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FIELD Study and Sustainable Materials


In the age of diminishing resources, industries having no obvious connection can all be highly dependent on the same materials and crops. Gums, resins, and colloids are excellent examples, having a wide variety of applications in food science, imaging, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals production, and the cosmetic industry. The art world has long used some of these same key materials. Photographers are familiar with the technical significance of gelatin and how it helped usher in modern photography (during an era where civil war medics sometimes used it to dress battle wounds). Sculpture has used this same material as a “waste” mold for the casting process. Gypsum plaster and gelatin constitute “gesso” which is the ground once favored as a base for painting. In printmaking, gum arabic plays an important role in lithography. Agar (seaweed) is sometimes used as a paper binder or sizing agent…

My interest in this topic started with a study of printmaking techniques and the associated materials involved in making plates. Finding this incredibly flexible array of materials at my disposal, I set up a foundry of sorts, but one that uses no open flame. This in turn necessitated a study of fabrication techniques. (In the end, it would have been quicker if I just taught myself ceramics and built by hand a traditional Chinese dragon kiln.)

Outside online resources–

Animal Glues

Old House Journal

Composition Ornament

Plastics Industry Trade Association

Research projects of interest–

The Bread Lab


Data Clay