Friday, September 21, 2012

Nike Dragon Sauce

 Thanks to Kristina Gehrig- Material Designer - Footwear, and Brett Holts- Track and Field Product Line Manager- at Nike what was a slim chance became a reality within 2 days when I had the idea I would love to get my hands on some Olympic trainers to pursue a concept  about the methodology of designed pattern and relief on modern trainers and how that relates to preindustrial methods of pattern and design transferred between mediums. With the Olympics here in London it seemed like the perfect time to move the idea forward. I didn't have much luck finding anyone with contacts here in London so I asked my partners son's girlfriend who is a designer for Nike in Oregon if there was any chance of getting some olympic trainers. Well this girl moves fast and literally within 2 days Brett who was in London representing Nike 2012 Olympic Track and Field Innovation emailed me to set up a time to come to my studio at the V&A and bring me the goods. Needless to say I was jump up and down excited and blown away with the generosity of Nike and the exuberance these young talented designers had for what must have seemed like a pretty quirky request.

Despite the extraordinarily fast response by Nike my ideas had to simmer for a bit because of the immediate demands on my time in the studio for the video projects. But meanwhile there was an opportunity to get the ball rolling by relating the concept to a  young peoples workshop I had scheduled    on looking for dragons in the V&A's collection and coming back to the studio to create dragons in clay. As soon as I saw these amazing designs for the first time in person it became clear the elements would be perfect inspiration to create some super "Flyknit" dragon skin.

In order to recreate pieces of the patterns in the medium of clay I needed to take 'sprig moulds' directly off the shoes that the clay could then be pressed into. The issue then became how to keep the shoes in good condition while getting impressions of the incredible variety of relief on the soles and uppers -each having a distinctive character and methodology and most importantly story behind the design.
This required an upgrade of my silicon based molding putty to one that I was turned onto by a collaboration with V&A conservator Hanneke Rammaker who is part of an astounding conservation department here. I  tried a small sample she brought me and indeed it completely released from the fabric so I ordered my own- of course it had just sold out so it took about a week to get it in which was another crimp in my tight timeline here- it was well worth the wait. This flexible high tech putty added other layers of manipulation that could be used to transform the patterns into clay.

So the dragon workshop became the first manifestation of my trainer pattern pursuit and it would be 7-10 year olds pursuing it for the first time. I made a large pot inspired by the anthropomorphic form shared between two pieces from the V&A collection a 13th century London Jug (best pot ever made), and The Auspicious Cloud of the Oriental 2010 by Laurence Xu.
Left to right-Nike Flyknit Racer, Zoom Victory Elite, Zoom Superfly R4, Zoom Long Jump ( I also got a pair of Zoom Rotational but since the bottoms are completely smooth save the swoosh I didn't pull those out)
In the background are 2 amazing works from the V&a collections a 13th century London jug maker unknown and Laurence Xu's The Auspicious Cloud of the Oriental
A group of young people from Triangle Adventure Playground/Metropolitan Housing Association and the amazing dragons they created! 

some executive decisions needed to made and a few finishing touches, Reino Liefkes senior curator of ceramic and glass, Kate Quinlan curatorial intern and art student at the National College of Art and Design Dublin, and Tracy Friend also a maker and my wonderful assistant for the day. 

I have had some interest in the methodology used to create pattern and relief on English white salt glazed stoneware. I chose two great examples for my cases both are block moulds meaning the thickly cast or press molded positives that are made from the original moulds taken from the original model. One for a sauce boat and one a shell like teapot.  These blocks were fired high with very little salt as to keep the surface relief crisp for subsequent moulds to be taken as the old ones ware or perhaps these were used in the industry to sell to various potteries as ready to cast models for production moulds- any thoughts?

So what do Nike Olympic trainers and 18th century English white salt glaze sauceboats have in common? The connection I was seeing between these patterns and 21st century trainers is where it can get tricky and complicated but it is clear in this case a picture may be worth 1000 words.
Zoom Superfly, sauceboat block mould and my porcelain test sprigs off the trainer heel. 

Silicon rubber mould bisque porcelain impression bisque London clay impression.

Yes London clay so this story will continue in my next post so stay tuned

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