The Untitled (Stairs) is a minimal free standing sculpture, which is put together with 10 individual cast elements. It is a cast of a staircase and the space above them, casted with polymer reinforced plaster combined with layers of fibreglass matting, the materials were directly painted to the surface of the staircase. The sculpture appears to be a solid block, instead it is actually a hollow cast. After the casting process has completed, the building itself was taken down and removed, the casted sculpture was revealed.
The original building was in Bethnal Green, it was a synagogue in the 1950s, before it was reconstructed into a warehouse in the second world war after a bomb attack.The warehouse was owned by a textiles company in the 1970s, and had been empty for a few years before Whiteread bought it.
Whiteread preserved the building in the same state it was bought, she was especially intrigued by the staircase because she sees it in a less literal way, she likes the physical disorientation of it, the fact that she can turn it on its side and it would look completely different.
Plaster and fibreglass matting are commonly used for casting because of their durable properties. They also leave a very smooth surface, which works very well with the artist’s concept. The idea behind this is to preserve the memory of the space, by preserving the building. By casting and filling in the space, Whiteread is almost like stopping in time, and giving authentisities to some of the forgotten objects. The fact that Whiteread has left the sculpture white on purpose, it enhances the loneliness from when the building was left empty for a couple of years before, it is almost like a representation of a forgotten place, hence a forgotten piece of memory. The structure itself also leaves a lot of imagination to the viewers, because the sculpture is so plain and unspecific, almost everyone can relate to their own ‘empty staircases’. Since the work looks so minimal and neat, some would think that it looks effortless, however there is actually so much work behind it. The artist had to spend months on cleaning and filling in every single cracks on all visible surfaces.
The sculpture is placed in the centre of the room, leaving a lot of space around it, allowing viewers to walk around and look at it. The empty spaces also emphasise the isolation the work carries.
Overall, I really enjoyed the exhibition at Tate Britain, my attention was immediately drawn to this sculpture. I love how it is somehow connected to all the viewers in different ways according to our own personal experience and memory, I also really like the idea of stopping in time and just capturing the piece of memory.
There is no doubt that global issues have become a lot more serious and urgent, including the most obvious and noticable climate change, and consumption waste due to fast fashion, others also include plastic waste, deforestation and poverty gap etc.
I completely agree with the Gabrielle when it comes to the designer’s responsibility. A designer has so much responsibility in terms of being trying to be as sustainable as possible through out the whole design and production process, i.e. the material journey. More than 80% environment impact is determined at design stage, meaning designers choose to ignore the fact that the whole process would be harmful to the environment in one way or other, and choose to carry on. It is extremely selfish for human beings to constantly ignore consequences that are not beneficial for neither us or the environment, it is not even karma, instead it is more like feeding ourselves with poison, suicidal.
The concept of material circularity is something I think every designers should start thinking about when designing, they don’t necessarily have to produce absolutely zero waste immediately, that would be too unrealistic. But I think it should be a goal all designers work towards. They could even start replacing existing materials with some potential valuable waste, i.e. recycle then reproduce a new material, e.g. MDF made of potato skin.
In terms of how things could be improved in the textiles industry, being the 2nd industry which creates an average of 13.1 millions of waste every year, I think everyone should step their game up and bring that statistic down. I would say fast fashion takes up the majority of the textiles consumption chart, brands like Zara and H&M are becoming more and more successful, it is definitely an unhealthy mindset for consumers. One of the reasons why Zara, for instance, is doing so well is because it sells trends, which changes every 2 weeks. Zara has about 20 ‘seasons’ on average every year, which allures consumers to go into the store/ online to keep up with new trends, moreover to purchase them in order to be on top of trends. I won’t go into fast fashion too much as it is such a huge topic, but it is definitely something that needs to improve in the society, people need to realise that you should not invest so much in ‘trends’, instead you should develop emotions and relationships with your belongings, so that every item represents some sort of special memories with you, and become emotional durable designs.
One issue that causes recycling textiles so difficult is that materials nowadays are so commonly mixed, but blended fibre material cannot be recycled. For instance, if a t-shirt is made of 99% cotton and 1% spandex, it would still not be able to recycle. I think it would be a bit unfair for consumers to check the material every time they try to buy something, instead I would say the brand has more responsibility in this case. Or if technology could come up with an invention which separates material so that they can be recycle.
I also think the government needs to take more action in terms of supervising the textiles industry in the production process. I even think the government go as far as setting the standards for textiles like food, in areas such as packaging and tax benefit. It might sound ambitious but at this stage, this is exactly what we need.
Self healing concrete, as its name implies, it is a self-healing material which is still being developed by a research team at the University of Bath.
Concrete itself is a the most popular artificial material in constructions and has been used as a construction staple, not only because of its strengths and durability, also due to the low production costs and its fluidity when it is still wet. One disadvantage of using concrete in buildings and constructions is that it cracks, which if reinforced concrete is used, would expose the reinforcing steel to the air, causing it to erode.
