by Joshua Rocker, Marketing Intern
With its working jukebox machine and colourful collection of
record covers, I wasn’t sure if the Jukebox, Jewkbox exhibition could be topped by Shaping Ceramics: From Lucie Rie to Edmund de Waal. I had started a marketing and
events internship at the Jewish Museum just as Jewkbox was approaching its
final weeks, so I realised that much of my work would be on ceramics.
Having now spent some time researching Jewish ceramicists
for a social media campaign, I am actually really excited about the exhibition.
Not only have I found ceramics really interesting to learn about, but I have also
come to appreciate the final product and the stories behind the pots, which
make them so absorbing.
Joshua in Shaping Ceramics: From Lucie Rie to Edmund de Waal
For example, much of Jenny Stolzenberg’s work commemorates
the Holocaust. For her installations of ceramic shoes, she meticulously
researched real ones from those left in the death camps, with the purpose of
returning an identity to the victims. She is quoted as saying “The deed was ugly,
but the victims were not.”
I have also enjoyed studying David Breuer-Weil, whose work feeds
off the idea that humans are born out of the ground. Many of his sculptures are
literally larger than life, such as giant feet protruding from the ground. His pieces
are fascinating to look at because they are so imaginative, and because of the
mystical connotations concerning the origins of humanity.
At the heart of ceramics lies pots, and while very different
from the sculptures crafted by Breuer-Weil, still have many stories to tell.
Whether these be linked to Janet Haig’s experiences in a Siberian Prison Camp
and subsequent move to Australia, or Dan Arbeid’s connection to Israel, I think
that each piece is just as interesting because of its back story as it is to
Lucie Rie, Buttons, Courtesy of The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent
Three ceramicists I was particularly drawn to were Lucie
Rie, Hans Coper and Ray Silverman. Rie and Coper were some of the most
influential potters of their generation, and Silverman was one of their
Silverman recalls Rie refusing for nine months to let him
keep the pots he had made. Instead, she would cut through them to see how well
they had been thrown. The first pot he was allowed to take home he gave away to
a friend, having decided he no longer liked it. It was returned to him 50 years
later, and it will be on display in the exhibition.
There are many other ceramicists featured in the exhibition,
including Edmund de Waal, Antonia Salmon and David Jones to name but a few, and
I have enjoyed working on this project and learning a little bit about them all.
I really recommend having a look at the ‘Shaping Ceramics’ catalogue, which I
used for some of my research. It is very informative and has some interesting
essays, including one on Henry Rothschild who has connections to lots of the
ceramicists whose work is on display in the exhibition.
I’m really looking forward to seeing the exhibition when it
opens and being able to view the pieces live and in 3D, rather than just on a
computer screen. Ceramics are appealing because of their shapes and textures,
which you can never grasp fully from a photograph. I hope that what I have
learned will help me contextualise the ceramic pieces and understand the
stories which shaped the clay.