Materiality & Meaning (Making Matters)

Materiality & Meaning

MA Art and Material Histories
City and Guilds of London Art School
ONLINE Workshops 
January - February 2021

Laura White will lead a series of online research workshops - ‘Making Matters'

Each week materials will be explored from different perspectives with each student bringing their own experience to these material engagements. These sessions aim to explore materials body/hands/face on, and to open up new ways of thinking and talking about materiality – materiality as the subject rather than a vehicle for the non-material and theoretical.

All session will be run on the TEAMS online platform

Monday 18th January
Session 1

interactive workshop focusing on the details of everyday objects, exploring their material qualities using all the senses. Get away from obvious representations and what it looks like! Instead how we can respond and interpret a material in non-representational way.

DOCUMENT and share on Whats APP….

  1. Touching, not seeing

Find an object/material in your home.

Blind fold yourself and spend time feeling the object - silence for 5 mins.

Pay attention to the details when describing and … to think about the following…

  • Try to AVOID thinking about – what the object IS, the meaning, politics, language of the object/material, the function etc.
  • Explore the weight, gravity, surface and material qualities, balance, colour, texture, density, and stability.
  • Explore – smell, taste and temperature.
  • Does it release anything - vapour, residue, air, liquid, produce a sound?
  • Explore – surfaces, where different surfaces meet and touch.
  • Think about what materials are included - what is apparent and what is hidden, connecting points, how it might have come into the world, processes involved to form/make it
  • How do you think it is made? What evidence is there to how it is made?
  • How does your body relate to it?
  • How strong/weak is it?
  • Is it stable - moving, growing, shrinking, aging, wearing down? How might this be caused?
  • Do you trust it? Is it behaving as expected or doing something unfamiliar?
  • Is it dead or alive?

Stay blindfolded and each describe the touch experience.

  1. Action - spider diagram

Take the same or a different object/material.  Take time to explore this object (Handling). Take a large piece of paper and name the object and circle in centre of the page.

Build a spider diagram (connectors) the experience of handling, looking at the object – any thoughts and associations… using words…

  1. Drawing
  • Draw the inside of the object without opening it up – what it might feel like to be inside the object – where you can’t see its exterior shape. Try not to be too representational – can be abstract.
  • Place the object on the paper and draw the object – drawing around the object (moving the paper as you go). Do not move the object off the paper.
  1. Plastercine characters

Using plastercine make a character – if your object was a character what would it be (living or inanimate object)? Try not to sculpt the appearance of the original object….

  1. Short story

Write a short story about your object – one paragraph of fiction. E.g its upbringing, occupation, experience it had…..

  1. Sound

Make a sound that your object might make if it had a voice….

SHARE  on What App

Monday 25th January
Session 2

Material Behaviour

The Library of Materials with Martin Conreen and Laura White.

Martin is one of the founding members of the institute of Making at UCL and the Programme Leader for Design at Goldsmiths College.

Martin will share with us his extraordinary materials library and wealth of knowledge of materials, such as the use of materials that are revolutionising the building industry, and those once used for child’s play are now used for high tech protective clothing. Martin’s talk will be followed by a workshop which will explore material properties -Hardness, Stickiness and Joining.

Everyone document your materials on your phone camera. collate them to create a materials timetable.


Bring 10 materials ranging from soft to hard. Select materials which are as close to their purest form e.g. flour, chalk, sandpaper, copper.


Bring 5-10 materials ranging from tacky (slightly sticky) to super sticky. Select materials which are as close to their purest form e.g. chewing gum, cellotape plant matter, Velcro.


Bring a range of materials/objects to join together – materials approximately the size/volume of a book (not too big and not too small!) plus a variety of joining materials…

Define a fix if can pick up one object and the other holds.

The session will be run on TEAMS.

Monday 1st February
Session 3

Walking Through Materials

This is a walk of your choice close to where you live. Focus on ALL materials as you walk. Engage with the materials before the objects they form.  How does the range of materials change as you pass through different areas? Can you identify all the materials you encounter? Be sensitive to the materials you can feel through your shoes onto your feet. When you get back from your walk – gather your materials (images, objects, etc) in preparation for an online discussion.

