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People from the Porcelain Factory

10 Grundarstígur
A promotional photo for the People from the Porcelain Factory exhibition, photo: Arkadiusz Szwed

Porcelain dishes have been part of our daily lives for centuries. The creators of the People from the Porcelain Factory Project showcase what happens behind the scenes: how these delicate and beautiful pieces are manufactured, as well as the people that design them.

The Human Trace porcelain tableware was created on the factory production line. It was made by factory workers wearing gloves whose fingertips were dipped in cobalt. The traces of their touch remain almost invisible until the porcelain is fired when almost miraculously they appear on the porcelain - in a deep, dark blue pattern. This way, the ‘human factor' in the 'inhuman' production process remains visible - and is extraordinary.

The tableware was manufactured as a part of the People from the Porcelain Factory Project, which was carried out in one of the oldest ceramic factories in Poland. The factory in Ćmielów, established in 1790, has been producing fine porcelain since 1838 and is currently owned by Polskie Fabryki Porcelany Ćmielów i Chodzież S.A.

The project, which combines anthropological research with critical design, is curated by a team consisting of anthropologist Ewa Klekot and ceramist Arkadiusz Szwed and is being financed by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education within the framework of the National Programme of Development in Humanities.

The main objective of the project is to contribute to a critical analysis of the social construction of value systems applied to diverse human and non-human work. It will also add to the debate on the relationships of human vs. technology. Porcelain items tend to be treated either as collectables or as design pieces, appreciated mostly for their aesthetic qualities. Relatively little attention is paid to the manufacturing process. Recognising the roles of all types of knowledge and skills involved in porcelain manufacturing can contribute to a better understanding of all the 'actors' taking part in the process of its production and encourage users to reflect on the finished products.

People from the Porcelain Factory Project is organised by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, in partnership with Hannesarholt by Polskie Fabryki Porcelany Ćmielów i Chodzież S.A.

Source: own materials; compiled by AJS; 14 Mar 2017; translated by NR, 16 Mar 2017

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