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  • Coalstore, Something & Son

Craft Innovation: Materials that tell stories

In this interview, Andrew Sleigh talks to three people who are investigating the kinds of stories makers can tell with materials.

We’re living in a time that some geologists call the Anthropocene – a geological age in which human activity is changing the very structure of the earth; creating new materials which didn’t previously exist, and changing our perceptions of traditional craft materials. Makers can play with these perceptions to tell new stories with old materials, and make new objects that respond to our changing values, and the blurring lines between what we consider natural and artificial.

Yesenia Thibault-Picazo is making fossils from the future. She imagines what geologists will dig up millenia from now; what new materials will be formed from the waste we discard today, as it undergoes the geological process that will form the raw materials of the future.  

At Something and Son, Andrew Merrit works with jewellery makers to create precious pieces from the humblest of materials: coal. By drawing on the rituals of religion and luxury retail they seek to re-contextualise a resource that is cheap, but perhaps should be very expensive.

Caroline Till spends her working life learning about, and helping others understand, materials, and how we can use them to make meaning: in the design of products, by crafting environments, or in the creation of new materials. She talks about the anthropocene, and how this idea is changing the way makers approach materials today.


About the host and guests:

Andrew Sleigh is a researcher and writer, maker and producer. His research work includes mapping makerspaces for Nesta, exploring creativity in DIY technologies for the University of Westminster, and projecting futures in digital manufacturing for the Royal College of Art. He is the host of podcast series and radio show Looking Sideways in which he interviews makers, thinkers and critics about the role of craft, handwork and manufacturing in contemporary society. He’s currently taking part in the global Fab Academy programme at University of Brighton Fablab. His interest lies in making and grassroots innovation; from the maker movement, through craft, to hardware start-ups and manufacturing. www.andrewsleigh.com

Yesenia Thibault-Picazo is a French-born visual artist and musician - she is currently based in London. Defining herself as a 'Material Teller', Yesenia explores the narrative potential of materials. Her work is situated at the junction between craft practices and environmental concerns. It is informed by interdisciplinary collaborations as she often engages with experts such as geologists, anthropologists as much as artisans. She uses design as a powerful tool of investigation for understanding our relationship with nature. Yesenia graduated from Duperré School in Paris (2011) and holds an MA Material Futures from Central Saint Martins, London (2013). Since then, her work is presented in international institutions (the V&A, Les Abattoirs–FRAC Midi-Pyrénées, Deutsches Museum) and design events (Londres, Milan, Eindhoven). www.yeseniatp.com

Andrew Merrit is co-founder of Something and Son a collaborative and activist led collective working across art, design and architecture creating diverse work that is socially and environmentally driven. Their work inspires the change they wish to see in the world on a global scale - FARM:shop inspired a new generation of urban farming across the world - to smaller works that acts as provocations or innovations - a distributed honey factory that trains 150 new young beekeepers each year and ‘Coal’ a conceptual store that used consumerism as means of engaging people on the effects climate change through jewellery made from coal. Since forming in 2010 Something & Son have worked with, amongst others, local authorities, universities, Tate Modern, V&A Museum, Manchester International Festival, Gwangju Biennale (South Korea), Artangel, Milan Design Week, Create London, Folkestone Art Triennial, Royal Botanical Gardens Kew, the Wellcome Collection and Istanbul Design Biennial (Turkey). www.somethingandson.com

Caroline Till is co-founder and director of futures research studio FranklinTill and editor of Viewpoint magazine. FranklinTill research and publish future thinking on design, colour and materials, working with brands and institutions such as UAL, Channel 4 and IKEA to translate how design and material innovation can impact positive change. Pioneering the Material Futures course at Central Saint Martins four years ago, Caroline has been contributing worldwide on the subject of sustainable design practices, design innovation and future materials. www.franklintill.com


Music is by Komiku.

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