Sharan Elran is a designer-maker based in Brooklyn NY. Originally from Israel, Sharan moved to the US in 2008, started a practice in NY, and later completed his MFA at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Sharan is utilizing his geeky past as a software engineer and B.Sc in physics to create modular and dynamic molds that produce complex forms based on a simple algorithm. Sharan is also a partner and ceramic designer in chief for “lightexture” – a lighting design studio. Starting Sept 2017 Sharan will join the Hybrid Lab at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as a Ph.D. student at the Computer Science Department researching digital technologies and craft.
My work occupies the blurry space between art and design. I’m working with molds that are dynamic and can produce many different forms, unlike regular molds that are designed to create copies of a certain form. In my project “Unlimited Edition—1 of 6,227,020,800” (2012-current) I use digital fabrication techniques and basic combinatorics to potentially produce a unique vase for every person on earth using just one mold. The mold I created has 14 pieces and that guarantees the 6,227,020,800 unique permutations which roughly correlates to the world population. It enhances the tension between a unique work of art and mass production and builds on the desire to be unique. While it seems to be an implementation of “mass customization”—one of the great promises of digital fabrication, it actually takes a critical stand since the customization is done manually and is labor intensive. The obvious inability of any human to complete this project brings to mind how finite and limited is the nature of the human experience.
I’m interested in mathematical generators of form that seem very simple but can actually create very complex systems and forms. I have been introduced to such systems while working as a research assistant at the Physics Department at Bar Ilan University, where I was designing computerized simulations of fractals and studying their geometry and mass. Some of my works simply use the physical qualities of liquid clay to create fractal and complex forms. I often utilizes the forms created in between the parts of my molds. For example, Rough Vase—Bricks #4 Series (2015) derives its form from these in between sections that are usually trimmed and removed.
My ceramic mural Penroscape (2014) is based on the work of British mathematician Roger Penrose. This wall piece is built from two simple building blocks whose placement in relation to one another is determined by one simple rule. With each unit added to the piece the pattern develops in a non-periodic way, causing the overall pattern to continue to change ad infinitum. While Penrose’s original work dealt with two dimensional tiles and its typical applications use color to make the pattern appear, I added a third dimension using only light and shadow to reveal the pattern.
Similarly Gridish (2016) is a simple tile set that can create extremely complex patterns. Gridish is inspired by medieval Islamic tile work and by adding a third dimension releases the rigidity of hexagonal tiles.
Both Gridish and Penroscape function as a decoration (a term I intentionally use despite its pejorative cultural implication) that enhances the architecture of the site it is installed in, while it is also a meditation on infinity and the transcendental.
I think of ceramics as one of the oldest technologies humans ever developed and I enjoy being part of this lineage, using 21st century technologies mixed with prehistoric techniques.