Materials and Techniques

Posted Monday, April 15th, 2013

Dear blog readers,

Today’s blog will be discussing our research into “Materials and Techniques”. The sections of which will be divided into “Wood”, “Paper”, “Fabric”, “Plaster”, “Thermochromic Paint”, “Stone”, “Metal”, “Ceramic”, “Vacuum Formed Plastic”, “Silicone Rubber” and finally “Resin”.



To create a variety of sensations we wished to include an assortment of materials into our “Prototype” thus beginning our research.


In order to increase community awareness and involvement in local material suppliers we sourced wood from BTS Wales and in turn we were given good deals on a range of woods from beech, alder and cherry, in addition to some small various off cuts. We also researched woods such as rosewood, cedar wood, and mahogany.

The wood we obtained went through a number of processes from planing in the direction of the grain, to carving directly through the grain.

With the idea of having a wooden tree trunk in the design of the “Prototype”, we wanted to combine a variety of wood in an aesthetic manner. We initially tested an idea to combine wood where the curving grain would lead from one semi-circle to another creating an almost curving pattern in the grain.

We decided against this in the end as when creating our three-dimensional tree we felt that it was important to follow the natural grain of the wood, rather than interfere with its natural pattern. Each piece first had to be planed flat before gluing and clamping the individual pieces of wood together. Multiple clamps were used to ensure that the wood pieces were tightly together with no gaps.

We also experimented with varying colour stains and finishes to heighten the visual as well as the tactile, from those with a matt finish to satin.

From researching Thompson furniture we began to look into creating handmade grooves in the wood, staining the recesses in colour and applying the finish thereafter. The intent was to heighten the use of a single material visually as well as its tactility.

We also applied different colour stains against the grain.

Other experiments in wood consisted in placing dowels alongside each other, by drilling different sized holes and then hammering the appropriate sized dowel in place. We also coloured the tips of some as this made them visually intriguing and they were often associated with push buttons that initiated physical impulses to push the dowels as if they could be moved or activated in some way.


We were interested in the layering of paper as well as being intrigued by the easy application of negative spaces that can turn a 2-D image into something 3-D. Paper also links back to our research into wallpaper influences.


Through our fabric research we found a variety of textures and surface patterns. We searched local fabric businesses and while we discovered many exciting tactile pieces we realised that most of these were highly absorbent, and therefore not as hygienic, which was an important factor due to the tactile nature of our art work. In response to this realisation we considered more hygienic and easily cleaned materials such as PVC.


We also experimented with plaster and by using stencils we created repeatable shapes. To make these shapes more exciting we added colour using fluorescent paint. This paint while being vibrant in day light also glowed in the dark.

Thermochromic Paint

Thermochromic Paint was a material we were hoping to incorporated into our “Prototype” as once it reaches certain temperatures it appears to change colour. Once we investigated it further though we realised that it requires a particular temperature in order to change and this would be a hard constant to regulate.


In order to create links to local materials we considered types of stone in local architecture, countryside and the historical connotations with particular kinds of stone. For example there are strong local links to mining coal and slate which could stimulate memories for the local patients in Llandough Hospital. While this material was an important consideration, it proved to be too heavy a material to incorporate into our “Prototype”.


Metal was also a strong consideration for our “Prototype”, not only due to its variety and malleability but also its cool temperature. Beaten copper was something we thoroughly wanted to include in our piece, but as a twist we decided to use not copper but sheet tin which we shaped into a curve and then applied copper paint. This meant that while holding the characteristics of sheet tin, it could also carry the soft marbled appearance of copper. This reflective material has the ability to be transformed in so many ways, from etching to beating. It also carries with it different connotations, from building structures to braille.


As mentioned in previous blogs ceramics was an important part of our design ranging from mosaics made out of plates to individual ceramic scrolls based on the shape of violin heads. These violin heads became the buds on the ends of our tree branches. To create hem we used 7 types of clay and 4 different glazes. We hand made our initial scroll out of clay which we then replicated by making a mould out of plaster.

Vacuum Formed Plastic

Vacuum forming plastic would mean that we could incorporate smooth detailed textures into our “Prototype”, a process that is used to create many products from clear food containers to plastic sink units. The vacuum formed plastic was made out of an acrylic Perspex sheet which was 3mm thick. The plastic could be clear, frosted or marbled. We made the object from clay allowing us ease to create textures for the perspex to adhere to. We then caste the clay in plaster for the purpose of the vacuum former. This resulted in our wind swept cloud that became an integral part of our “Prototype”.

Silicone Rubber

Similar to the vacuum formed plastic, silicone rubber could also be formed by a mould into any number of shapes. This rubbery texture could be strong yet flexible and was something we strongly considered applying to our “Prototype”. However, due to our piece’s design we chose to use resin and vacuum formed plastic instead of silicone. This enabled us to focus our efforts on maximizing the effect of moulding the plastic cloud. We will therefore look forward to incorporating its properties within a future piece.


Golden Gel is a resin based material that can mix with paint and when applied to a surface sets with a hard yet squishy and rubbery texture. It can be applied in multiple layers and can have many different textures from smooth to coarse familiar to that of plastic or stone. We used this material to create our tree’s foliage sections, which gave us a range of textures and colour. It can even set extremely hard and strong enough to fix pieces of mosaic into the gel.