Master Work

Decorative Chalice

Submitted to Registry evaluators - June 2019

So having passed all 50 projects in each level, the final step in the Registry programme is to submit a master work.

The brief for the master work is not terribly helpful! In the Registry manual, this is what it says about the final work. 

“A “master piece” to demonstrate the high level of accomplishment and design sensibilities that will be in evidence by the end of this process. Presumably this will be bigger, better, grander, and more complicated than any single piece in the collection.”

And I had this from Tim McCreight when I passed Level 5. “…let me make it clear that this has got to be something truly spectacular. An acceptable piece will show master level design, innovation and execution in a wide range of materials and techniques.” No pressure then!

 

Decorative Chalice

Humankind's Downfall

Decorative Chalice
14cm tall
Weight: 599g
Total making time: 122 hours

You can see a 10 minute video of the piece on YouTube here.

Rattling around in my head for some time had been a piece which features the catastrophe of global warming and climate change that is facing humankind if we don’t take action now. I came up with a sentence which summed this up for me… 

Humankind’s greed and lust for power at the expense of the planet that sustains it will be the cause of its downfall

Decorative Chalice

I knew this piece would not be jewellery, it needed to be something more decorative as I felt I had a lot to say on this subject. The design developed over quite a long time and I experimented with a number of techniques to realise my vision. 

I chose the chalice form as it allows me to present an apocalyptic narrative in the round with a progression from the current condition of the world to a potential dystopian future. The story starts on the base and progresses up the stem and onto the base of the bowl. The bowl features the above legend around the lip, a section of which is above each of the three main panels. Each panel depicts a facet of the potential impact of climate change and global warming and its effect on humankind.

The colour used on the chalice after firing was a combination of glass paint and gilders paste, plus liver of sulphur patina.

Decorative Chalice

The Base

Around the outside of the base are people in groups or alone, facing outwards. They stand on healthy green grass with flowers growing. A small family, mother, father and child, enjoy a day out. An elderly couple, the laughing lady with a red hat rocking back as she sits on a log, enjoy a joke. A small child with a ball runs and waves to unseen observers while his mother stands close by. A man sits with his legs dangling over the edge of the base.

As they enjoy their lives, they are unaware of – or maybe unwilling to acknowledge – the people behind them, closer to the tree. As the grass becomes browner and more sickly closer to the tree, so the people begin to show signs of corruption. These people face inwards and upwards, towards the dying tree. The tree represents the planet, full of life and riches signified by the purple and white stones and purple mineral accents.

 

Decorative Chalice

Purple and white were chosen for their traditional meanings. Purple has been the colour of rulers, the nobility and those in power for centuries. The white cubic zirconia stones represent diamonds, the stone most associated with wealth and success. These are the colours of aspiration in a world where people seek a better life through acquisition of power, wealth or status, often at any cost.

 

Decorative Chalice

The bottom of the base shows people climbing up the inside of the tree. This represents the hidden damage being done to the earth by human intervention. The damage done by climate change and global warming are becoming more obvious everywhere in the world, even if some people ignore or discount it. The damage from mining fossil fuels and hydraulic fracturing has a detrimental impact on the local environment which is hidden from the wider population.

Decorative Chalice

The Stem

The people climbing up the tree are removing the stones by any means necessary, in pursuit of wealth and power, regardless of the damage caused to the underlying structure during extraction. As they climb higher they get darker and more corrupted. Even though some appear to be helping others they are all driven by their own pursuit of power and wealth even at the expense of the very thing that supports and sustains them.

Decorative Chalice

The surface of the tree shows little sign of life. A few small tendrils of life cling to the bark and small growths sprout from the surface but they are dying. As the people roam over the surface, slashing and damaging the fragile ecosystem, the life drains from the tree. The upward climb to the richer pickings on the underside of the bowl drive the people onwards seeking more and more treasure. There is green up there and with more power and wealth they can leave behind the dying world they helped to create and have a better life. 

The outside of the bowl has three main sections. Each section is bounded by a natural disaster; fire, water and wind. These boundaries flow up and over the lip and continue down inside the bowl. At the top of each section is part of the legend. Above the legend, all around the lip of the bowl are the embers of fires. Below it is flowing water.

Decorative Chalice

The Bowl

Humankind’s greed and lust for power

This section shows a city overwhelmed by water. On one side of the city is a wall of water cascading down – a tsunami. On the other side is wind in the form of a hurricane. Water swirls around the buildings and the glow of fire can be seen behind the structures standing out from the surface. Some of these structures are already damaged and breaking under the weight of the water and the effects of the fire.

