MAstars 2010: Simon Pattison, MA Jewellery, Silversmithing & Related Products
Simon Pattison, The importance of being elegant, 2010. Silver, bone china and rapid prototyped objects in plaster (which are then spary painted in the fluresant colours)
Martin Ellis selects Simon Pattison from Birmingham Institute of Art & Design for MAstars
Simon Pattison's installation in Birmingham School of Jewellery is immediately arresting. A long plinth, dominating the northern end of the room, is set, like a great dining table, with a myriad of vessel forms. In the variety of vessels, their textures and colours, the effect is one of almost overwhelming richness – a material smorgasbord set out for our delight. The objects range from tiny lipped cylinders, to generous, bulbous containers. They are executed in bone china, silver-plated gilding metal and plaster, and their finishes range from the softest opalescent off-white, to aggressive, brilliant, dead matt fluorescents.
The installation is the result of Pattison's long-time investigation of form and function, and brings together an extraordinarily sophisticated sense of formal design with a broad experience and understanding of manufacturing techniques. His imagination is voracious. There are visual references here to conventional jug forms, to oil and watering cans, to hospital and sanitary wares as well as suggestions of the comically zoomorphic, all testing and exploring notions of pouring, of the vessel and its contents, of containment and escape. These are well-travelled routes, but Pattison pursues them with a free and idiosyncratic thoroughness and simultaneous joie-de-vivre.
With previous experience in industry, in shape development at Denby Pottery, and freelancing for Wedgwood and Royal Worcester, he prefers to describe himself as a 'designer-producer' rather than a 'designer-maker'. His knowledge of production techniques adds a fundamental strength to the work, and places him in an interesting borderland between art and industrial design. Throughout the MA project, Pattison sought to make explicit the issues around different traditions of making, and the final installation includes CAD developed slip cast bone china, produced by Staffordshire Heritage, and 3D Printed plaster forms by Z Corporation, together with metal forms, designed in paper and card, and worked up with Pattison's involvement by specialists in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter using traditional silversmithing techniques. The use of rapid prototyping and 3D Printing enables ideas to be tested and forms realised with amazing speed and immediacy. Observing the range of work on show, you feel like a participant in his investigative process .
Pattison frequently proposes the ideas of playfulness and joy in talking about the relationship between his objects and their users. There is an invitation to engagement far beyond mere usefulness. Pattison himself brings a warmth and gentle humour to the design process, seeing the primary functional groups within his work as a series of families. A common function creates a kind of family of shared traits, and in his MA installation he has created a family of vessels which pour. However, within the extended family there are smaller coteries, splinter groups and shared interests which break the larger groups down into more intimate units. It is tempting to look for human foibles and quirkiness within these forms. But while we are encouraged to approach the installation in a spirit of playfulness, the objects themselves are far from slight. They are objects of great presence.
Selected by Martin Ellis
Published November, 2010