Photo Credit: NIU Chun-Chiang

LI Yi-Fan

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LI Yi-Fan

Location Netherlands / Oisterwijk
Residency The European Ceramic Work Centre (EKWC)
Year of the Grant 2018
My unhindered imagination with ceramics stems from its profound history regarding fire, sintering, the beginning of ancient human civilization, and the desire to make objects that last for an eternity. I am also curious about how the glossiness of glazes will change its properties under projected light – how the reflective, non-reflective, and metallic surfaces could be misinterpreted and misunderstood under light and shadow.

The European Ceramic Work Centre offered me the opportunity to explore more possibilities working with ceramics. In particular, the Centre’s digital workshop allowed me to try to produce sculptures with a digital process, thereby exploring the relationship between digital and physical media.

Artist’s Residency Experience:

The European Ceramic Work Centre is in the quiet town of Oisterwijk in the southern part of the Netherlands with a five-minute walking distance from the railway station. Oisterwijk is a small residential town with a main street that can be fully explored within half an hour on foot. The only two supermarkets are open until 8 pm on weekdays and closes at 6 pm on holidays. As such, Oisterwijk is deafening quiet in the afterhours as nightlife is also nonexistent.

One of the features of the European Ceramic Work Centre is that it accepts a variety of artists, including visual, sound, graphic design, interior design, architecture, and professional ceramic artists. Creators with different backgrounds can exchange ideas at the dinner table to better understand each other’s creativity. Interestingly, ceramics is always the central topic.

Most of the resident artists at the European Ceramic Work Centre will stay for twelve weeks. Artists are assigned a suite, a personal studio, and the right to use the shared facilities. During the period, the artist can work 24 hours a day with room to fully explore the possibilities of ceramics.

At the European Ceramic Work Centre, there are six to eight advisers that offer professional assistance to resident artists working with ceramics. Each adviser has a different background in ceramics, and most are also artists themselves. The advisers would never comment on and criticize the artist’s projects aesthetically, and they would fully respect the artists’ time and energy. The advisory system of the European Ceramic Work Centre is at the core of the entire residency program. Under this system, artists can maintain their own creative process, and only when professional assistance is needed, the advisers will jump in to provide their full support.

Compared with my previous residency experience, the European Ceramic Work Centre does not require the artist to give any feedback, or does the artist have an obligation to do so. The only requirement is a ten-minute self-introduction brief when first arriving at the Centre so that other artists can get to know you. In addition, the European Ceramic Work Centre would host the “TEST CASE” open workshop every three months so that people interested in ceramics can come to visit and communicate with each other. However, participation in the TEST CASE is not mandatory and artists are free to make their own decisions.

The European Ceramic Work Centre is equipped with nearly 33,000 square meters of world class professional facilities and hardware, including:

(1) Kilns: There are around ten electric kilns and gas kilns. Artists are free to reserve and use them at around 1.5 to 9 Euros per hour. In addition to the resident artists, the European Ceramic Work Centre also accepts firing jobs commissioned by outside artists.

(2) Glaze room: There are no ready-mixed glaze at the European Ceramic Work Centre. All glazes must be prepared and mixed by the artist themselves. The glaze room has three sets of workbenches and professional ventilation equipment. Safety is of the highest concern at the European Ceramic Work Centre and artists must wear masks and latex gloves when preparing glazes.

(3) Plaster workshop: All processes that require plaster molds are done here and a professional adviser will assist in the production of various molds.

(4) Woodworking: Circular saw, band saw, wire saw, and grinding equipment.

(5) Ironwork: Welding equipment, welding table, drilling machine, and other metalworking equipment.

(6) Digital workshop: Three PLA3D printers of different sizes charged by per gram of material, one ceramic printer, one Styrofoam linear cutter, one high-temperature 3D sintered ceramic printer, and one digital CNC machine capable of milling Styrofoam and plaster.

One advantage of the European Ceramic Work Centre is the digital workshop. At the start of two years ago, the Centre began to accept resident artists with design and architectural backgrounds. In order to accommodate these artists without handicraft backgrounds, the European Ceramic Work Centre introduced digital manufacturing processes to digitally cut out the molds and ceramic artists have been using this method ever since.

(7) Art gallery: The central art gallery is in the outer area of the main factory, where artists can display and consign their works. Here you can also see the works of past artists.

(8) Kitchen and living room: The kitchen provided by the European Ceramic Work Centre is no slouch, even compared with its ceramics facilities. Convection ovens, island kitchen countertops, food processors, coffee machines, and dishwashers. Every unit comes in a pair enough to serve a 30-person banquet along with projectors and audio equipment. Artists would come here in their spare time to socialize and exchange ideas.

(9) Guest room: Each artist has a suite with full bathroom facilities. Friends of the artist are welcomed to visit.

Due to the excellent facilities provided by the European Ceramic Work Centre, resident artists rarely need to leave Oisterwijk. If they really wanted to head outside the town, they would most likely use the time when their creation is firing in the kiln. Tilburg is the nearest town about 10 minutes away by train, or a 1-hour bicycle ride as provided by the European Ceramic Work Centre when the weather is good.

Artists often use the term intense to describe their residency experience at the European Ceramic Work Centre. It is because ceramics is the only subject of approval throughout the entire day. Even conversational topics at the dinner table would only focus on the clay, glaze, and kiln. This intensity is not only emotional, but also physical, as ceramic art production always involves plenty of physical labor. After three months, everyone is exhausted. This experience reminds me of my student days as I marched forward like in a training camp every day. Through discussions with advisers, I was exposed to new knowledge daily. One of the biggest benefits of the residency program is being able to focus on your own projects without interference from the outside world.