Thaw

2015

Worked with Adam Guy Blencowe

 

An investigative project that uses water in its most controlled state: ice. While buried in plaster, the ice thaws and transforms into an uncontrollable and incalculable form. The impermanence of the ice is documented by the permanence of the plaster.

The Concept

 

Continue exploring the "glowing products" concept from my previous project - Grown Vase. I partnered with one of my RCA classmates - Adam Blencowe to brainstorm the ideas. Eventually, we use ice and gypsum as core materials for this project.

 

This process for producing currently stools, uses the same very simply molded ice object, and doesn’t matter how many times you make it, or how consistent the process is, the result is inconsistent. Every single one is particularly special, particularly unique. That inconsistency reviews the chaos and complexity of nature.

 

Used for making molds or taking molds, we have used gypsum as a method of recording history through the objects it has been used to make or mimic. Thaw recognizes the materials documentation property but uses it not to record an object but a process. A process of how ice melts, how water permeates into plaster, and the effects of the plaster composition. These variables create objects that reveal a unique aesthetic of a material that typically sits on the periphery of our consciousness but deserves new attention.

The Background

 

In interior architecture, historically plaster was commonly used to imitate nature. This ornamentation developed largely in the Baroque period and followed on in the Rococo. Part of the drive for the use of heavy decoration during this period was to build popularisation of ecclesiastical art.

 

Our work looks to find a different representation of nature. Thaw exploits compositional variables of plaster that create dramatic formations during the re-hydration of the gypsum. These unpredicted formations mimic natural textures, such as lunar landscapes, coral or animal hide. The objects are not drawn from the natural world directly but by our association only.

The Design Process

 

A molded archetypal Ice was placed into the dehydrated plaster. The Ice thaws and re-hydrated plaster into a self-grown solid form. We tried around ten types of plaster to investigate the effects of this process. There are three types of plaster, Alpha plaster, Cassini’s outdoor plaster and Herculite No.2 with Snowcrete stand out with a clear surface circumscription, which also shown in different textures.

 

During the material investigation, to obtain information on the effect of ice shape on melting and outcome, few different shaped molds were created for shaping the ice. From the melt tests, it became clear that the circular forms melted more evenly and thus gave a more even plaster growth around the ice, while the square or triangular forms melted on the edges first and created weak spots on the faces.

 

Following our material and form of ice investigation, natural fibers and metal mesh were used to increase the strength. Natural fibers were mixed with plaster in advance, and gives plaster a nice strength but also creates a furry look, while metal mesh was surrounding closely around the ice, so it doesn’t affect the look but gives the plaster a really strong body.

 

By understanding what strength and finish different plasters have, how different shaped ice influence the growth of plaster and how to increase the strength of plaster, we can make it into objects that can be used as a product. A sealable stool and a water-resistance vase.

Validation

 

We looked to validate our work by both engaging with material manufacturers and experimental makers during the project. We want the work to be layered enough that different audiences can draw their own conclusions from our practice and its outcome.

 

British Gypsum agreed to give us access to materials not commercially available to trial our process and feedback our results. Providing us with a range of their materials from pure ‘alpha’ plasters to their more basic ‘beta’ plaster range. Our work offered an alternative look at their products and presented a new experimental platform for using a tried and tested material, more than this it adds value to their brand by association. 

 

Tavs Jorgensen is a ceramicist working with experimental fabrication tools and methods for ceramics and glass. As a specialist, he provides workshops and lectures to educational institutes in the UK and abroad. He is using our work as the reference for emerging practices using plaster.  

 

Beyond these narrow fields, our work aims to reach a broader audience, the objects we have made present an unusual and unexpected aesthetic, making their origin difficult to define. We want the user to question the object's source. Question how they came into being. Hand, machine, grown?

 

Through this work, we advocate an experimental and investigative approach to design and making, that puts the exploration of the process at its heart. In doing this new opportunities and understanding are sought and found. 

The gallery

 

The following gallery shows some of the Thaw stools.

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