Print and Ceramics have a long history of working together, often with print applied to a form after it has been designed and produced in ceramics.

This relationship has been widely recognised by both disciplines and there have been a number of very successful symposiums that have explored the relationship between printmaking and ceramic production over the years, however the nature of this relationship means that printmakers are often removed from creating form.

The Permanent Print symposium is an opportunity for artists, printmakers ceramicists and designers to use their individual skills and experience to explore the possibilities of working across these ancient disciplines from the very start of the making process. 

We have held two symposium’s at UCLAN where artists, printmakers, ceramicists and designers come together to research over multiple days of intensive practice led research and experimentation . 


Symposium One

On the 25 September 2014 Artlab Contemporary Print Studios (ACPS) and The Silicate Research Unit (SRU) at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) welcomed guests for a four-day International print and refractory concrete symposium.

Symposium Two

The Second Permanent Print symposium was held at the UCLan Artlab and Silicate Research Unit from the 9th – the 13th of July 2015.

If you would like information regarding future symposia please contact us.

The group were interested in a number of different materials that included refractory concrete, glass, ceramics and enamel printing on metal.

The focus of the first symposium was predominately the exploration and experimentation of the hand printed mark onto non-traditional surfaces such as refractory concrete and pre-cast ceramic materials, materials which enable the creation of of unique forms including the printed surface from the beginning of the process.

The second symposium extended this enquiry to include glass, paper clay and enamels on to metal.

What is Refractory Concrete?

Refractory concretes (RC) are industrial materials used most commonly in high temperature applications, primarily in the steel and glass industries. In most cases they are a mix of refractory aggregate’s chosen for specific hot engineering applications combined with a cement binder. RCs are known to ceramicists largely only for their insulating properties for which they are used in the manufacture of kilns as hot face lining. However, refractory concrete displays novel handling properties that include: increased green and fired toughness and strength, thermal shock resistance, ceramic glaze compatibility, thixotropic effects and rapid setting. These properties offer the opportunity to achieve the creation of objects that do not conform to some of the traditional limitations of conventional clay and yet are able draw upon the vast array of ceramic surface decoration available to the ceramicist.


At UCLan, academics and students have been exploring the use of RC for a number of years for mainly for applications in architectural features and design and sculpture applications where we seek to make use of the various unique properties and advantages Refractory concretes can offer over conventional clay. Which include:

  •  RCs will typically shrink less than 0.5% compared with up to 12% for some clays. 
  • This means they will not suffer from warping due to uneven drying and firing. 
  • Clay is brittle and easily damaged at a dry or green state making handling difficult, particularly on a large scale.
  • Ceramic is inherently weak in tension, RCs are substantially stronger in tension and can be used for wide spans, impossible with conventional ceramics.
  • They can be decorated using ceramic oxides and glazes 


Each artists approach has varied, in fact, it is the differences in approach that is at the core of this research, we each bring our own expertise, methods and techniques collaborate together to see what can be achieved using these experimental  materials. 

The two main approaches  can be described as printing on and casting from. 

Printing on 

Printing on is similar in approach to how you might print on paper or other mediums. Commonly we use silkscreen prints and special ceramic oxides and pigments that allow  to print directly onto the surface of pre-made concrete slabs. these can then be glazed or left without.  

Casting From 

Casting off is the second main approach and involves making a mould and transferring the image from the mould to the concrete through the casting process itself. Oxides or other colouring media are applied to the mould first before wet concrete is poured in the concrete then adopts the oxide into the surface of the concrete creating an image when the material is fired. This process is more unpredictable than printing onto, however it allows the creation of unique surfaces and relief textures.