Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Rebecca Smith - Project Overview

To conclude what has been a fantastic project with MoDiP, this brief overview highlights what has worked well, what skills have been learnt and how the collection at MoDiP will influence future work. The opportunity to become a student creative has allowed me to express ideas in a material way that I may not have otherwise had the chance to pursue. Using the collection as a source of inspiration, a series of lampshades were produced using architectural materials The aim of this project was to test how successful architectural materials can mirror the fluidity and flexibility achieved in plastics, and whether fine detail, texture and flexibility could be achieved to a high standard. 

Materials are a very influential element with architecture, in particular how their form and shape can adapt, and how they dictate the evolution of a design. Architectural materials such as concrete or steel are often associated with being strong and bulky, used on a large scale. The work carried out in this project explores the versatility of each material, testing their ability to mimic results achieved within plastics.

The lampshades chosen each had a unique geometry and curvature which allowed the project to look at materials fragility and longevity, something that would be useful when exploring materials in personal design work.

The project evolved from an initial response of six lampshades to seven, and the chosen materials changed regularly. This freedom allowed a deep analysis of what materials worked and how they could be refined. A string element within this project was research by making, without the tangible hands on approach, the final outcome could not have been achieved. 

The three metal lampshades all had to be connected differently because of the nature of the metal, the copper was riveted, the steel spot welded and the brass was sewn together through holes. This added depth to the work and created some fantastic results. 

Brass, Steel, and Copper shades, Rebecca Smith, 2017

The veneer lampshade was surprisingly quick to make once a couple of tests had been done with paper. The veneer suited the curvature the shade was trying to achieve and attention to detail was needed for details such as the finals on the stand which were done on a lathe. 

Veneer shade and detail, Rebecca Smith, 2017

 The glass lampshade required more testing because of its fragility. With help from local Glass sculptor, Rebecca Newnham, a design was drawn and then petals cut from sheet glass. These were carefully placed in to a slumped mould and then fired in the kiln. This allowed the glass to slowly curve to the mould and fuse with the other petals. 

Glass shade and detail, Rebecca Smith, 2017

The concrete lampshade was the most enjoyable as it was the best material to experiment with texture. A number of shades were made, some used leaves as reliefs, another had different mixes of concrete and to change its colour and another had gold leaf set within the mould. This did not come out as expected so a new approach was needed. The concrete mould was covered with Vaseline to act as a release agent, and when it had cured, had left lots of little grooves and recesses in the concrete. These were then filled with gold leaf and the entire underside of the shade was also covered in gold leaf to help the light reflect downwards. 

Concrete shade and detail, Rebecca Smith, 2017

The last shade to be made was the fabric one. This was one of the hardest ones to make as fabric does not naturally have rigidity. Using a pleating technique, folds were ironed in and then sewn. Cuts were made at regular intervals and then ironed into position. A frame was made to hold the shade in place and was attached by hand sewing. 

Fabric shade and detail, Rebecca Smith, 2017

The MoDiP collection was a fantastic source of inspiration and provided the starting point for the project’s narrative. Plastics are renowned for their durability and longevity, however, the nature in which a product is designed determines how delicate it can become, and this added another layer to the project.

This residency has developed skills in making, strengthened a knowledge of materials and instilled an appreciation for design in plastics. Plastics were previously taken for granted and were seen as a cheap alternative to handcrafted materials. This opinion has now been replaced with a respect for the versatility, complexity and beauty they can achieve. The project has been thoroughly enjoyable and will be an invaluable experience when conducting research in the future.

Rebecca Smith
BA Hons Architecture Part 1
Student creative 2017

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