This delicately hand-sculpted vase might look as though it washed onto the beach, together with a treasure trove of seashells and corals; yet, it emerged from the studio of Sandra Davolio, a designer and ceramicist who lives and works in Denmark. The vase is made of frit porcelain, which is usually composed of crushed quartz, white clay, and an alkaline glass frit (a granular material produced by pre-heating the raw ingredients of glass in a kiln). Frit porcelain is very plastic, which enables the artist to sculpt and shape the material and, in this case, create the extremely thin pinched porcelain ruffles that provide the vase its floating texture. In addition to the organic form of the vase, its unglazed exterior retains a matte and slightly gritty texture reminiscent of the texture of shells and corals found on the beach, which strengthens the association with the sea that gave the vase its name.

This vase embodies Davolio’s approach to ceramics, which is very textural. Davolio uses classical as well as organic forms as a starting point. She then amplifies the three-dimensionality of the objects by adding rings or ruffles to the surface and creating additional vertical or horizontal volume, pushing the limits of the raw materials with which she works. The end result is an object that is at once functional and highly decorative – and unique, like this blue and white Floating Vessel.

Catherine Powell is a graduate student in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program offered jointly by the Parsons School of Design and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. She is a Fellow in the Product Design and Decorative Arts Department of the Museum.

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