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Design and manufacturing futures: The UK Ceramic industry in a period of globalization (c1995-2010)

Ewins, Neil (2014) Design and manufacturing futures: The UK Ceramic industry in a period of globalization (c1995-2010). In: Design Culture: Object, Discipline and Practice Conference, 18-19 Sep 2014, University of Southern Denmark, Kolding. (Submitted)

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


Held at the University of Southern Denmark, Kolding.

In conjunction with University of Brighton, V&A, and DK:Trapholt.
Funded by The Danish Council for Independent Research.


Case Studiescategory.

Dr. Neil Ewins, University of Sunderland.

Design and manufacturing futures: The UK Ceramic industry in a period of globalization (c1995-2010).

Since the late 1990s,Far Eastern ceramic imports have surged, and UK ceramic brands have increasingly utilized cheap labour abroad. Lash and Urry’sEconomies of Signs and Space of 1994,and their Global Culture Industry: The Mediation of Things of 2007,consideredhow the design process might evolve in a post-industrial and postmodernist environment, and how commodities behave in the context of globalization. Based on Lash and Urry’s theories, designing and design aesthetics become more important than the process of production. However, not all UK ceramic production has been outsourced abroad, relating to what economists have recently defined as regional resilience. What is the explanation for this behaviour?

This paper sets out to analyse whether the theories of Lash and Urry are too generalized, or their examples are focused too narrowlyonyouth orientated products and brands. Could Lash and Urry’sproposal that it is the advertising and branding of products that creates a meaning, be thrown into doubt by UK ceramics that havepretentions of craft and collectable dimensions? Based on the testimony of ceramic manufacturers and ceramic retailers, there is evidence that the place of UK ceramic production can be considered as intrinsic to its meaning and cultural significance. Shifting production elsewhere can raise perception issues, but this is only apparent if a range of Design History approaches is used to highlight the actual impact of globalization on ceramic marketing and design. Consequently,a value of object-based and qualitative methodologiesis that these can explore theories of deterritorialization and homogenization.

By examining the UK ceramics industry and the range of commodities that it produces, this paper highlights howthe impact of post-industrialism and globalization has created enormous possibilities, yet at the same time has created difficulties for just one industry.Thus, this type of research can be used to inform debates concerning manufacturing futures. If it were simply a question of Western labour-costs versus Eastern labour-costs,it wouldmake a great deal of economic sense to switch ceramic production entirely abroad. However, it is argued that UK ceramics remain culturally complex because ofsupply and demand, and ties to heritage, imagined or otherwise.

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Depositing User: Ashleigh Little


Item ID: 5101
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ORCID for Neil Ewins: ORCID iD

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Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2014 12:23
Last Modified: 18 Dec 2019 15:37


Author: Neil Ewins ORCID iD

University Divisions

Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries
Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries > School of Art and Design


Glass and Ceramics > Ceramics

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