Upon the launch of our first collection of limited edition decorative accessories we visited Supergroup; artists John Booth and Ian McIntyre, in their East London studio to document the processes and thinking behind the sculptural works they have designed for Hem.
John Booth’s bold and colourful applied decoration and Ian McIntyre’s functional and measured take on form and technique suggest two very different creative approaches. Yet Supergroup; the newly-formed collaboration between Booth and McIntyre, is very much about the common ground rather than the differences between these two designers. “We both enjoy the debunking of formal ceramic traditions and dislike opulent or overly refined aesthetics” says Ian McIntyre. Amongst their shared ideals are an appreciation for accessible design and works that have transparency; with John this is reflected in his unpretentious illustrative hand and for Ian in utilitarian and democratic forms.
Superscene is the first product to translate these shared values and individual skills into objects. In response to the brief of creating a limited edition decorative accessory, Booth and McIntyre created a collection of oversized, playful ceramic sculptures. The giant rainbow, cloud and flower of the Superscene collection are intended to act as a landscape of sorts; they sit together as a vignette or stand alone as individual works with specific characteristics. Their sole function is ornamentation: Booth and McIntyre purposefully chose to avoid giving the works ulterior uses, favouring instead to be as bold as possible with the notion of decoration for decoration’s sake. “I think there remains a place for decorative work within contemporary design; it can evoke immediate emotional responses that are universal and relatable to many people” says Booth.
The Superscene objects are a whimsical reflection on the role of decorative ceramics in our interior lives. But Booth and Mcintyre also wanted to demonstrate and celebrate the classic techniques of ceramic production. They chose three different approaches: the cloud gets its character from a textural pitted glaze, whilst the rainbow is hand-painted and the flower is dip-glazed. The different techniques are a pleasing reflection on Booth and McIntyre’s independent styles; with the naive hand painting of the rainbow being typically John Booth and the deep brown Rockingham glaze of the flower a nod toward Ian McIntyre’s acclaimed re-engineered Brown Betty teapot project.
“John’s work is immediate and often decorative. Mine is exacting and often technically accomplished. We utilise these disparate skill sets to make objects that mix influences from design and the visual and applied arts,” says McIntyre.
Superscene consists of limited edition sets of all three ceramic objects, and an additional series of hand-painted flowers. All the pieces are made by hand by Booth and McIntyre in their shared East London studio. There they have made plaster moulds and cast the pieces in a necessarily robust stoneware. Each piece is either hand-painted or glazed before being stamped and fired. The scale of the objects plus the ambitious spectrum of techniques and glazes allows Booth and McIntyre to demonstrate the full capacity of their expertise with this most pliable and expressive of materials. Booth adds: “An interesting tension lays between these well-made, design-led objects, with the contrasting element of much looser hand-applied decoration. Mine and Ian’s practice is very different, but also very complimentary.” The results are intended as a joyful celebration of ceramic – super indeed.