Tableware factory Wilhelmsburg – Beyond Daisy or the factory is alive!

As part of a semester project in the summer semester 2020, students of the bachelor course "Manual & Material Culture" (4th semester) at New Design University St. Pölten are dealing with ceramics in terms of design, research and craftsmanship.

Contemporary ceramic production will be discussed throughout the semester, with reference to the current EU Interreg project CerDee. The former tableware factory in Wilhelmsburg serves as a theoretical and practical test field. If the factory came to life again - what could (again) be produced there today? On the one hand, it is about the analysis of the objects that were created there and their cultural-economic context. On the other hand, it deals with production and the techniques that have been developed for manufacturing. This concerns the production of actual ceramic products, but also the environment and the condition of the factory, such as the fact that it has its own hydropower plant. 

kick-off tour

©-Roland Fink

Ceramic Semester at NDU ©Ronald_Fink & Petra_Wieser

© Ronald Fink

This fact reflects the uniqueness of ceramic production in the artisanal sphere; For example, the   autonomy of producing a small series without the need for a lot of material and without the use of machines. However, beyond the conditions of the factory and the original ceramic handicraft, new techniques and possibilities in production should be considered and developed throughout the design process. What possibilities and experiments do computer-controlled tools such as 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC milling machines or even robots allow? And which new production and distribution strategies (keyword “open design”) could then be used?

The ceramic semester started with a tour through the tableware museum in Wilhelmsburg, to get a feeling for the former factory and its products, followed by a tour through the ceramics department of the Museum of Applied Arts Vienna (MAK), Rami-Ceramics and the Augarten Porzellanmanufaktur to give the students additional insight into the historical dimension of ceramic production and current trends, like co-working spaces.

A one-week workshop with Hermann Seiser on the subject of ceramic mold making will allow them to explore the crafting techniques behind the process by an experienced craftsman and to learn the basics for creating moulds for their designs. In the course of the semester, students will be introduced to basic materials and technologies relating to ceramic handicrafts.

In addition, experts are invited to reflect on ceramic design in general and to discuss their designs with the students. At the end of the semester a second intensive workshop will take place in which the students can cast, finalize and burn their work. The final presentation, on June 25th, will take place in the context of a sales exhibition in Wilhelmsburg, followed by a discussion panel in which to reflect on the current situation and the future of ceramic production.