London artist repurposes used coffee sleeves to shape new line of ceramic coffee cups.
For Ray Brown, art is more than just an exploration of shape and form, it’s a pathway into the unexpected. In his final year at The Cass School of Art in London, Ray was tasked with a project to explore the properties of clay. This simple beginning led him to what he describes as a discovery, “by happy accident.
Ray began working with recycled cardboard. He would tear the cardboard into pieces and then begin to Frankenstein it back together with tape and glue, shaping it into a mold that he would then fill with clay. The before and after effect was striking. Ray discovered that in the kiln, the cardboard burns off and leaves its imprint on the sculpted clay.
This was only the beginning. Like any artist invested in their work, it can be hard to think of anything else and further inspiration can hit at any moment. For Ray, inspiration struck while staring at a stack of coffee sleeves at his routine coffee stop before work.
œThese coffee sleeves are really quite useless and inherently wasteful. But you use them everyday, without thinking of it. They have a lifespan of maybe the two minutes it takes for your coffee to cool down. This was all Ray needed to get to work finding a way to extend the life of these ordinary objects. He was determined to transpose these disposable objects into something permanent.
œPerhaps, he quipped with a sarcastic smile, œjust perhaps, it’s better to glue these wasteful bits together, make a mold, stuff it with clay and make a lovely coffee cup.
All of Ray’s ceramic cups are made completely by hand, each with its own distinctive shape. To Ray, the beauty of this project is in in the breaking of convention. Typically a mold is used for the purpose of making as many identical objects as possible. But Ray’s cardboard molds can only be used once and consequently provide a completely distinctive form with each cup.
Ray’s work is more than simply repurposing recycled cardboard. He sees his ceramic cups as a way to study the history of objects.
œIt’s fascinating to take objects that have already had a lifetime of use and to take the meaning of that and re-apply it in another use, Ray mused, œYou can extend the meaning of that object beyond what it was originally intended to. It’s that historical meaning that attracts me.
You can support Ray’s Cardboard Ceramics on Kickstarter through the end of November.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brenda Buchanan is a writer, designer and coffee enthusiast living in Oakland, California. Outside her work hours she’s an avid crossword puzzler and Scotch Revivalist.