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Wooden bathrooms, golden spoons and other tales of materials in society

Clare S Ryan15 March 2013

This morning, crawling out of my bed in icy south London my first post-sleep experience was of a chilly, tiled bathroom.

Sullenly brushing my teeth with my feet on the cold floor, new questions popped into my head. Are cold tiles really the best material to clad the bathroom in? Who made these tiles in the first place? What are they made of?

Professir Mark Miodownik

Professor Mark Miodownik

Before attending Professor Mark Miodownik’s Lunch Hour Lecture ‘Stuff matters’ these were not questions that routinely entered my head – the appearance of my first coffee was a much more pressing matter.

But Mark’s view of the world is perhaps different to most people’s, and it probably explains why he is the UCL Professor of Materials & Society (note the ‘society’ part) and we are not.

Materials and Society
If you look around you now you will see a lot of materials that once started out as rocks, sludge and various non-identifiable living things. Take, for example, the plastic of your keyboard, the water glass on your table, the concrete on the pavement outside or a stainless steel fork that you ate your lunch with (perhaps that last one’s just me). (more…)

Getting Plastered with the UCL Institute of Making

George Wigmore1 February 2013

Plaster is a wonderful material. It can be cast, carved and moulded, and this flexibility has resulted in it being used for thousands of years, from the ancient Egyptians to the archetypal sculptures that we associate with the Renaissance.

But plaster also has a fair bit of history at UCL. The university’s Museums & Collections contain countless extraordinary examples including early studies of children’s limbs from the Great Ormond Street Hospital collection and items from Galton’s experiments into eugenics.

To celebrate this wonderful material, a new exhibition about plaster and the casting process, highlighting the sculpture models of the neoclassical artist John Flaxman, started this month at the UCL Art Museum.

The exhibition is accompanied by a pop-up display in the South Cloisters, so I headed down to have a go at casting, mixing, carving and moulding plaster with artist and Curator of Materials, Zoe Laughlin from the UCL Institute of Making. (more…)