Skip to main content
Ceramics & Glass (MA)

Charly Blackburn

Charly Blackburn is a ceramicist and material explorer seeking to reconnect people with the politics of mineral extraction. She does this by exploring themes of ecology, overconsumption and the pressures of our technological demands on the earth and its inhabitants. 

Different temporalities in both material and social processes are driving forces in Blackburn’s ceramic art which ranges from the chaotic unpredictable forms of volcanic rock formations to exploratory drill core samples and the industrial precision of crystalline silicon wafer engineering. 

By firing clay alongside other raw materials found within the Earth’s surface, Blackburn aims to discover new behaviours and chemical reactions which mirror the societal and ecological brutality of present and future mining practices.

Inside the ceramic kiln, chemical transformations occur and atomic structures are modified. The contrast between million year old geological concretions and momentary atomic bondings emphasise the fascinating characteristics of what we have learnt to accept as matter. 

Her current body of work began with investigating the significance of faience, a sintered-quartz ceramic material, in ancient Egyptian pottery and its relation to copper and glass industries. Her research into polymetallic oxides and salt processes highlights the industrial effects on Nile delta mineral composition and the complex politics in the growing field of ocean floor mining.


‘The Diamond Chips Thought It Was Possible.’ Earth Eaters at Hoxton 253 Gallery. September 2020 

The Art Institute of Chicago features collaborative work between Blackburn and artist Himali Singh Soin in Soin's project ‘Static Range’. December 2022

Close to the earth’s magma core, the deep ocean floor is home to plains of polymetallic nodules. At these extreme depths geological crusts are rich in metals such as copper, manganese, nickel, lead, cobalt and zinc. Scientific surveillance is in its infancy, miners masquerade as ecologists creating de-facto forms of polity that are outpacing law in the race to extract.

Observed via a mastery of engineering, no human foot could touch this terraqueous cosmos. The abyssal underworld is detached, virtual miners are separated from the blasts, the sediment plumes and the destruction of habitats. The corporation shifts its responsibility away from the social realm, instead placing it on a violent nature that is constructed as unruly, emphasising the placelessness and remoteness of the deep ocean by claiming that its operations have no human impact. 

Veins of glass embalm the metal rich ceramic mulch, alive and functioning, similar to the networks of nervous systems and arteries of living organisms. Presented as geological specimens, cartographic steel nodes hold glass tentacles that latch onto ceramic nodules, unwilling to submit.

A Networked fuckery


Steel, Ceramic & Glass Sculptures

Unearthed and unfurling, this skeletal debris appears to have been excavated from the deep ocean floor and reconstructed for material analysis. You are invited to imagine that this life form was found at a volcanic eruption site. This quasi-geological entity was believed to have meandered the Clarion-Clipperton Pacific Ridge, growing at a rate of 10 millimetres every 10,000 years. Laden with minerals, this body is both ceramic and metal providing nourishment for chemosynthetic organisms. 

The dawn of a seemingly promising technology came with gruesome repercussions for the oceanic dwellers of the past. The last specimen of its kind, once a home for rare species, and only home in the darkest recesses, now is brought to light, a memento mori, that only becomes visible when it is no longer alive.

The earth is kicking back, a disarmed slow violence

Co-exist or pick up the pieces 

Or make singular enemies for singular solutions.

Scars marked by white clapping, banging away with inadequate tooling,

Alter the chemistry in the room that supports violence

And dumb binaries that like and dislike 

To worry that things will go wrong is to miss the point

They always go wrong

Text collaged from Keller Easterling’s 2022 Urgency of the arts RCA Lecture


Steel & Ceramic Sculptures

Viewed through a polarising microscope, light strikes the atoms of the cobalt nitrate crystals, setting the electrons of those atoms into vibration. The vibrating electrons then produce their own electromagnetic wave that is radiated outward in all directions, proving that matter is very much alive and is constituted by an energetic play of forces.

Cobalt, an endangered metal element, is prolifically exploited for batteries and has long had a place in ceramic glazing, often producing bright blue hues. These prints provide a rare opportunity to glimpse cobalt nitrate in its raw form. 

The immutable physics of the finite world,

unseen worlds and shuffling ions


Photographic Prints

Our exponential demand and reliance on technology has culminated in an insatiable appetite to mine copper, leaving widespread terrestrial scars and acid polluted waters. The Jacquard loom inspired early modern computation, programmed via a system of interchangeable punch cards, the loom was able to perform tasks in order to make complex fabrics. 