Decorative Chalice

At the expense of the planet that sustains it

This section shows mountains in the distance with dead trees in the foreground. On one side is the hurricane, on the other side is raging wildfire. The sky is dark and menacing. Tendrils of branches from the main tree reach up and small patches of green life can be seen but they are few.

Decorative Chalice

Will be the cause of its downfall

This section shows the frightened faces of people fleeing the backlash of Mother Earth. On one side is the wildfire, on the other is the tsunami. Water is behind them and the wind whips their hair and adds to their despair. There is no escape from the natural disaster that they have caused.

Decorative Chalice

Inside the Bowl

Inside the bowl the sea rises and overwhelms the people trying to escape. There is no way out as only the fire, water and wind exist now that they have finally destroyed their world.

Masters Registry Level 5 Certificate

As this piece is so big, heavy and valuable, the Registry admin allowed me to send in photographs rather than sending the piece for evaluation. I also had to write a detailed document which outlined the inspiration for the piece, what it all means and the making process.

I was told that this would be evaluated by five people. All previous submissions have had two or three evaluators. When the feedback came through, there were only four evaluations. As usual, these were all anonymous, so no way to know who they are.

I also received the certificate for achieving Level 5. This is the only Level 5 certificate ever issued.

Decorative Chalice

Feedback

As there are no marks for the final piece, each evaluator wrote an independent evaluation outlining what they thought about the piece. It was a total of nine pages of feedback so I have taken some of the more useful and helpful feedback and also the things that the majority of the evaluators agreed on. I’ve also included some of the things that the evaluators disagreed on.

The initial impressions were mixed. 

  • ‘The overall impression of the chalice was that it seemed solid, there was a lot going on. Filled with interesting components, styles and concepts. Nice colors.’
  • ‘It looks like Armageddon of some sort, the buildings are well done, professional appearance to the lettering, the expressions on the faces on the bowl of the chalice are effective and varied.’ 
  • ‘When looking at this piece, the first thing I see is that it’s a cup/chalice. My first question is why is it decorated this way? What is it saying to me? I’m not sure where to look first.’ 
Decorative Chalice

One evaluator said that ‘the figures are stiff and lifeless’ while another said there is ‘a lot of activity amongst the people’. Another said, ‘There are two different ways that the human form is being rendered on the chalice. Why? Are they the same people, just a close up? Or two different sets of people, it’s not clear.’ Regular readers of my views on the evaluations will know how much I hate them asking why! They don’t want me to tell them and I have no mechanism to do so, so what’s the point of asking?

They pretty much all agreed that not enough diverse techniques had been used in the construction. 

  • ‘Of all the 50 projects that were completed it seemed more variety within this piece could have been employed.’
  • ‘The piece you submitted is complex and crowded but it relies on a relatively small collection of techniques.’
Decorative Chalice

What they felt worked well differed and only two of the four evaluators actually had anything good to say.

  • ‘Stylistically, your approach to the cityscape with its flat graphics is your most successful element.’
  • ‘Tear away lettering is well done, detail of the dimensional buildings is well done.’

They all said that the piece had too much going on.

  • ‘This piece cannot tolerate any additions, but it can use far fewer elements to succinctly convey the concept.’
  • ‘The cup portion of the chalice compositionally is chaotic and segmented. Every side section of the chalice shows images at a different scale.’
  • ‘I get that there is an Armageddon or destruction of sorts going on. What’s more difficult to see or figure out, even after the explanation, is exactly what is going on where.’
  • ‘There’s a lack of cohesion within this piece. Compositionally, it’s segmented, disjointed and doesn’t flow.’
Decorative Chalice

One of the evaluators didn’t feel that the chalice was disturbing enough. 

‘The theme, an apocalypse and the conditions that have led to this occurrence, are conveyed in an undramatic way. We should be disturbed by this theme but I am not. All the destructive elements that you described could have been represented in a clearer, more dramatic fashion.’

So there you have it. As the Registry has now closed its doors forever, there is no chance for me to resubmit something as I have for previous projects. But that’s OK, it’s over and I did my best. Now I can focus on making things that I want to make, with no criteria except what I decide. After 10+ years, that feels pretty exciting! 

Thanks for being part of my journey, it’s been fun!

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