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H HIGGS | FIELD Study materials


Used in architectural restoration, compo (short for composition) is a mix of calcium carbonate, gelatin, pitch, and other ingredients.

As a molding material compo holds unique qualities suitable for manipulation. It can be used in making press molds, but unlike clay it needs no firing to achieve hardness and durability. Its “plastic” phase is reportedly generous, allowing for further working of the material as it approaches a leather-hard state. It then sets like plaster (but is reversible with steam heat).

One drawback is that calcium carbonate is a dust that likes to travel and settle on studio surfaces. Typically a foundry (or university art department) has a room dedicated to plaster. But this is not feasible for everyone, and I am interested primarily in ways the home user and maker can design and create original objects. What if plaster and other forms of calcium carbonate were eliminated from the equation?

How could one achieve this and still produce a material with the same properties of compo? Would it require a complete reconstitution, or could something less environmentally harmful simply be used in place of the calcium carbonate?



I don't know what that is.

We were in the middle of installing 3D work in the WSU Vancouver Library display cases when it all hit the fan. So the exhibit is in a strange limbo, some cases still displaying student work from our last sculpture class, and other display cases with work from Group Show (see entry from late February 2020). The Library, as one of the only buildings on our campus that will be open during our online semester, has an exhibit scheduled for early Fall. So the Group Show installation was never completed, and indeed was never really seen. But I consider this in keeping with that project, which is ongoing, elliptical, a never-ending flow of reconfigurable fragments. Now that the public sphere has emptied– at least around here– the moment is ripe for an online dispersal of these objects in lieu of a physical exhibit. So… a blogged version of Group Show it will be.


Group Show is a multi-year long-term collaborative project (first exhibited in 2013/14), displaying artifacts of the made world… human effects tumbling in a never-ending stream at the bottom of a well. Contributions include objects made and altered by artists, scholars, and factory laborers. The current version of this project can be seen in the WSU Vancouver Library (exhibiting March – July 2020).






About Field Study

My research currently investigates bio-based materials as a way to innovate sculptural fabrication and imaging techniques. This art-based project draws from a number of applied fields, including food science, manufacturing, and hand-building techniques used in construction (domains ultimately sharing an interest in sustainable resources). In addition to challenging the techniques and materials used in art, I am connecting this inquiry to “foundational and emergent materials” (bio-based materials and green manufacturing) found in the WSU Grand Challenges schema. FIELD Study also serves as a touchstone to my other material-based projects.