Kristine Michael

Arts Research and Documentation

Grant Period: Over two years

Kristine Michael is a ceramic artist. Her passion to work for clay led her into a long study of non-industrial techniques following her graduation from a six-year course for industrial product design.

Kristine Michael will study Indian ceramic practice between 1800 and 1900, combining scholarly perspectives with a ceramic artist’s sense of what might have practical relevance. She is interested in how colonial trade practices, orientalist assumptions about Indian art and the significant Western market for Indian designs in the 19th century helped to create not just a new aesthetic but also a basis for the present-day distinction between art and craft. Kristine will document the history of terracotta production in the 19th century and also attempt to throw light on the influence of colonial perceptions on Indian art practice.

Kristine sees her project as filling gaps in our understanding about Indian ceramic history. “In colleges and degree programmes in India, we always depend on European, Japanese and Chinese history and models of ceramics and do not look at our own culture and traditions”, she says. She goes on to say that understanding this history “is also vital to our understanding of why contemporary Indian craft is still in need of ‘revival’, and why all government policies from the time of Independence, by following the precedents…set by the British, have still not been…successful in helping the craftspeople.”

Being a teacher of the history and techniques of ceramics, she is equally excited about understanding the actual process of ceramic production in the 19th century – the clay, colour pigments, glazes and firing techniques used. She points out that the art schools, under the influence of teachers trained in European pottery, introduced new firing techniques and methods of glazing pots.

Kristine intends to write a book based on her research, and also develop a database that would add value to museum collections. She is already in touch with the curators of a museum who are looking for professional help to reorganise their ceramic collection. Another gallery has requested Kristine to curate historical ceramic exhibitions for them. Museums in the U.K. have also evinced interest in working with her to organise exhibitions of their collections of Indian ceramics or to use them in educational outreach programmes for the local Asian community.