Agnieszka Strzelecka-Ślęzak is a graphic artist on the team that looks after our projects for Renault. All the rebranding initiatives and new subpages connected with the presence of the Renault and Dacia brands on the Internet in more than seventy countries around the world wind up in her hands. She graduated from the Faculty of Graphics and Painting at the Łódź Academy of Fine Arts and, as she herself says, she loves her job and particularly values the contact she has with the Renault team [They’re great! On that, we all agree! – ed.]. For sensory input, she creates ceramics and returns to painting.
Insights talked to her about art and its place in her life.
Could you tell us something about what ceramics means to you?
I’ve been working with ceramics for nine years now. It remedies my unfulfilled need to touch the object I’m creating. Digitalism is non-tactile, although that doesn’t include the objects produced using 3D printers, of course. So what if I make beautiful graphics when I also want to touch what I create? Ceramics lets me do that. Ceramics emerge from clay. Touching clay is like contact with the Earth. There’s something very primeval and natural about it, something primordial. Digitalism happens in the cloud. Clay connects me to the Earth. I use ordinary clay or, sometimes, a kind of clay known as grog or fire sand or chamotte, a mix of clay that’s already been fired and then ground. It’s used to create stoneware, the toughest objects. Sometimes, I work with porcelain. The difference between that and clay lies in the chemical composition, the firing conditions and the properties of the products. Ceramics are modelled by hand or turned on a potter’s wheel.
What does the process of preserving an object involve?
Once it’s properly formed, it needs to dry out, which takes around two weeks. Then it’s fired in a kiln. Nowadays, it’s most often an electric kiln designed for ceramics. You do get products that are fired in a woodburning stove, but the prices are astronomical. Objects fired like that have a distinctive appearance. The temperature spreads unevenly and that makes the colours irregular. I have a friendly relationship with the owner of an electric kiln and I take my work there because buying a new kiln is an expensive undertaking. They cost around ten thousand zloties. The first firing, at 960 degrees Celsius is known as ‘bisque’ or ‘biscuit’. That rids the clay of its brittleness. Then the object gradually cools. That’s followed by the decorating and glazing process. There are various kinds of glaze. High-temperature glazes, which are fired at 1280 degrees Celsius, have more muted colours. Low temperature glazes, fired at 1080, at more intense. You need to watch out, though. If ceramic crockery is a really intense yellow or green, for instance, or a strong red, that means you shouldn’t really eat off it or drink from it, because chemical elements like cadmium, lead or zinc have been added to the glaze.
Making one item is the work of a month or two.
What inspires you when it comes to decoration?
Most recently, it’s been suiboku-ga, in other words, the Japanese art of ink wash painting, which is one of the most important branches of Oriental art.
It was brought to Japan in the thirteenth century by Zen Buddhist monks. It’s a demanding form of art and they combined it with meditation, treating the science of using monochromatic ink as an unfolding exercise of the imagination, discipline and perseverance. I did a course on suiboku-ga. Rice paper is best for it and I know just how many sheets it takes before the result of your gesture is a perfect mark! With calmness of mind, the eye and hand learn how to convey form, light and mood.
If you’d like to have a look at what Agnieszka creates, then her >>> Instagram <<< page is an absolute must-view!
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