The concept behind the self healing concrete is to add micro-capsules to the concrete mixes (which contains calcite- precipitating bacteria), causing it to produce limestone, which fills up the cracks. By constantly self repairing the cracks, it prevents the steel within the reinforced concrete from corrosion, because the steel is not exposed to the air.
This would not only lower the maintenance cost significantly, it would also expand the different possibilities to concrete structures.
My thoughts: This is the moment we have all been waiting for, self healing concrete. I have heard the idea of self healing concrete for countless times, and finally someone succeeded. Not only does it make the concrete more sustainable, it also lowers the maintenance cost by so much.
The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) research lab collaborated with Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) scientists to research and develop an antibacterial fabric, the discovery is in its final stages of experiments and should be in use soon.
The discovery includes a process of dipping a cotton cloth in tin plating, platinum solution and a solution containing silver ions and glucose respectively, this would cause silver nanoparticles to grow onto the fabric, results in the surface becoming reflective/ mirror like appearance. It is then soaked in TCNQ (Tetracyanoquinodimethane) micro crystal salt solution, which transforms the silver nanoparticles into organic semiconductors that kills bacteria.
This fabric could kill a range of infectious bacteria, including E Coli within 10 mins of contact. It is also capable of compelling Golden Steph (Staphylococcus) from sticking/ growing on the surface.
This antibacterial fabric is ideal for beddings, linens and surgery aprons in hospitals where secondary infection can easily lead to death, it would really help to create a infection free environment. Hospital are not its only destination though, it can even reduce odours in fabric such as sweaty clothes and smelly socks, it could well be a new gym wear favourite.
The research team’s next aim is to look into how the fabric can be unharmful to human cells, and when they succeed doing so, I am sure they will be thanked by millions of people.
My thought: the discovery of an anti-bacteria fabric is going to become such a big part in the medical field, it is going to replace all material used in hospitals, especially bed sheet because it gets direct body contact with hospital patients. It could also prevent a range of bacterial infection, which is what often worsen a patient. Although this fabric is still undergoing experiments, it is going to become a huge protection not only to the patients, but to hospital staff as well, they come in contact with so many patients everyday, that it is very easy for them to contract contagious disease from their everyday working environment.
One thing that concerns me is what the texture of the fabric going to be like, since it is going to be used to make bed sheets and uniform, it should be very soft. If it is not soft enough, it would cause discomfort, and even worse for patients who suffer dermatosis, because the fabric could irritate their skin.
Unlike the 4D cinemas you go to in Disneyland, 4D printing does not involve any physical effect. Instead, it is a creation of form which is changable and can be repositioned using a 3D printer. It is done by placing rigid and expandable materials next to each other within one 3D printed component.
The expandable component could grow up to 200% when it is in contact with certain energy input, such as water, heat and light. This would allow the overall shape to reposition and provides space for the two rigid material either side to move around. The expandable materials act like joints when activated by the energy input, causing the entire component to adopt different forms. The person who developed this technology, Skylar Tibbits at the MIT is looking into developing the 4D printing into products like self repairing pipes, medicine, clothing and childcare product.
My thoughts: The physics behind this expandable material is very clever, it is also very futuristic as the whole combination of material is new materials. Looking at the list of possible developments for the future, it is slightly surprising to me. With such innovative material, I was expecting it to play a bigger part in the society in terms of development and future usage. I think it would be a really useful tool for the medical field if the team manages to scale down the component. It could be placed in a patient’s body and would expand in time to perhaps replace a non-functional joint. It is still at development stage though, perhaps they are looking into practising it in a more specific field. Nevertheless I look forward to seeing its practise once it is launched.
As aspiring designers, we have the responsibility to learn to select materials wisely. In order to do so, we need to understand where they come from.
All materials are originally a raw material, they undergo different procedure as a result of different products with different material property. There are three main types of raw materials, natural, synthetic and technical. Natural materials are materials that are taken directly from natural environment. Animal, plant/ vegetable and mineral are the three main types of natural materials that are widely available. Some of the most commonly used examples are wool, cotton, wood, coal and seawater. All raw materials undergo chemical processes to become intermediate material before becoming a product. For instance, in order to have a knitted jumper(product), sheeps wool(raw material) get processed into yarn(intermediate), then finally the yarn gets knitted into a jumper.
Synthetic material are made from man-made materials, which undergo chemical processes before they get produced into a good, e.g. plastic. And technical materials are made of a mixture of both raw and synthetic ingredients, examples are paper, glass and metals. Since all materials undergo different processes, they all have different material properties, the results of coming up with new combination of properties is a new material.
Spider Dress, Anouk Wipprecht
The Spider dress is a futuristic white dress with a form os spider across the shoulder and bust area, creating this very fierce-looking impression.
The Spider dress has sensors embedded in the design, which attacks the objects in the surroundings of the wearer when the anxiety level of wearer increases or simply when someone comes too close aggressively, interrupting the wearer’s personal space. The animatronic arachnid limbs extend outwards and lash out at the attackers.
