Colonies: Ceramics Inspired by Marine Life

My name’s Julie Ralph. I’m a senior at Stanford. I’m a Math
and Computational Science major, and I’m the President
of the Ceramics Club this year. And last summer
I did a project where I tried to integrate marine biology
and ceramics. I think that what I love
the most about marine life and why I like doing things
based on that is that it’s so different from what we think
of when you think of an animal or a plant
or any sort of living creature. And I think it’s great
that there’s these animals that are genetically identic
and grow together and yet have
these different functions within the colony. So I’m just
kind of amazed by them. Going down to Hopkins
was a big part of it, and we spent the first part
of the day looking at things
in tide pools just with the naked eye. And then went and brought
some of the stuff that we had seen in the tide
pools back to the lab and got out some microscopes
and put it in slides and started looking at it
and poking it. There’s a lot of beautiful forms
in marine life, and a lot of it
is very difficult to put into ceramics,
because so much of it is about tentacles
and gossamer strands and really flowy things
that you can’t capture directly in something
that’s gonna be very clay and very hard
and not mobile. So what I made
was obviously not a picture of the animals. It’s very much just inspired by their
very interesting shapes. I guess the bryozoa
might be my favorite piece, and they have both
an outer shell and a very complicated
inner soft creature, which is super interesting,
because, you know, they are basically
one big gut that takes in food
and spits out food. For those, I had
a fairly clear sense that I wanted to make
something that had to do with the outer shell, and I wanted to capture
their very geometric way of growing
next to each other. They have a very tiled pattern that I knew
that I wanted to capture, so I wanted to make
a bunch of pieces and put them all together. Ceramics starts
with a bag of clay, which is fairly wet,
fairly plastic and can be molded
and stuck together and basically the drawing board
for everything. Most of my pieces
were thrown, which means that they’re
made on a wheel spinning, so they’re
gonna be symmetric when they first come off
the wheel, and then I’ll do things
to alter them. I think
the last big moment for me was when I had
everything glazed, and I put it into the kiln, and I had filled up
the entire kiln with my own pieces, which was really cool
to see. It was really great for me
to see everything at an exhibit, to see it
with professional-looking lights on it
and in a display cabinet and sort of glimmering
and all set up together. Because a lot of my pieces
are colonies and they’re separate pieces, it was really nice to see them
all laid out together at once, which I had seen
before the reception. And I like having it
on display. I think it’s important for me that people are able to
see it, so that was real nice. woman:
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