Module 4: Prop Ceramics and its relevance in feature films, advertising materials and photographs


No other continent on earth combines such a wide variety of cultures in such a small space as Europe. Culture – as abstract and rich as this term is – takes place in coexistence and helps people, regions or groups to define and identify themselves.
The practical expression of culture also includes for example language, theater, literature, music and traditions.
→ An also very significant vehicle to pass on, to live out and to deal with culture can be found in film and advertising.
These media channels accompany and shape everyday life. They surround people around the world and around the clock. But there is another substance that intensively shapes the life and cultural identity of everyone, but every so often is not consciously noticed: Ceramics.
Not many products affect daily life in such an all-embracing way.

Movies entertain, explain, ask questions and contribute to develop opinions. Moreover, advertising and film, in their many different forms and manfestations, act as a fertile platform for presenting and discussing cultural life in all its facets. They can be found on posters, pop-up windows, tablets and smartphones, TV and Cinema screens, projected on walls, at home or away, offline and online. Films and advertisements tell stories about people and their environment – and ceramics are part of that. Meals are prepared on ceramic plates, houses and apartments are decorated with ceramic objects and bathrooms are lined with ceramic tiles. Plates, cups, figures, sinks and tiles shape and simplify everyday life. They are also part of the tradition that is especially celebrated and lived out at festive holidays. The variety of ceramic materials offers cultures, societies, communities or individual persons an opportunity to realise and express their identity. To analyse media such as film and advertising gives the opportunity to open up and explore new perspectives on ceramics as props.
Movies, commercials and advertising photographs from 11 different European countries starting from the 1930s until the present day were subject to the following questions:

  1. Do ceramic props have any purpose regarding the dramaturgy or storytelling?
  2. Are ceramic props being used to describe a character or his background story?
  3. Do ceramic props represent a lifestyle or certain social milieus and cultural or national European identities?
  4. Do ceramic props emphasise, symbolise or describe stereotypes of countries or cultures? Do they therefore work as a “cultural code”, which is widely understood by the viewers?
  5. Is a certain meaning ascribed to the ceramics used on set to convey a desired message?
  6. Do ceramics products reflect or help understand certain trends e.g. in dining culture, home furnishing or decoration?

All in all, the basic question is:
What specific roles do ceramics play in films, commercials and advertising photographs?
The EU-Project-Team from 11 different Countries took on this challenge. Team Members came from:
Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, United Kingdom. Almost 400 film clips, commercials or advertising photographs are now listed in a big database. To find out more about the reception of ceramic props a big public survey was also conducted with over 4000 questionnaires being filled out by an international audience. Based on this public opinion poll a scientific study was finalised in 2017 – the first one of this kind.

During the duration of this 4-year-project visitors of a variety of museums in many different countries like Italy, UK, Estonia, Latvia and many more at the Congress “Ceramic Values: Can Ceramics make a difference” could get in touch with this topic through a hands-on, interactive media station filled with almost 100 movie and advertising clips as well as newsreels and advertising photographs. Even an augmented reality presentation was included into the Media Station, which allowed the user to take a closer look on how big the variety of ceramic props actually is.

Furthermore, on the final project’s website visitors can now learn a lot about the relevance of ceramics – especially ceramic props – in movies, commercials and advertising photographs online.
Based on the success of this module and the huge interest the public expressed, a special exhibition is being held at the Porzellanikon, Selb from the 27th of July 2019 until the 26th of January 2020 titled: Silent Stars – Ceramics in Film and Advertising.


Porzellanikon – Staatliches Museum für Porzellan in Hohenberg a. d. Eger/Selb


1st December 2014 – 30th November 2017