A Good Sense of Humour

One of the latest additions to our growing Process and Material Innovation Collection is the ‘GSOH Vessel’ by Michael Eden. Made in 2014, it is an outstanding example of what 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, can achieve.

GSOH Vessel, 2014. Nylon with soft mineral coating. Image courtesy of Adrian Sassoon, London.

Michael Eden was a Digital Research Fellow at MIRIAD, Manchester Metropolitan University, from 2012-15. He is an established potter who radically changed his creative direction when he embraced digital technology. Eden found that he could bring the time honoured technical and creative skills of the potter to the application of new technologies and materials. The result is a body of work that celebrates drawing and traditional hand skills through digital modelling and 3D printing. He is part of a revolution in traditional making and production and, in 2008, he created what has become an icon of digital craft, the ‘Wedgwoodn’t Tureen’.

The use of new technology not only allows me to create artworks previously impossible to manufacture, but it is also designed to provoke a debate around the place of craft in a digital world.                                         Michael Eden, 2016

Eden’s work usually takes as its starting point that most commonplace of objects, the ceramic vessel, and the ‘GSOH Vessel’ is no different. It refers back to the rich history of British ceramic design, to what might be called a Victorian bygone, a Supper Set.

I often use historic objects as starting points, partly because they are familiar to us, we see them in our grandma’s house and in museums, but also because there are so many fascinating stories that underpin these objects. In particular, the role they played in the society of the time. Bringing them ‘kicking and screaming’ into the 21st century can reveal a lot about how times have changed, and provide a mirror, a reflection on the lives we live now.
Michael Eden, 2016.

Michael Eden has explained what inspired the ‘GSOH Vessel’,

In the 19th century there was a short-lived fashion for composite ceramic pieces. Typical of these were the ‘Smoker’s Companion’, an assemblage of individual functional objects designed to fit together into a tall, imposing tower. Whilst visiting the Shipley Art Gallery at Gateshead in the northeast of England, I spotted another variation on the theme – a Bachelor’s Supper Set. It was made in 1867 for John McGowan in Gateshead and comprises a candlestick, goblet, plate, bowl and serving dish.


John McGowan’s Bachelor’s Supper Set, c 1867. Earthenware. The supper set is on display at Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead (Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums). Image courtesy of Michael Eden.

I began to imagine the life of John McGowan, dining quietly by himself and wondering if he remained a bachelor all his life. How did a bachelor like John meet a prospective partner? Through work and family connections, I imagine. How different to our present era with Internet dating and smartphone Apps like Tinder? So my interpretation is a 21st century comment, constructed of words taken from the Guardian newspaper’s Soul Mates column, where individuals advertise and search for potential partners, using acronyms to list their personality or the attributes they are looking for. So GSOH means Good Sense Of Humour, WLTM means Would Like To Meet and so on and so forth. If John McGowan was here now, would he need a Bachelor’s Supper Set?

Once I was satisfied with the design on screen, the data was sent to a bureau specialising in Additive Manufacturing and the piece was manufactured using the latest Selective Laser Sintering technology. It was then hand finished. The use of these new tools allows me create objects that were previously impossible to manufacture and enables me to inhabit an exciting grey area somewhere between craft, design and art.
Michael Eden, 2016

With thanks to Michael Eden, Adrian Sassoon and Sarah Richardson, Keeper of Art at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.

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