DESIGN UNDEFINED: Q&A WITH RAW MATERIAL

Clerkenwell London are hosting Raw Material and their collaboration with Ma-tt-er design studio on The Platform as part of the Makers & Curators exhibition.

Raw Material are two former London Royal College of Art students, who spent a year living in a marble quarry in Rajistan, India. Inspired by the beauty and composition of marble, the pair began to explore the stone. They discovered that there are often large quantities of off-cuts from the quarrying process, and they began to shape and transform these pieces into stunning, geometric creations.

How did the idea for Raw Material come about? Does your background influence your work?

Raw Material is an ongoing exploration of geology in terms of material and processes.Our studio and workshop is based in the desert plains of western India. The hills surrounding the region are diverse in hue, density and opacity. Set deep within a stark terrain, the aim of the collection was to express an experience of being immersed in this landscape of a singular material.

We began this process with exploring materiality in relation to socio-economic forces that guide its abundance, scarcity and wastage, leading us to understand the inherent paradoxes and perceptions that exist around marble.

Our backgrounds are in interior and product design, through which we are constantly examining aspects of function and aesthetic, the physical and the ephemeral. Our interest lies in working with materials with a firm context to history, culture and geography. Raw Material was a great opportunity to navigate all these aspects with a distinctive material.

Why marble in particular?

Marble is a beautiful and lush material with its myriad grains and variations. We are intrigued by its inherent beauty in the composition of the material. The complex patterns and textures of various stones at once resemble aerial views of the earth to a scale almost cellular. When surrounded by this excess of stone and marble, witnessing where it comes from and at what scale, one can see marble for what it really is – a piece of earth.

Looking at it as just another humble mineral, we wanted to confront its materiality in terms of the perceived qualities and defects. In contrast to conventional perception of an expensive and highly finished material, for us it represents the earth, its minerals and its raw beauty and our endeavor was to present it as such.

Raw Material lamp

What was your inspiration to use wastage and pieces of marble that was not suitable for traditional uses?

The quarried marble block is dressed in a rectangular form to be cut into slices. These irregular blocks are usually the size of a room. These slices are typically used as slabs for flooring and wall-cladding. During this process, a lot of offcuts are thrown aside, with little or no value. These offcuts of marble formed the starting point for our tables. Most of these final forms are dictated by the size and shapes of the pieces we find.

Apart from the size limitation, traditionally,the stones are preferred to be devoid of spots and blemishes. Even the patterns occurring in the stone are usable only if they are symmetrical for their commercial use. When we saw piles of discarded offcuts, we discovered a quarry of our own with the most beautiful patterns and spots which for us makes marble ‘marble’ and not, say ceramic.

Inspired by this undiluted beauty of the material and its sometimes wasteful abundance, we delved into refining wasted forms of stone to make assemblage studies. Contrasting geometries here explore tension between landscape and industry highlighting the quiet mechanism of joinery based on weight and gravity.

Find out about collage artist Kara Bieber and her POP BUY! exhibition currently in the Front Room at Clerkenwell London. 

What processes do you use to transform the marble into each study?

The craft techniques in India are mostly studied from an exotic lens of decorative ornamentation. The marble craft is not just about the decoration but the building techniques used to build the temples and architectural monuments.

We wanted to explore these alternate aspects of craft – the structure and mathematics of balance, building techniques on weight and gravity.  All our tables use these principles of joinery; they are constructed rather assembled without the use of any adhesives or mortar.

Apart from that, we consciously try and play with preconceived notions of value. Highly polished white marble is perceived as the most expensive, but we only buffed it, exposing its fine crystals – leaving it looking like a block of salt. With other varieties which are considered inferior and almost rarely used traditionally, we try to highlight their pattern and veins by polishing them to really high degree to expose their worth as we see it.

Why did you choose to create geometric shapes with the marble? How is the geometric shape of your pieces linked to the overrunning theme of the assemblage studies?

Visually, the collection celebrates purity of form. Clean geometric shapes with simple layered volumes accentuate the physical beauty of stone.

The surrounding landscape is very raw and the surrounding is exaggerated with the presence of rocks and quarries all around. The large industry that exists within, with its monolithic machines creates an interesting tension between the natural and the mechanical.

The idea of stacking, and hence assemblage is very present with the stone industry. All the offcuts are thrown into a large pile. These large rocks form a small hill where each piece delicately (and sometimes dangerously) rests on one another creating the most surreal assemblage.

View Raw Material’s work on The Platform at Clerkenwell London from now until 10 November.

Contact us at info@clerkenwell-london.com for all artist enquiries

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