- Theory and History of Ceramic and Glass - 


The Finnish ceramic artist has ended up on the pathologist's table. Is he dead? What was the cause of death? But the body is not cold! Maybe we should give him artificial respiration. Or does his body still have an inner force that will bring him back to life? He is in the psychologist's consulting room, undergoing a lengthy course of analysis. Why this despair? Why is he so weary of life? Is it because of his age, or does the reason date right back to his childhood? He does not know, he is searching for himself. 

The environments in which ceramicists operate are in a state of change. The contents of ceramics and the professional identity of the ceramicist are undergoing a transition in which the former theories and practices are, unwittingly, in danger of being trodden underfoot by the general structural trends. Since 1990 I have, as an assistant at the Department of Ceramic and Glass Design, been delving into the history of Finnish ceramic art and the background to the identity crisis of the 1980s. My aim is to bring to light the ideals, attitudes and concepts which mould the professional image of the Finnish ceramicist and the contents and objectives of his work. 

Within a frame of reference examining the interaction between action, consciousness and structure I am seeking and identifying the professional image of the Finnish ceramicist and the substance of his profession. I am trying to determine the features that have over the past three decades influenced the scope of the ceramicist and his professional development, thereby observing the changes in the nature of his work. From the mythical dimension I am trying to extract the unorganised elements that give rise to stereotypes. 

The research disposition is determined by postmodern discourse and a structural-rationalistic approach. The philosophy and psychology of action, in the form of pragmatism and symbolic interactionism, provide the theoretical basis for my studies. The interpretation is founded on the methods of discourse analysis. In addition to theoretical literature, the research material consists of publications and articles on Finnish ceramics and the ceramicist and the dissertations and theses of the Department of Ceramic and Glass Design at the University of Art and Design, Helsinki. These are supplemented by interviews with ceramicists. 

The results will be published in my licentiate thesis scheduled for completion at the end of 1995, in which I shall be crystallising the main paradigms behind the contemporary ceramicist and myths as the manifestations of these paradigms. I shall also be trying to identify the various elements introduced into the professional image by the modern and postmodern operating environment and to interpret their effect on the ceramicist's intention. 



Helena Leppänen 
Research Scientist 

University of Art and Design Helsinki UIAH
Department of Ceramics and Glass
Hämeentie 135 C 
FIN-00560 Helsinki, Finland 
fax: +358 9 75630275