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  • Rare Earthenware, Unknown Fields Division with ceramicist Kevin Callaghan, 2014–5, black stoneware and radioactive mine tailings, © Toby Smith

Rare Earthenware by Unknown Fields Division

What is Luxury? Object in Focus

While journeys to extraordinary places are the cornerstone of luxury travel, this project follows more well-concealed journeys taking place across global supply chains.

It retraces rare earth elements, which are widely used in high end electronics and green technologies, to their origins. The film documents their voyage from container ships and ports, wholesalers and factories, back to the banks off a barely-liquid radioactive lake in Inner Mongolia, where the refining process takes place.

Unknown Fields Division have used mud from this lake to craft a set of three ceramic vessels. Each is sized in relation to the amount of waste created in the production of three items of technology – a smartphone, a featherweight laptop and the cell of a smart car battery. Each is described by the designers as a testament to ‘the toxic shadow that our everyday objects cast across the earth’.

Words by Jana Scholze and Leanne Wierzba, curators of What is Luxury? a Crafts Council and V&A partnership exhibition supported by Northacre at the V&A until 27 September 2015

Unknown Field Division's mud vessels are featured within the What is Luxury? exhibition 

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