Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Way We Make

Inherently or not, an artist’s work is shaped by the nature of its medium. Trying to push away perhaps by its conventionality, the materiality used by students and their designs in mind converge.  Many are driven by the qualities of either natural or synthetic materials, which can also dictate a student’s working process. This however can be convenient and can offer a sense of direction to a maker. At the same time some materials can limit our desire to express an idea. Some materials do not perform of have certain qualities that one might be looking for changing the end result or a design.

It is interesting to see how every department, it be the furniture, architecture or industrial design, has a different dialogue with the materials and resources they gather and use. For the furniture department it seems important to use recycled material to built upon from but still using “new or raw materials” to create a hybrid between the two. It seems like the process of experimentation and creating furniture made out of composite materials is common.  However, I find interesting student’s concern to use recycled materials to make furniture but contradictive the amount of waste that can be produced by making for instance a chair.

In the architecture department, it seems like students take the time to fully understand their material selection. They test their materials to make sure they respond to what they are looking for while still being interested in it.  This dialogue between the artist and their medium allows them to negotiate the boundaries between the material and their ideas.

Forcing students to use specific materials like corrugated cardboard, plaster, or wood is a good learning experience to understand the behavior of such. Hundreds of models and prototypes are made with affordable materials for students to development their ideas. It is something I find in common with many departments where exploration is encouraged and the endless amount of idea production is reinforced. The process can very wasteful, even more so if the materials used are being converged with others that are hard to take apart if those were to be recycled.

It doesn’t seen that much after thought has been given to the way ideas are being developed in relation to our material consumption and exploration. It’s hard to find a balance between making biodegradable resources, using little energy or not polluting in the process and designing an efficient product. Because more thought and awareness is being addressed to these concerns at RISD, it might affect the way we make and question the consequences composite materials can have to its environment.

It is good to hear that the department of industrial design is trying consolidate years of inefficient material production and packaging design since the industrial revolution to a more efficient and recyclable end product.  Bringing to use more eco-friendly materials into our design might inspire other departments to act and react to these issues that are affecting the way we live and make.    

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