On the contrary, ifthe person approaches slowly, the limbs would welcome you by beckoning you forward. This is because motion and respiration sensors are attached to the dress, which are linked to the movable limbs, allowing the dress to respond and react to the surroundings.
Despite the fact that the outlook ofthe dress is not preferrably for everyday wear, it is definitely a very worth- investing technology, especially in sportswear. The concept behind it is suitable for women, particularly those who enjoy going on night jogs. More than 30% women have experienced sexual harassment while jogging on their own. Introducing this technology into everyday life would really decrease that percentage I believe.
My thoughts: I admire the idea behind the sensors attached to clothing, I think it is completely necessary for products like this to be launched worldwide. As a woman, I find the fact that we as women feel unsafe when walking in the dark is a very unhealthy projection of how our society is like nowadays. Despite the fact that the outlook ofthe dress is not preferrably for everyday wear, it is definitely a very worth- investing technology, especially in sportswear. The concept behind it is suitable for women, particularly those who enjoy going on night jogs. More than 30% women have experienced sexual harassment while jogging on their own. Introducing this technology into everyday life would really decrease that percentage I believe.
I would like it more if it was more wearable, or if the sensors are launched separately, so that we could attach them onto our everyday outfits. Because I really like the defensive system of it, I think it is a bit of a shame that it is only produced in such a sci-fi outfit, that it cannot be appreciated as much as if it was in a more everyday scenario.
Sponge Bikini, Mihri Ozkan and Cengiz Ozhan
The Sponge Bikini is a carbon swimsuit made out of ‘sponge’, which is a special material that absorbs oil and repels water, allowing it to filter the water and eventually purifies it. Itis designed to absorb the impurities from the sea while remaining light, allowing the swimmer to exercise whilst being eco- friendly. Engineering professors Mihri Ozkan and Cengiz Ozhan invented this material from sugar, with a huge surface packswith little pores, resulting in the ability to absorb up to 25 times its weight of impurities. The sponge is protected by an outer part created using 3D printer, making the swimsuit flexible and durable. The intention of this brilliant invention is to make swimming an eco- friendly activity, where everyone at any age can join and contribute to saving the world.
My thoughts: I think this invention is very smart, not only does it help purifying the ocean, it also encourages people to exercise together. It is family-friendly and could easily be a new popular activity for people to do in their free time. Using 3D printing technology is another brilliant point, it keeps the swimsuit extremely light, which won’t slow the swimmer down when purifying. Although I do think more advertising needs to be done since I have not seen/ heard it anywhere on any form of social media. One way of doing so could be sponsoring competitions such as triathlon, where swimming is involved (in the ocean ideally). In that way, not only would it promote the swimsuit effectively, the competitors would also be purifying the ocean when they are in the ocean. Since swimsuits are very intimate clothing and they come in contact directly to our skin, it makes me wonder how the pollutants would be strictly separated from the swimsuit and our skin. From the picture above, it looks like the only seperator there is is the 3D plastic, which is netted, it does not look safe enough to me, especially if it is aimed to hold so much pollutants absorbed from the ocean. Also, what if the sponge has a flaw and breaks apart? Does that mean the pollutants would be released? These questions are essential for us the users to know before the product is launched, the idea is very clever but the process does not seem thoughtful enough.
Can’t, Ying Gao
‘Can’t’ is an interactive dress made of super organza, cotton mesh and PVDF, along side with a facial recognition system equipped. The device controls when and how the the dress contrasts, creating gentle movements, giving it a life. The system would respond and moves when no facial movement is detected, but if the person starts emoting, the system stops immediately, which is rather ironic.
My thoughts: the piece is so beautiful and so is the concept behind it. When the dress stops contrasting, it is almost like asking the person the in the conversation to pay attention to the wearer’s emotion. ‘Can’t’ is not something I would imagine someone wearing on a daily basis, but I think it is a brilliant art piece to be developed further. Ironically, I think it would be more practical if the responsive system works the other way round, i.e. if the more emotions the wearer has, the more the dress contrasts, it would work it the sensors resond to the wearer’s heart rate for instance. If Gao manages to do so, not only would it be as beautiful as it already is, it would also be an excellent and helpful tool for social workers and councillors, who works around other people’s emotions.
My name is Tsz Ching Kok (Tiffany), I am currently studying Textiles Design at Chelsea College of Art. I enjoy expressing my ideas in a conceptual way, the topics I look into are often related to my hometown, Hong Kong. After I have finished researching on the topic, I then pick a specific technique and really look into it and try and understand it thoroughly before I add my own twist to it. This process allows me to almost reinvent a traditional technique, the results are often quite impressive.
I am specialised in stitch, I have always been attracted to this pathway because of the endless possibilities of techniques I can try. It focuses mainly on your skills, there are no boundaries with what you can do in stitch, unless if you limit your creative. Always think outside the box, ALWAYS.
This blog records my understanding of ‘material innovation’ from the expanded practise seminars, I chose this topic because I think innovating new materials is absolutely essential, and I have always wanted to learn more about new technology.