Josiah Wedgwood is well-known as one of the brightest business minds Britian has ever produced, founding a ceramics house that was as artistically desirable and philanthropically-minded as it was technologically advanced – and one that resonated with its audience both at home and internationally in a way that no other commercial entity had ever done before. In many ways, you could argue that Wedgwood was the first 'brand' in the way we think one today; with creative collaborators, celebrity influencers and legions of fans fighting to collect pieces in the pottery's latest limited-run drop. Now, over a quarter of a millennium later, the new Creative Director of Wedgwood, Alice Bastin, is embracing Josiah's spirit of disruption by launching the brand in the digital sphere.
Last week, the V&A Museum in London hosted the very first Wedgwood in Web 3 event at the institution's Hintze Sculpture Gallery. Alongside workstations of craftspeople demonstrating the historic way the house's iconic jasperware pieces are created, the sculpture gallery played host to three original jasperware pieces: the Portland, Borghese and Homer vases. Bastin employed three of today’s leading digital artists – Roger Kilimanjaro, Krista Kim and Tom Furse – to reimagine and recontextualise these iconic Wedgwood designs with a new visual expression, using 3D modelling and sophisticated looping to AI and machine learning technologies to create a totally new visual interpretation.
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In addition, a limited series of 300 NFTs of the house's famous Portland vase (also displayed around the room) was minted and gifted to guests attending the event - with a corresponding physical poster of the NFT artwork. These NFTs were created by Bastin in collaboration with Assaf Reeb’s XXII Studio. The process involved 3D scanning, modelling and coding, culminating in a generative series of artworks. Each 3D render in the series is unique, featuring its own combination of traits such as materials, colours, ornamentation and background effects. This generative process provides owners with a completely unique piece of Wedgwood history.
"We’re taking our 260 year old heritage into Web 3 to create modern ways for our consumers to collect Wedgwood and be a part of our community," said Bastin of the project. "Physical ceramics have certain complexities, but in Web 3 we can express Wedgwood in totally new techniques and in colours which would be impossible to achieve in Jasperware.”
"We know that making a heritage brand culturally relevant in today’s digital world is hard. Doing so without compromising the brand’s history is just exceptionally hard," says Michael Konig, VP Design and NPD Vita, Fiskars Group (the parent company of Wedgwood). “The way Alice applies her long experience from luxury fashion to elevate our brands and propel them into the cultural conversation has been convincing from the start. Combined with the passion she brings to these brands makes the results feel so personal and original. A unique combination that we were lucky to find in her.”
"Josiah Wedgwood, as the founding father of British luxury, understood that experimenting with - and pioneering - new technologies and innovations is the ingredient X of success in luxury," says Helen Brocklebank, Walpole CEO. "Wedgwood’s Web 3 work is a beautiful new way of seeing the timelessness of his designs and I’m tempted to suggest we should all be asking ourselves, ‘What would Josiah do?’"
Further elements of Bastin's new direction for Wedgwood and design expression for product are expected to launch this September.
Find out more about Wedgwood's journey into Web 3 on the brand's instagram. instagram.com/wedgwood