan för Design och Konsthantverk While completing a master's degree, I also worked as an assistant teacher. After I graduated, I became an artist assistant for another year before returning to Thailand permanently. When I came back I felt I had obtained a superior level of study because I found many answers for many things I had been searching for.
“Especially my curiosity about why their work could amaze me and why that type of work was rare in Thailand? The answer was that the materials available in Thailand were quite limited. The lack of good options to create workpieces and the next thing was the lack of understanding of the materials or raw materials used plus the unknown of some suitable techniques. Although it could be just a small technique but could make a difference.
“Actually at that time while I was there I didn’t think about returning home and had applied to exhibit my artwork at 2-3 galleries. I was also thinking about opening a company but when I looked at the economy and the money in your own pocket I knew I didn’t have sufficient fund so I decided to come back to Thailand and opened my own small studio. At the beginning of my return it was the first era of craft trend .The trend of handcraft such as woodworking, fabric work, ceramic work were hot trend in our country at that time so I was lucky to become one of the first that the Thai media was watching that this woman was doing this.”
thin work, blue and white stripes
If you ask what kind of work is Aor Suthiprapha's work?“Thin work, blue and white stripes” is probably the most direct and clear answer.
“The work that can be called our signature is a matter of thinness that seems to be something that we have long suppressed the curiosity of how foreigners can create very thin work like that and that type of thinness comes with a beautiful shape. When we know the technique we then select materials to match our work. Therefore we got the answer to the kind of work we are looking for. Also, we have added our preferences in the small lines into our work together with blue and white until it becomes our signature work in the end
“Creating work in such a way that we consider it as our own challenge because the more thinness it is the more challenges the shape is. That is the best for us and let us knows that the raw materials can go further than what we are doing now. Just have a good technique and the material will promote your own work. Many people when they know that we emphasize on the thinness of our work they often ask whether we are not afraid of breaking it. Broken work is normal. We will do our best and if it's broken, then it's broken. Just do it again. Actually, we can learn a lot from the broken work. It makes us understand the nature of the material why it is broken. Are we pushing too hard? This doesn't mean that only sculpting method can cause it to break or crack but it can be because of the material and technique because everything has to go together. For us, each time we change the materials we have to learn about it again because each type of clay comes with its own characteristics.”
Artwork "Let’s sway and see it goss"
Sculptors and raw materials, when they match everything is fine.
Of course, artists usually have their own exhibitions. Aor Suthiprapha is also one of them. However, she doesn't have many solo exhibitions. For the reason that ceramic work is quite a big event and it takes quite a long time to create workpieces and most importantly, the raw materials that she used it is not something that is commonly sold in our country.
“We mostly use porcelain clay which is imported from Japan. We later learned that Japan has hundreds of this type of clay. When looking at the clay sold in Thailand the quality is quite poor and expensive. At that time, Khun Pink who ownsPottery Clay brought Snow White clay to test it out and discovered that it was very good and reliable. The outcome was as good as intended. The work flowed because you didn’t have to wonder when it would crack or to feel anxious whether it would be ok after firing. There are already so many things we need to concern about when making ceramics. Therefore, having a type of clay that works well can help to relieve our stress.
“Furthermore, here there are products that support people who work in ceramics with in-depth techniques and professionalism. The advantage is that they will come to us to understand what materials we use, what clay we use, and try to meet our needs. For ceramic workers who need to use quite specific tools if you don't go abroad to buy them yourself, it is quite rare to find them in our country. Fortunately, having aconnection in this regard is quite good. They can find what the ceramic workers needs for their artwork. Their imported goods are foreign goods that are sold in Thailand. The quality is of the same standard that we buy from abroad.”
“There are many types of ceramic accessories. Some of them are cool and very good and also very expensive but if they do not answer our job requirements, we don't need to buy them for example a slab roller which we don't use because the technique we work with is not Slab work. However if it's for glazing, we can mix the glaze ourselves by finding araw material from here to mix it ourselves.
“And another thing I like about this brand is that as we are people who work with many types of clay,Pottery Clay has many different types of clay to choose from. We can choose to buy according to the type of work that we do. All of which do not require us to go aboard and find them ourselves. Especially since we haven’t been able to travel lately, purchasing them via Pottery Clay is a great option for sculptors like us.
“But for those who want to make ceramics as a career I would like to suggest that they learn the basics of ceramic work firmly because it is important. The foundation of knowledge will link how to prepare raw materials, what type of glazing to try, how to store material, how to manage tools. Once you have solid foundation, you'll know exactly what techniques you want to work on and it will then gradually narrow down to what necessary things you need and what tool is the right one for our work. Everything will be narrowed down then you'll find more and more personalized ceramic paths.”
For Aor Suthiprapha, she may have found her favorite type of ceramic work today but that doesn't mean she'll just stop because ceramic work is unpredictable and the materials used for making sculptures can go on for hundreds and thousands of things. Also the most important thing is that she doesn’t see ceramics as something that would bring her fame but it is something that gives her an idea and perspective on work and life more than expected. As long as the perfect balance of the sculptor and the raw materials are met, you will find the best in ceramic work as easily as her.