Between Plate and Palate - Interview with Marek Cecuła
In an interview with Culture.pl, the ceramic-pottery designer Marek Cecuła - one of Poland's most recognised product designers - talks about creating the Ćmielów Design Studio and the Art Food workshops
Agnieszka Sural: You lived and worked in Israel, Brasil and New York City from the mid 1970s. What brought you to a village in the Świętokrzyskie region – a place with more wooden than stone houses?
Marek Cecuła: I have been in Poland since the year 2000. My New York based studio Modus Design cooperated with Polish porcelain factories, also with Ćmielów. We have known each other for many years and this is where we produce our designs.
At the beginning of 2013, in one of the oldest Polish porcelain plants, you opened the Ćmielów Design Studio.
This is a place where we explore new marketing ideas and new branding ideas for contemporary ceramics, we create new projects. Until recently the Ćmielów Porcelain Factory followed a traditional strand, now they are ready to expand into more contemporary design, made for the young generation. The Ćmielów Design Studio serves as a residence for a couple of students or designers who will be making their own designs, which can then potentially be put into production.
The first initiative are the workshops and the Art Food exhibition, which brings together students from the Royal College of London and the School of Form in Poznań. Where did this idea originate?
I was lecturing on ceramic design at the Royal College of Art and these are students with whom I worked. I also work on a permanent babsis with the Ćmielów Porcelain Factory. I had already put into practice the Art Food project in other schools with other students. This year we wanted to repeat the project because art food - which we understand to be the culinary art - is becoming more and more popular. We came to the conclusion that the timing and the place were right to enter the design world with special ceramic products for chefs.
Our educational project allows students to enter the a place in the ceramic industry where they can get experience that they would have not received in school. The projects that will be put into production will be functional and real because they will be put into use by restaurants where food will be served on them.
Did the students who are part of the project have to undergo a special selection?
No, this is a project for those who are willing and eager to participate in it. It so happens to be the summer, so it was their choice to work instead of going on vacation. There are 12 students taking part in the workshops, 6 from each school. Additionally there are two students, girls, that make objects from glass. The objects are being made in London and they will arrive for the exhibition. The students participate every part of the porcelain production process. The level of the students from England and Poland is very similar because our education is at a good level.
The good level of Polish education is held up by the School of Form in Poznań.
The School of Form is an experimental school, the first private school forming designers in Poland. The Royal College of London on the other hand, is a more traditional school, forming ceramic-pottery makers. One of our goals is to make the ceramics more accesible to contemporary designers, pottery ceramic makers on the other hand need new designs and forms.
What is art food?
Art food is a combination between dish and what is on it. Not only what is lying on it, but what is artistically laid out, not only visually but also in terms of taste. Today we no longer eat because we are hungry, we eat to try things, to get to known new tastes, we eat to experience new culinary sensations. Art food is a composition that comes to life between aesthetics, the dish, the layout of food on the dish and the taste.
Just like we observe a painting and we listen to music, we taste our food in a similar way. Given the fact that this is an experience, we need to prepare a special way of teaching it. We call them the "medium of food" – not plates because they combine different elements that a chef can use in a creative way.
Incredible feasts made use of incredible tableware since the 17th century. In aristocratic houses there were special shapes for different dishes, for example, special dishes for jelly. Food was always an element of the life of the higher classes. In the contemporary world, this started to disappear, forms became simpler. And now we are going back to viewing food and gastronomy as elements of art again.
Culinary art however, seems to be the purview of chefs.
In Poland we work with Wojciech Modest Amaro, the chef of Atelier Amaro, whose Warsaw-based restaurant was the first Polish restaurant to receive a Michelin star [in 2013]. He is the one who introduced the students to cooking and the art of displaying food. That allowed them to think about object that we create at the Ćmielów Design Studio. In London we have a chef, Tim Allen, who was also recognised by Michelin. We cooperate with people, who know how to make use of the students’ creativity.
What did the process of the work during the workshops look like?
The project began in the schools, with chefs giving lectures. Next, the students put pen to paper and drew their ideas, and we analysed them. From those ideas, they created models back in their own schools. Some of them made use of modern technologies – 3-D printers for example. At the beginning of the summer holidays the models arrived in the factories together with the students, where we began working on the ceramic and cast forms from which we produce the porcelain objects. They are then purified, they undergo a manufacturing phase called firing, a heating step that takes place in a type of oven called a kiln, they are glazed, decorated and fired again.
What kind of project did the students create? What served as their inspiration?
Every project is different. One of the students created a dish that omitted the entire ceramic manufacturing process. She used scrap pieces of ceramic - white and glazed small pieces. She glazed these elements with gold and reused them on second-category plates. She created a very interesting combination from already existing material.
Yes, a sort of ready-made. This project stood out from the others, it was almost aggresive. Other students made dishes, glasses, gravy boats, dishes with a skewer that you can put food on and make different compositions. Another participant simply made compartments that are meant to sustain the form of food. Not to mention the dishes with grooved decorations. When you pour sauce onto them, the sauce goes into the grooves creating a very interesting decoration.
What are the future plans of the Ćmielów Design Studio?
In spring, nine designers from Berlin will come here to prepare the "link to production", a project that is directed towards production. The Studio is planning on undertaking two major projects per year, one educational, the other career-oriented. Apart from that, symposiums and residencies will take place all year long. New contemporary porcelain will be created here, that's why we want to cooperate with everyone who wants to try out this medium. Ćmielów is one step ahead because cooperating with designers that you not only invite to do something together but that you give a place to stay and the material to work, is the future of the industry.
Different workshops take place in different factories throughout Poland, but this is the only permanent studio. Abroad there are factories, like the Vista Alegre in Portugal or KAHLA in Germany, in which students and designers work to then have their projects included in the production lines of these factories. Ćmielów took a step that should be an example for the entire inducstry.
Interview with Marek Cecuła by Agnieszka Sural, Ćmielów, 16.07.2013, translated by MJ
Head of project: Marek Cecuła
Participants: Andrew Deem, Emma Finch, Rachel Victoria Cox, Landon Peck, Ewelina Wiśniowska, I Liang Liu, Karolina Rybak, Paulina Masternak, Antonina Kiliś, Dominika Bździak, Dorota Mostowiak, Marta Szostek as well as Alicja Patanowsk and Flavie Audi
Art Food on Tour
• 1-21.07 Workshops with Marek Cecuła at the Ćmielów Porcelain Factory
• 25.07-8.08 Show at Concordia, Poznań
• 14-22.09 Show at London Design Week
• 28.09-10.11 Show at British Ceramics Biennial, Stroke-on-Tent
17-27.10 Show at Łódź Design Festival
The Art Food project is carried out under the auspices of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute.
For more information on Art Food, see: artfood2013.wordpress.com