Studio 19: The Chocolate Teapot - a reading of objects through material

Studio Outline

As designers and makers of Stuff (Daniel Miller), what impact do our material choices have?  From a ‘me’ to a ‘we’ focus, how will your research affect your design decisions? 

Things make us just as much as we make things (Miller). This studio will explore a reading of objects focusing on the deceptively simple sounding subject of materials, as a significant aspect in understanding the objects that we are responsible for introducing into the world, through craft, traditional production or emerging technologies. 

We will investigate what constitutes a stimulating relationship with the objects that an audience will invest time money and thought in acquiring and the part that material plays, covering both intentional and unintentional aspects. The attributing of value will be considered, not only as an inherent property of material, but as a judgement made about it by an audience, whether an individual or by society more broadly. This exploration will embrace the implications of materials from a broad sensory perspective, how well they function against intent and over time, the potential for emotional attachment, our own and other cultural perspectives, ethical and sustainability concerns and economic interests.

The studio will also take a look at the implications of ‘future’ materials – for the purposes of this studio considered as potentially viable making materials that exist but are not yet sufficiently accessible for ease of use (Institute of Making visit tbc).  

The studio will be of relevance to 3D students more broadly interested in consumer culture, and more specifically those seeking to grow audience desire for their work, whilst valuing the principle of consuming less.  It will also be of relevance to those interested in contemporary material culture, that have an interest in what such objects do and will say about us, and the times that we live in, to future generations.

First seven weeks of study

This studio offers a choice of two forms of dissertation:

a) Conventional dissertation

Study your subject through existing objects and texts and produce a dissertation of 8,000 - 10,000 words 

b) Project-based dissertation

Design and make an object(s) by negotiation and document this as an initial form of study identifying key qualities, issues, problems etc about your chosen subject.  Write a paper of 5,000 - 6,000 words analysing your approach and findings. 

Weeks 1-7: In addition to introducing the formal framework of a dissertation, the first 7 weeks will model a development of a dissertation proposal which can be varied, interpreted or ignored if you have an alternative model. A range of material/object handling sessions, visits, regular readings, short pieces of writing, group work, debate and discussions, will demonstrate how what you do can produce a dissertation.  These weeks will also serve to demonstrate that you are a valuable resource to each other in identifying authentic areas of interest, engaging with the dissertation process and developing confidence in setting up a range of primary research experiences. You will be sharing ideas, research, books etc and offering feedback, which it is hoped will be of great mutual benefit over the following weeks of primarily independent tutorials.

Reading List

  • 1. Chapman, Jonathan, Emotionally Durable Design: Objects, Experiences, and Empathy,  (London: Earthscan, 2005).
  • 2. Karana, Elvin, Owain Pedgley, Valentina Rognoli, Materials Experience: Fundamentals of Materials and Design, (Amsterdam: Butterworth–Heinemann, 2014).
  • 3. Salminen, Justin, Trevor M. Letcher (ed), Janet L. Scott (ed.), Materials for a Sustainable Future (Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry, 2012).
  • 4. Sudjic, Deyan, The Language of Things (London: Penguin, 2009).
  • 5. Turkle, Sherry, Evocative Objects: Things We Think With (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2011).
  • 6. Schwartzman, Madeline, See Yourself Sensing: Redefining Human Perception (London: Black Dog Pub, 2011).
Image: David Clarke, Modified Teapot, Subversive Design, Brighton, 2014