Trompe l'oeil expression became a part of Shaw's objects in the early
1970s, through his personal attraction to 18th-century Staffordshire
china, and an introduction to the use of china paints. Porcelain, which is
Shaw's chosen medium of expression, is an especially tricky branch of
ceramics; fired at very high temperatures as is glass, porcelain is
difficult to control and demands precision and a technical mastery
of the ceramics process. (Shaw "pooh-poohs" this aspect of his art,
saying "Porcelain is actually nothing more than a white, translucent,
vitreous clay-that is the technical definition. It is hard, translucent,
white, nonporus, sonorous, and consists of kaolin, quarts, and feldspar.
I tell my students that all the time."
Shaw, an inveterate junk collector, spent a year collaborating with
sculptor Robert Hudson in slip casting a variety of store-bought
objects as well as rocks, pieces of logs, and twigs. Completing their
inventory with wheel-thrown and handbuilt forms, the men proceeded to
assemble teapots, jars and cups from these various components.
Underglazes, china paints, air brushing, and fabrics pressed on the
surface added texture and decoration. Each man made his own
objects from the collection of parts and the results were surrealistic
assemblages ofunrelated forms.