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Craft and Cultural Intersections

Community: Craft Exchanges from Haiti and United States

Donna Karan and the Design, Organization, Training Center, and Parsons School of Design invited Andrew Cornell Robinson to collaborate with Haitian artisans in the design of a new ceramic studio in Port-au-Prince. After the successful launch of the studio, Andrew was approached by a Yoruba priest who commissioned him to use locally harvested clays from Haiti and the United States to create a water vessel for the deity Olokun. Inspired by this creative challenge, Andrew created multiple offering vessels, a selection of which were presented in the “Occupy Art Project #3 – Networks” at the French Consulate, in New York City.

Creating: Offering Vessels

Pinko ISlip and glazed hand built stoneware, 22.5 x 9.5 x 9.5 inches
Water VesselSlip and glazed hand built stoneware, 20 x 13 x 13 inches
Blackbloc IGlazed stoneware with epoxy clay, lacquer, and gold, 25 x 8.5 x 9 inches
Blue PleadiesSlip and glazed hand built stoneware, 22.5 x 10 x 10 inches
Citadelle ISlip and glazed hand built stoneware, 22.5 x 9 x 9 inches

The invitation to create a ritual water vessel to honor the god Olokun at the behest of a friend, a Yoruba priest, offered a profound opportunity to reflect upon the function of ritual, history, faith, connection, redemption, and the concept of àṣẹ, a philosophical concept through which the Yoruba of Nigeria conceive the power to create and produce change. Reflecting upon these ideas led me to Olive Senior’s poem, Olokun: God of the Deep Ocean. *

Olokun: God of the Deep Ocean, by Olive Senior

1.

In the waiting room
beneath the sea
lies the mythical Atlantis
or the sacred Guinée

Who knows
save Olokun
master of the deep

guardian of
profoundest mystery.

2.

Shall we ask him?

Shall we ask him
where the world tree
is anchored?

Shall we ask him
for the portal
to the sun?

Shall we ask the tally
of the bodies
thrown down to him

on the crossing
of the dread
Middle Passage?

Shall we ask him
for the secrets read
in the bones

of the dead, the souls
he has guided
to his keep?

Will he reconnect
the chains of
ancestral linkages?

Send
unfathomable answers
from the deep?

3.

Divine Olokun
accept the tribute
of your rivers

the waters of your seas
give back wealth
as you please

guard us from our innermost
thoughts; keep us
from too deep probing

but if we cannot
contain ourselves and
we plunge

descending
like our ancestors
that long passage

to knowing,
from your realm
can we ascend again

in other times
in other bodies
to the plenitude of being?”

*Senior, Olive. “OLOKUN: GOD OF THE DEEP OCEAN.” Conjunctions, no. 27, Conjunctions, 1996, pp. 55–57. www.jstor.org/stable/24515659.

Pinko ISlip and glazed hand built stoneware, 22.5 x 9.5 x 9.5 inches

Exhibition: OCCUPY #3 - NETWORKS

As part of a creative research project and exhibition in New York, Andrew Cornell Robinson’s work was included in an exhibition/intervention along with a group of international artists and curators invited to occupy the Greek General Consulate and French General Consulate in New York City in which work was installed in situ for one month, along with several public events, and musical and theatrical performances.

Project Initiator: Eirini Linardaki
Curatorial Team: Eleni Riga, Shani Ha, François-Thibaut Pencenat, Julien Gardair www.occupyartproject.com

Installation of works by Andrew Cornell RobinsonInstallation of works by Andrew Cornell Robinson in the exhibition OCCUPY #3 - NETWORKS, at the French Consulate in New York City.

Collaborating: Working with Artisans in Haiti

D.O.T. in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.Design, Organization, Training Center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

The Design, Organization, Training Center (D.O.T) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, was created by Donna Karan, Urban Zen, Parsons School of Design, and Haitian artisan and businesswoman Paula Coles to support Haiti’s artisans with visiting international artists and designers and the creation of a thriving design lab where creative collaborators can work across multiple media from ceramic, wood, metal, and textile, to fiber, horn, and leather.

Potter at work on the wheelOn a visit to the studio of ceramist Marithou Dupoux in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Andrew Cornell Robinson was a visiting artist and educator, who worked with D.O.T. to design and set up the ceramic studio on site, and lead ceramic materials workshops including uses of local clays, surface design, and food safe glazes. He worked with Haitian artisans as well as scholars in the Parsons Design Fellowship. Several workshops in ceramic surface design and glaze preparation were offered to local artisans. Participants learned how to prepare slip and engobe materials using imported and native clay and natural materials. Explorations using found chemicals such as rusted metals (i.e. iron oxide), to produce colorants and discussions of local materials that can be used to produce surface colors in the kiln, including seaweed, seawater soaked and dried fabric, etc.

Raku FiringFiring up the Raku kiln on a visit with Haitian ceramist Marithou Dupoux, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Traditional slip trailing techniques were also explored. Since many of the participants in this workshop were relatively new to ceramic as a material (there were several jewelry makers, a sculptor, a painter, a textile artist, et al.) we spent some time producing test tiles and created a series of beads. In the afternoon we did a workshop on the use of plaster and alginate to produce various molds for casting, stamping and press molding clay. Additionally, we did a series of printing and slip transfer techniques including stenciling, block printing, and silk-screening colored clay onto clay surface slabs.

Casting workhshopPreparing to create a plaster cast of a large leaf
Plaster sprig moldA plaster sprig/stamp mold created for a casting workshop.

The second day participants learned about low fire earthenware glazes. The students mixed tin glazes and developed several colored over glazes using various oxides and stains. In the morning we explored different glazing techniques by glazing about a dozen bisque ware vessels and plates. In the afternoon we explored various production techniques on the pottery wheel including throwing fundamentals, as well as some “tricks of the trade” for production work including forming, warp and crack prevention, sgraffito and finishing.

Pottery throwing demonstrationHaitian ceramist Marithou Dupoux, and other workshop participants at D.O.T. in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Ceramic Materials WorkshopAndrew Cornell Robinson, Marithou Dupoux, and other workshop participants at D.O.T. in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
  • Aesthetic Polytheism

    Thoughts while alone in the studio... I enjoy aesthetic polytheism, and I am suspicious of most curatorial interpretations. Someone’s always got an axe to grind regardless of what was in the artists’ mind. I never really know what to say when asked…

    Exhibition: Guttenberg Arts

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