Spotlight: Materiality and Function

Ceramics Monthly: How did you approach maintaining an emphasis on materiality when tasked with making vessels that needed to function for serving food for one of Steinbeisser’s Experimental Gastronomy events?

Adam Knoche: Martin Kullik, one of the founders of Steinbeisser, selected me to participate in a chef-artist collaboration for a culinary event. He was interested in my experimental processes in creating work and use of organic surfaces to show the raw nature of the material. This aesthetic aligns with Steinbesser’s experimental vision for the events in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I was asked to create objects that challenge the users’ dining experience, while still maintaining the functional qualities necessary to consume food. This forced me to reinvent my own studio practice to accommodate the new functional work. I set parameters and limited myself to three clay recipes; a terra cotta, a brown clay, and a basalt clay, to keep with my own aesthetic of earth tones. I had to create new tools from fabric, chamois leather, and other soft materials to give the surface a smooth, inviting texture for the food to be presented and consumed on, while still maintaining sculptural qualities for visual stimulation.

CM: Describe the process of collaborating with a chef. What were the initial stages, and how did it progress?

AK: I had the pleasure of creating dishware for Taiwanese-born chef André Chiang. Martin Kullik facilitated the initial stages of collaborating with such a high-profile chef. I only communicated through email and video chat with both Kullik and Chiang, since each are in different parts of the world. After speaking about the event and the food that would be prepared, I decided to create work that would complement and emphasize the simply prepared vegan food to be served. I created many prototypes and would send images of designs to be approved for production. The process was very open and Kullik and Chiang left many of the design choices up to me. Steinbeisser strives to allow the artist to respond to the event and to create objects that challenge the dining experience and create opportunity for discovery and creativity.

CM: Has this experience making specialized functional objects impacted your studio practice making sculpture? If so, how?

AK: My studio practice has been impacted in a positive way. I now see possibility in my work to bridge the gap between function and sculpture. It is an exciting experience to be able to focus on a completely new practice in my career. From this experience, I have started to branch out into making functional pieces and discover a new vein of unexplored possibilities in my art practice. I see the possibility of reaching a larger audience and enriching the cultural diversity in my own community by identifying chefs in Dallas, Texas, as potential collaborators to create events that combine art, culture, and food in a similar fashion as Steinbeisser. The event in Amsterdam was well received and I will be working with Steinbeisser on future projects with new chefs.

Photo: Kathrin Koschitzki.

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