Twelve editions of the journal Interpreting Ceramics.

The inaugural edition was published after a symposium, of the same name, at the Victoria and Albert Museum on the 22 of September 2000, since there have been eleven other editions published. The journal is a free online electronic periodical publication which is published roughly once a year, sometimes more frequently. The journal is published but is left open for modification and remarks until the next publication is released.

This journal is the first outcome of the collaborative work of the Interpreting Ceramics: Research Collaboration (ICRC). This has been registered ISSN as 1471 – 146X. ISSN is an International Standard Serial Number which is a unique eight-digit number used to identify a print or electronic periodical publication.

  The number 05 indicates the issue number.

The guidelines given for potential authors are extensive and must be sent in both paper and electronic format. 3000 – 6000 words are required (excluding notes and appendices), however if these guidelines aren’t met then the work may be considered on merit. It doesn’t however mention, as far as I can see that the article needs to be related to ceramics in anyway, I am however sure that this is an oversight!! As you can see from this link the parameters of submission are quite clear.

All submitted articles are blind (without names on the articles in order to give a fair chance to all), peer reviewed by selected members of the editorial advisory board, with three possible outcomes, it may be decided that the work is accepted, to be modified or that it is rejected for publication, whatever the decision the author always will be given feedback. Feedback from readers on published articles is thoroughly encouraged throughout. and where possible and applicable is added to the journal after its initial publication.

There is very little advertising in this journal as it is an academic research journal more than an advertising media. Interpreting Ceramics is not in any way “Glossy” as is Ceramic review. It is the result of the initiative of a group of academic staff from the UK who has unified through their shared research interests. The main aim of the journal is to record, interrogate, interpret and communicate the history and the practice of ceramics. There are however links to other publications under tabs off the main menus of each publication and some low-key advertising of upcoming events.

There are many very interesting articles and reviews in the twelve editions of Interpreting Ceramics none more so than the article written by Anders Ruhwald called “Functional Languages” from ninth issue of the journal. Here is a link to his article.


I had the pleasure of listening to Anders Ruhwald speak in 2010 at the “Ceramics on show” conference at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. This was quite an occasion for me as I must admit I am quite the fan of his work. Fluid and vibrant his work has a feel of the organic but with the polish of an industrial veneer which is very plastic in its appearance. In her book Breaking the mould: new approaches to ceramics by Cigalle Hanaor, she explains the artist quite well. Here is a link to the page in her book.

“Starting as a thrower, Ruhwald established a pottery in Copenhagen making functional stoneware. He has come a long way since then, and his large amorphous sculptures at first impression bear no resemblance to his traditional training. However, taking a closer look, on can see the extent of the craftsmanship that has gone into these dynamic beast-like shapes. Each piece is hand-built, using clay and glazes that he mixes himself. The texture of the clay bears a very human imprint, but the glazes are smooth and rubbery with an industrial feel.”

It was very shocking to me to think of this artist having started out a potter and seemed to make very little sense. So as you can imagine, the way in which Anders Ruhwald explains his work is particularly fascinating to me.

“I have never worked in any other material but clay”, Says the Danish artist, “I have never painted, never drawn-I am a ceramicist. The history and the context of ceramics are my main frame of reference.”

One can feel his enthusiasm for the product oozing from his words, almost like wet clay; he really gets you in the mood for picking up a lump and making something. The way in which Anders Ruhwald merges the inanimate with the animate can only leave one wondering as he explains in this article.

“This concern came into form through a series of objects that merge organic constructions referencing the body, with fragments of everyday objects. The work implies a fusion between product and organism, surroundings and person, object and body. It sets out to question the perceived rigid separation between humanity and our physical environment. If the objects with which we surround ourselves inform human identity to some extent, do they not also influence what we become? Thus the work is a formulation of what happens to common objects when they are assigned symbolic value, and become more than just their physical selves. The essential enquiry was whether human beings and our physical surroundings are transformed in the encounter with each other. Is there a possibility of considering the two becoming a larger entity?”

As his work and thought processes develop one can definitely see a movement to the more industrial side of ceramics. As he goes on to explain.

“My practice evolved into a series of works that have a literal function, mostly chairs or stools, which could be sat on. I wanted to break down the distance between the viewer and the objects fully, to have people engage the work in a very direct manner. I was trying to encourage a material reading. What does the work do? How does it at stand? What does it feel like? But with no fixed relationship to other objects in the world, this reading could remain open. And so I was searching for an engagement with the work, one that would parallel how we experience the things we live with everyday.”

I believe that this artist, in particular this article, is a clear demonstration of the relationship between hand and machine. Of the articles which I have read this one stands out to me, the way his work has changed in the past ten years from being purely functional to this nonfunctional form of sculpture is very striking. Even if he has maybe spent a little too long looking around IKEA?!!

I would consider the target audience of Interpreting Ceramics to be mainly established ceramicists, scholars, teachers, technical staff and research students. It is not really, in my opinion, a journal for beginner ceramicists, as it does require a great deal of basic ceramic knowledge both for lecture and interpretational regards. I should imagine that a journal of this caliber would be relevant to ceramic students who are maybe in their second or third year of a bachelors’ course.

There is very little technical information held within the journal as far as I can see, and it focuses mainly on the conceptual aspects, theory behind the making and history of the maker, rather than how the pieces are made, fired or glazed. Most of the older articles in this collection of journals tend to favour philosophical debate and education and the value of these rather than the qualities of “Hand and Machine”. However as the publication has evolved over the past decade the relationship has changed. More makers can be seen explaining their work and I was really impressed by the way these artists found their individual paths and directions with clay.

It is very well edited, extremely educational and comprises of a broad spectrum of approaches to the ceramic world. The essays and articles I find are very well written and the reviews are intensely objective in their criticism.

My overall impression of this journal is that although informative and well edited, it is not actually for makers as much as for theorists. I think it would be much improved if it contained more technical information and maybe more “Makers” material as it seems to be doing over the past few years. Also were it to be produced more frequently, say every quarter, one could anticipate it would probably have more of  a following. One annual edition in this day and age is a little on the long side for one to wait for the next installment, twelve editions in over ten years seems a little slow to me, and may leave the reader a little disenchanted. Ceramic Review will have published over sixty editions in that time with hundreds of reviews and articles. I do however believe that there is a place for journals such as this one. It shows clearly to me without all the advertising that it is capable of reviewing ceramics correctly in the twentieth century and also to retain the values which ceramics have held respectfully through the ages. It is a publication which without a doubt has a clear future, as ceramics is an evolving art, and this journal is a clear indicator of that.

Johnathan English.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s