Hand woven in linen and copper, this weave has been submerged in an electrified sulphuric acid and copper sulphate solution. The conductive weave attracts copper atoms, attaching where the capacity is greatest, forming crystalline nodules. 

Along with many metals, copper rich deposits are being depleted on land, and the International Seabed Authority grants deep sea commercial licences for exploration. The main players monopolising on the global commons are Deep Green, Lockheed Martin, DEME & Keppel, often acting under sub-contractors, partnerships or subsidiaries in this commodity crisis of accountability. 

This flag with its colliding material histories asks ‘who gets access to the mineral rich deposits in the deep sea?’ 

The unconscious conductor


Whilst the smart dust takes a pay cut

Efficiently information free… 

The all consuming weave of unspectacular habits

Are intrinsically bound to the nodule

Photographs available upon request.


Copper & Linen Electroformed Hand Woven Flag

The portals endeavour to map the possibilities of transformation from raw material to ceramic object.  Forging connections between rock and metals, they each represent a periodic element. Cobalt, copper, lithium, iron, nickel, manganese, boron, zinc and titanium are present inside these sensitive crystalline recipes, and minute adaptations can dramatically alter the structural outcome.  

Inside the kiln, held in a molten matrix, zinc and silica that are positively and negatively charged find each other to create zinc silicate, and nucleation begins. Alter the chemistry slightly, and the colour, pattern and shape of the crystals can dramatically change.

Similarly, the oceans biological ecosystems are sensitive to seemingly inconsequential chemical changes and elemental imbalances can set in motion a chain of events. Deep sea hydrothermal vents which also contain an abundance of rich metallic crusts and are at risk of extraction, act as great chemical reactors and help maintain the balance of the Earth's ocean chemistry.

Held in a molten matrix

Heads are weary on the dashboard of hope

Our bodies gravitate towards the edge

To jump or just stare 


Glazed ceramic
Information, more than matter, more than energy, is more fundamental, Deck of 54 tarot cards
Information, more than matter, more than energy, is more fundamental, Deck of 54 tarot cards

Information is at the route of everything and can be flipped at any moment. These cards hold information, a collage of semblance; a system. Several levels of interpretations and readings are possible. Place one card in front of a sculpture to read the work. The concept of information and meaning arises when you start with no rules.  Place the second card next to the first. The next card could completely change the interpretation that you had up to that point, based on the previous cards. Place the third card.


Deck of 54 tarot cards
Moth-Eye Nano Pillars 2022
SEM of silicon wafer with moth eye structure by Jong Kwan Koh

Silicon semiconductors and black silicon solar energies have both adopted the nano structure of a moth eye for its anti reflective powers. The parabolic shape diffracts the light in such a way that there is little reflection.

This macro fabrication of glass particles levitating above the repetitive and precisely arranged porcelain contours is a simulation of the mono crystalline silicon wafer landscape viewed through a scanning electron microscope. Silicon, the main element in the earth's crust, is engineered at atomic level to perform a multiplicity of functions. 

Aesthetically restrained, these nanotechnologies represent the subliminal power play that exists within the remit of complexity science, where one avenue of logic, research or thought can dominate and become so specialised, its wider consequences and implications are less scrutinised. 

Long range order and structural symmetries

sustaining egos 

‘Orderly’ became highly advanced behaviour;

A Sophisticated ignorance, 

a psychological separation from extraction.


Porcelain & Glass Sculptures

Aggressively maternal, the uniform eggs are stacked like ammunition and coated with an ornamental crystalline glaze. Bound by a metallic belt and sensually rigid, the eggs elicit feelings of unease through the contrasting forces of familiarity and the fantastical.

The pristine and most undisturbed part of the world is considered the largest ecosystem on the planet, 90% of species discovered in the deep have not previously been classified. The consequences of removing rock that has been on the seafloor for millions of years without attempting to understand the complex microbial interaction immediately dismisses their potential for medical and material applications.  

A remit of wide and wide open

Roaming on command

Part spirit, part data

Let’s discuss the violence

Bulldozing rituals in a cosmetic delusion

A deep blue, brute force, with angels opposed to dust.


Copper and Crystalline Glazed Porcelain Sculptures

Charlotte Fraser Foundation