Ai Weiwei’s “Sunflower Seeds" is an installation which powerfully amplifies the sacredness of hand-made objects and the power behind a repeated form. Harnessing traditional craftmanship, each seed was cast from a mold, fired, and then marked with 3 to 4 hand painted strokes of black glaze. One thousand six hundred people were involved in the process. The video documentary (above), capturing the craft process, truly challenges us to reinterpret the three words:
“Made In China.”
I really like how poignant blogger Olivier Thereaux of “Artsy Geek” wrote about his paradigm shift after seeing the process:
“And there lies the masterful beauty of “Sunflower Seeds”…in how effortlessly it shakes and shatters our prejudiced perception of “made in China”. After seeing the young woman beam with happiness because the project gave her work for a while; after seeing the old woman painting the seeds with her family in their house, as she had bee painting porcelain for the past 30 years; after all that, we can’t but give a face to the oh-so-Daoist love of making things with one’s hands, even through really repetitive tasks. And we can no longer limit our idea of “made in China” to the dreadful images of the FoxConn factories, or just the faceless stream of cheap shit plastic stuff on our supermarket shelves.”
2 minutes and 57 seconds into the video, a scene in the production process utterly mesmorized me. It depicted men and women pulling the hardened slipcasted seeds out of their molds. From that moment, I knew I had to learn the moldmaking process and incorporate it into my praxis as an artist. I signed up for "Introduction to Mold Design and Casting" at Emily Carr with Philip Robbins ( FYI: I highly recommend his class). Every class opened my eyes to new creative possibilities. It also helped me see how much of the stuff in the world is made from a mold. From chocolate bunnies to thesculptural elements of Vancouver's Art Deco style Marine Building. Repetition is a powerful way to work. Currently I am designing a mold for a camel. I begin with a horse form to familiarize myself with the anatomic breakup for molding four legged creatures. I'll keep you updated.
- title: Mold Making Process
- medium: plaster, porcelain slip-cast, wax, paper pulp, alginate