Meet Joseph Töreki, the designer exploring craftsmanship in the digital world
How do you glaze a digital object? The German designer approaches digital works like a sculptor, fascinated by materials, techniques and processes.
- Ruby Boddington
- 15 June 2021
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Many creative interests are borne from a feeling of frustration, of feeling unfulfilled or that something is missing. While working in advertising in Munich, Joseph Töreki turned to drawing, graffiti and tattooing to try and shake up his “monotonous” routine but “it was never really fulfilling” and he longed for yet more “randomness, the unexpected.” He finally found this sense of excitement with the discovery of digital design and today, based near Heidelberg in Germany, his 3D practice is flourishing, fuelled by an “enormous fascination for craftsmanship, nature and a strong curiosity for aesthetics and experimentation.”
It follows then, that Joseph describes his practice as “super random” because experimentation is what forms the basis of his works. “I try a lot of things and that’s also what makes me happiest – trying or exploring something new every day regardless of whether it has something to do with design or not,” he tells It’s Nice That. “I think it is very important to stay open-minded and not to be afraid of things that are different, or don’t take place in the art and design world, or are not trendy.” That hasn’t always been the case though. When Joseph first started dabbling in digital design, he was obsessed with carving out a recognisable style, “but my mindset and self-confidence luckily changed and now I’m super grateful and proud of being so diverse,” he continues.
One look at Joseph’s recent work and you can see he has an interest in ceramics. As it transpires, that interest stems from a fascination with materiality, not something usually associated with a digital artist. “[I’m] interested in making something look unnaturally natural which turns out to be super difficult even if it’s with real clay,” he explains. “I want to make something look like it is unintentional and accidental so that it blends in with nature.” What’s particularly interesting is how Joseph approaches his work in the same way a sculptor or a ceramicist would, experimenting with different glazes, techniques and materials such as copper, raku or glass, albeit digital fabrications of them all. His attention to detail and unusual approach to digital design has clearly paid off though, as his works exhibit all the hallmarks (read: imperfections) of real objects and you’d be forgiven for thinking that they were simply high-res photographs.
Joseph coins his fascinating practice as “Neo ceramics”, adding that he wants to push the traditional medium to the next level. He combines “both digital and physical aspects" of the medium “trying things that would be not possible in our physical world, like liquid, growing or living glazes”. That being said, he was rejected from several ceramics courses, but is grateful to see this project come to life and “I am already very excited about how my digital glaze collection will grow and develop over the next ten years.”
Continuing this speculative thread, another avenue of exploration is concerned with the natural elements. “I like to imagine what the future will look like, and what’s left of us,” he says, and in this context, he explores whether digital designers will become the only means for us to replicate and then experience the natural world because we have mined all the raw materials. He explores questions including: how will nature take back the world in 1,000 years? And, how will animals and plants have evolved in a million years? These provocations inspire him to create though whether it’s out of curiosity or fear, he’s not sure.
Importantly, Joseph explains that a lot of his work is purely process-based and experimental and therefore free from concept. “I am just enjoying the process and beauty of things,” he says. “It’s always exciting to let it drift and see what comes out in the end.”
Never one to settle within a medium, Joseph has plans to get away from the screen and make more physical objects. Not just for fun, this would offer him the chance to open a small online shop and become more independent of clients. “But I first need to figure out how to translate my digital art back to physical,” he explains. “Fortunately, new technologies offer great opportunities and I’ve already started to experiment with and cast some 3D-printed objects in porcelain. This is just the beginning and I think it will be very exciting!”
Joseph Töreki: Digital glaze retro (Copyright © Joseph Töreki, 2021)
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.