Walking Instructions

Start to Walk......
Walk for 5 mins (time yourself) then stop and look at the first description on the list below. Eg ‘A Gap’
Each time you stop (5 min walking intervals) focus on something that fits to the description on the list, in the order they are on the list – 1. A gap, 2. A line 3. A circle and so on.

  1. A Gap
  2. A Line
  3. A Circle
  4. New material
  5. Old material
  6. Stable material
  7. Unstable material
  8. Transforming material
  9. Smelly material
  10. Hot material
  11. Cold material

Spend time looking, touching, smelling (use all your senses) and respond – this could be taking notes, drawing, collecting material, audio recording. Whatever helps you to explore the materiality. Make sure you photograph each one and immediately share on Whats App.
Once you have responded to No 1, walk for 5 mins, stop again and respond to No2 - going down the list.... until you have responded to all 11 descriptions.
It will take approx 2 hours to complete the walk.

Spend time looking, touching, smelling, listening and tasting if you want! Materials around you (use all your senses)

Respond – this could be taking notes - description, list of words, short narrative, doing a drawing, taking a rubbing, collecting materials, making a sound (audio recording), taking an impression (eg using clay, plastercine), doing an action (eg using your body to measure, to describe a material/object/space).

Whatever helps you to explore the materiality - finding things to do to challenge the way you think about materials.

Make sure you photograph each thing you are responding to immediately share on Whats App.

Responded to all 11 descriptions.

Once you are back home - collate your responses, organize so we can discuss. Photograph everything you have done and upload to computer to share screen – eg a power point presentation.

Monday 8th February 
Session 4

Body and Stuff

Workshop to explore materials and objects in relationship to the human body. What it is to understand our bodies through materials and to pay attention to the co-dependent relationships between ourselves and material.

Everyone will gather materials. In the morning we will work with the materials you have collected to construct body-objects and then in the afternoon you will stabilize one of your creations, such as to sew, stick or cover to transform into a permanent sculpture/object. The selfie photo will be the means in which you will document this process. A hands-on/body-on workshop…

Morning Workshops

I’m going to ask you to interact with objects.

Take your time.

Think about your body while you do them and think about the objects and materials as well.

Think about - What are you learning about both your body and materials through this process.

These inquiries are about paying attention to the experience and not thinking about what things look like.

So - go into your world away from the screen if you like.

  1. Find an item (an item you are familiar with handling) We are going to explore this object without using our hands.
  • Move the object from the floor to a table only using your body (without using your hands in the normal way – such as to grip with fingers.) g. balancing on back of your hand, use your feet, mouth.. 5 mins.
  • Then move the same object from the floor to a table, or one surface to another using additional objects. E.g. picking up an object using a pencil and a fork etc. 5 mins.
  • Try moving this object with all matter of different materials and objects – such as using string, sticky tape – anything you have. 5 mins.
  • Pick up the same object using your body and a wall. 5 mins.

 Discuss - What did you discover about the objects you were using?

  1. Using a range of materials you have gathered (use whatever you like)
    • Create a device/object/sculpture… that inhibits the way you walk and move. E.g strapping things to your feet, legs……Make quick things and don’t worry about what they look like. 10 mins.

    • Create a form/object that changes the way you use your arms. 10 mins.

    • Create an object which you can use to attach your body to explore a space – inside or outside. E.g. attach yourself to the walls – measure/feel the space you are in.
    • Keep everything for the afternoon session.

    Do object selfie to document.

    Afternoon Workshop
    Stabilizing your actions to create a sculpture

    Taking one thing that you have made this morning - develop and transform into something more considered and permanent - paying attention to how it is made and how it appears, how soft or hard it is etc.

    The object you develop may still be functional and be used with the body or become an totally independent static object/sculpture.

     You may choose to sew/stick objects together or remake a shape and form using different materials.

    2 Hours to do this

    Document your object to share on screen.