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Daniel Fisher, ceramicist: among the exhibitors in Joanna Bird's popular annual exhibition of contemporary ceramics at Browse & Darby, London, is Daniel Fisher, who uses innovative techniques to create vessels of great delicacy. Amicia de Moubray talked to him about the special appeal of working with porcelain.

Over the past decade, there has been a surge of interest in British studio ceramics, and collectors eagerly await Joanna Bird's annual exhibition of contemporary ceramicists. Her interest in the subject having been aroused when at school, she worked for the celebrated potter Michael Cardew from 1976 to 1978. His belief that 'every touch by a potter is physiognomic--that is, it is an infallible guide to his real character, to the state of his mind (or his soul)' permeates her selection of work for the exhibition. Among the artists on show are Danlami Aliyu, Thiebaut Chague, Elizabeth Fritsch, Chris Keenan, Michael O'Brien, William Plumptre and Julian Stair.

One of the most avidly collected of the artists in the exhibition is Daniel Fisher, whose work can be seen at the Musee National de Ceramique, Sevres, the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Fisher's porcelain pots are an excellent demonstration of Cardew's words. He spent long hours experimenting before arriving at his current complex and innovative method of working; the virtuosity of his technique is breathtaking. A graduate of the Royal College of Art, Fisher was very influenced by the tutors, including Takeshi-Yasuda, who 'are ceramic sculptors rather than potters'. 'Working in porcelain is a real challenge,' says Fisher, adding that 'porcelain is both marble-like and vibrant'. Very interested in the physical restrictions imposed by porcelain, he is constantly pushing it to new technical limits: as he remarks, 'In a society dependent on credit cards and computers, the value of the handmade is inestimable.'

Originally a pianist, Fisher had a 'very strict musical training as a child'. This resonates with his approach to his art as 'the idea of repeating something but every time being different. I was drawn to throwing as a means of expressing the sensuality of the material. Clay has a liquid, flesh-like quality.' Characteristically, he is keen 'to avoid ceramic objects being rooted to the table'. All his pieces balance on 'a tiny point; they seem as if they must be made out of paper'.

To achieve this, he has devised a technique of suspending the thrown cylinder in clingfilm from a turntable on the ceiling, to allow gravity to stretch it. He then removes it, turns it upside down and teases the flat base into a rounded form. The surfaces are then painstakingly pinched or pushed or stretched by hand, finger-imprint by finger-imprint. The result is an extraordinary fusion of structural ambiguity with ethereal fragility. Bird describes Fisher's work as 'very subtle and dramatic--vessels of light'. Other people see his arresting works as 'flame-like', or reminiscent of crystals, coral or found objects on the beach.

To support the vessels in the kiln, Fisher makes ingenious doughnut-shaped supports to take the pressure throughout the ten-hour firing at 1,280 degrees. This final process, which transforms the piece into a work of art, has a life of its own. Fisher lovingly tends the traditional kiln: 'I don't like electric kilns as there is no sense of involvement and they are devoid of character.' Likewise he is critical of his work being lit by artificial light. 'My work changes throughout the day depending on the intensity of light. It is animated by light--direct sunlight creates a glow. At the end of the day there is a blueness about them.'

Daniel Fisher's work can be seen in 'Ten Finger Exercise', curated by Joanna Bird at Browse & Darby, 19 Cork Street, London, 24-29 October 2005. +44 (0)20 7734 7984.
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Title Annotation:Contemporary Design
Author:de Moubray, Amicia
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 1, 2005
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