Transformative Materials


Transformation - alchemy - entropy. How, what, and why materials transform - change. liquid to solid, stiff to flexible… How does this occur in different materials? How can we use these transformative opportunities?

A Two-Part Workshop for students from Goldsmiths College Fine Art Undergraduate Programme exploring Transformative Materials.  Starting with Thinking Through Clay at Rochester Square Ceramic Studio,  followed by Martin Conreen’s Library of Materials at Goldsmiths College.


Part 1: Thinking Through Clay

Wednesday 13th March, 10am - 4pm. Rochester Square Ceramic studio, Camden.

One Day workshop lead by Laura White in collaboration with ceramicist Nina Wright.

Exploring the transformative qualities of clay through process and discussion - throwing, hand-building and slip casting. Groups of students worked intuitively to discover the different types, properties and stages of clay, culminating in a collaborative work that was explored through its destruction.  

Group split into two (5 students in each group). Half work with Laura - hand-building and slip casting, and the other group throwing on the wheel with Nina, then swap at lunchtime.

Hand-building with Laura

Constructing and pouring

Build - coil, pinch, slabs.

Slabs - leather hard - cut for constructing. Soft - drape over objects and forms (on plaster moulds or other objects covered in cling film.)

Slip casting - with porcelain slip and plaster moulds.

Build a structure of your choice - don't plan - respond to the immediate decisions presented to you. Let the clay direct you, rather than imposing on it.

MANIPULATE CLAY - Rip, cut, squash, squeeze, break etc…

STRUCTURE - use the clays strength to build. Think about how can build up and out.

SURFACE - texture - drag things over surface and use tools etc…

Throwing with Nina

Preparing soft balls of clay to throw on the wheel.

Throwing to make a vessel (hollow)

Throwing to make a form (solid)

End of each session - bring all clay objects from each group together - to connect, collaborate, build and destroy.

Part 2:  Exploring Transformative Materials with Martin Conreen

Wednesday 20th March 2-5pm. Goldsmiths College.

Martin Conreen, the director of the Institute of Making and lecturer in Design at Goldsmiths took us through his library of materials – looking at materials that are transformative. From materials that go from malleable to being rigid on physical impact, to those that creep and change unnoticed. Looking at these transformations from both a scientific and philosophical perspective. This workshop with extraordinary materials  challenged our preconceptions and unravelled relationships and negotiations with the stuff/matter we work with and encounter every day.

Thinking Transformations...

  • MOST materials are Transmutable to one degree or another.

  • E.g. Thixatropic. A property of certain gels to become a fluid when agitated but become solid or semi-solid when allowed to stand. E.g. tomato ketchup

  • Things that may cause change - Melting, drying, boiling, evaporating, freezing, rotting etc.

  • Solid - Liquid and visa versa

  • Different Energies change materials - heat, cold, impact (force/hit - cornflower and water mix when agitated quickly goes hard)

  • Reversible changes - adding water to dry clay to make malleable usable again.

  • Irreversible changes - Once the chemical properties of a substance are changed, it becomes another E.g. water and plaster, burning (firing clay. 573 degrees C - No going back…)

  • Catalyst - ignite transformations (jelatin to make jelly, polymerization catalyst for resin)

  • Fast and Slow change - Fast - bread dough. Slow - Creeping - tarmacs that repair themselves.

  • TIME- material time - artist time, working together.