We all create a constant stream of data about our lives. This digital trace of calendars, bills, GPS logs, messages, social media updates, photos and emails contains a lot of information about our actions, thoughts and experiences. Our personal data collections are full of stories about our daily lives that are important to us and that we want to remember.
Life in Clay is influenced by my PhD research and countless discussions with my supervisor Dr. Sheelagh Carpendale. In my thesis, we are investigating how personal data collections can be visualized to create unique and authentic artifacts that carry personal meaning. In this project I combine my research interests with my passion for making pottery.
Everyday Data as Everyday Objects
Through my pottery practice I turn everyday personal data into everyday objects that can be touched and loved. I want to create mementos that show facets of my life and the lives of my friends and family. Functional pottery is a way for me to make objects that can be integrated into daily use and where they can spark moments of reflection or conversation.
Representations in Functional Pottery
The history of using functional pottery to represent abstract concepts and capture human history dates back thousands of years. Ancient Greek vases show cultural practices, stories and beliefs and the patterns on Islamic ceramic tiles encourage deep reflection of unity or infinity. The stories of my data pots are personal and and capture the history of an individual as abstract data patterns.
While our digital data feels sometimes elusive, fleeting or unstable, pottery can last ages. Some of the oldest relicts of civilizations are fragments of clay vessels. The medium of clay allows me to represent personal data in timeless and lasting forms that can preserve and value personal stories.
Sparking Reflection and Conversation
The data patterns on the pots are not readily readable and do not contain labels or explanations. I hope that keeping them mysterious will allow the owner to decide if and when to start a conversation about them and how to tell their own story about the aspect of their life they represent. The pieces do not lend themselves to analysis of the data but are rather meant to prompt personal reflection.
Manual Crafting Process
Pottery is a very involved and time consuming process. Each piece can take weeks or sometimes months to complete. By spending time with the data, the underlying stories and putting a lot of thought and physical effort into each data pot I hope to give the pieces authenticity and value. For this reason I barely use digital fabrication techniques in my process. I embrace the manual work with clay, the organic nature of the materials and the resulting “imperfections” in the outcomes. It makes each data pot as unique and authentic as the personal experience it represents.
If you want more information, please contact me! I am happy to chat!
Find more of my work: http://alicethudt.de/