This Thursday marks an entry in the Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design's lecture series with sculptural artist Thomas Schmidt. Schmidt's talk, "Recycled China: The Residue of Industry," is happening in conjunction with the CCCD's ongoing exhibit, Recorded Matter, which examines works of art contextualized through videos produced by the artists. The talk begins at 6 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
Schmidt and partner Jeffrey Miller co-founded Recycled China while living in Beijing. The aim of this design project was both simple and profound: to use industrial waste produced in China to create objects of art, including architectural tile and other pieces. Restaurant Interior. Image: Recycled China.
The products and art objects created by Recycled China are, quite simply, gorgeous. They are both invested with the quality and detail of original pieces--mostly ceramics discarded due to imperfections and remade into everything from flowerpots to interior tiling. Other materials, like coal and aluminum--two emblems of China's commitment to industry, which seems to exceed their commitment to the health of their populace--are also used to create the pieces.
The CCCD details the process that Schmidt and Miller undertake to create these pieces:
During their time together in China, Schmidt and Miller started crushing cast-off plates (taken from the virtually limitless supply in the porcelain capitol of Jingdezhen) with a steamroller. The crushed porcelain shards were then taken to an industrial foundry and smothered in molten aluminum. The resulting tiles are both mysterious and ethereal – delicate porcelain shards are suspended like sedimentary rocks in a primal, metallic ooze.
From a distance, these larger pieces (which include wall and roof tiling) are unified, organic, even smooth looking. Close up, they beg to be touched, and call attention to the minute, inviting you to fall into their endless and variegated detail. Image: Recycled China
These pieces aren't just beautiful. As statements about the clash between tradition and industrialization in China, one of the most polluted places in the world, they ask us to reconfigure our relationship to waste material in a way that could result in increased sustainability and, ultimately, our extended existence on the planet. These pieces as us to reconsider the purpose of an object or a waste material at the point when we would normally discard it.
Schmidt currently teaches at UNC Charlotte, where he is an Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary 3D Studio and Digital Fabrication in the College of Arts and Architecture. He spent four years in Beijing, where he founded Recycled China and taught in the Alfred/CAFA Ceramic Industry Design Program.
Recorded Matter runs through May 21st.