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.
The Slovene Ethnographic Museum is a museum ‘about people, for people’ – it is the perfect place for the presentation of People From The Porcelain Factory. It is a museum of cultural identities, a link between the past and the present, between traditional and modern culture, between our own and other cultures, between the natural environment and civilisation. It is a museum of dialogue, open, active and hospitable, dedicated to serving the public. It presents and reports on traditional culture as well as mass and pop culture in Slovenia and the diaspora, on non-European cultures, and on the material and intangible cultural heritage of both everyday and festive life.
Ewa Klekot,art anthropologist at the University of Warsaw and School of Form in Poznań, and Arkadiusz Szwed, ceramicist at the School of Form in Poznań
Exhibition design: Jarek Hulbój
The exhibition is co-organised by the by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute and the Slovene Ethnographic Museum.
Source: press materials, compiled by PB, translated by NR, May 2018