63 episodes

Material Matters features in-depth interviews with a variety of designers, makers and artists about their relationship with a particular material or technique. Hosted by writer and critic Grant Gibson. Follow Grant on Insta @grant_on_design

Material Matters with Grant Gibson Grant Gibson

    • Arts

Material Matters features in-depth interviews with a variety of designers, makers and artists about their relationship with a particular material or technique. Hosted by writer and critic Grant Gibson. Follow Grant on Insta @grant_on_design

    Piet Hein Eek on scrap wood, waste and making the most of 'available possibilities'.

    Piet Hein Eek on scrap wood, waste and making the most of 'available possibilities'.

    Piet Hein Eek is a world renowned Dutch designer, who made his name when he graduated from the Academy for Industrial Design Eindhoven in 1990 with a cupboard made from scraps of wood he found in a lumber yard. 
    He set up his own practice three years later creating furniture that, in his words, was designed from ‘available possibilities’, with pieces using waste from other processes and, sometimes, waste from that waste. Products are created around the materials the practice has in stock – whether that be a vast number of huge wooden beams or metal pipes – and the machines it possesses. 
    Craft is vitally important to everything he’s produced. And production is at the heart of his enormous studio in Eindhoven that also includes a shop, restaurant, an art gallery, and, in the very near future, a hotel. 
    During his career, the designer has also branched out into architecture, starting by creating extraordinary garden outhouses and expanding into pieces of urban planning, as well as collaborating with brands such as LEFF and IKEA. 
    I caught him just as he was preparing to exhibit at the Salone in Milan, arguably the world’s most important design festival. 
    In this episode we talk about: being a bit of a rebel; the studio’s new boutique hotel; his fascination with ruins and how that feeds into his practice; the story behind his iconic Scrap Wood series; his love of Eindhoven; why making is vital to his studio; splitting up with his long term business partner, Nob Ruijrok; embracing failure; and collaborating with the behemoth that is IKEA. It's fascinating stuff.
    My thanks go to the American Hardwood Export Council (or AHEC) for sponsoring this episode. To find out more about its new project at London’s Design Museum, Discovered, go to: https://discovered.global
    Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/materialmatters?fan_landing=true)

    • 58 min
    Emma Witter on animal bone.

    Emma Witter on animal bone.

    Emma Witter is an emerging artist who has forged a reputation with her delicate sculptures that often resemble flowers but are created, rather intriguingly, from animal bone, such as oxtail and chicken feet. Her pieces straddle our sense of beauty and the macabre. As she told one writer: ‘I am fascinated with the diversity of death and burial rituals across the world… In the floral motifs, I do like the balance of representation of life and death, fragility and strength.’ 
    Emma graduated in performance design and practice from Central Saint Martins in 2012 and has subsequently won a fistful of awards and column inches. In 2019, she had a solo show at London’s Sarabande, the Lee Alexander McQueen Foundation, entitled Remember You Must Die, while her work has been exhibited with galleries such as the Mayfair-based FUMI and Ting-Ying, as well as at the recent group show, Triggered Economics or How to Commit to the Inevitable on an empty floor of an office building on Bruton Street.
    In this episode we discuss: working with animal bone; the response her work receives from its audience; finding use for London’s empty spaces; why she doesn’t draw; being expelled from her primary school; discovering she has ADHD and dyspraxia; making in a ‘blissful’ state; her fascination with beauty; oh, and working with a certain Kylie Minogue.
    Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/materialmatters?fan_landing=true)

    • 44 min
    Chris Day on glassblowing, the black experience, and why dyslexia is his superpower.

    Chris Day on glassblowing, the black experience, and why dyslexia is his superpower.

    Chris Day is an emerging artist with a fascinating hinterland.  The glassblower was a plumber and heating engineer in the Midlands for two decades before deciding to change his life. 
    Since graduating from Wolverhampton University in 2019, his rise has been startling. That same year, he received a special commendation at the British Glass Biennale, which was followed by a solo show at Vessel Gallery in London’s Notting Hill. 
    And at the moment he has an extraordinary, and genuinely moving, installation at All Saint’s Church at Harewood House, just outside Leeds. This is glasswork like you’ve never seen before. Day employs materials he used in his previous career, such as copper piping and wire. His pieces tackle the black experience in both Britain and the US, based around his own mixed race heritage – often focussing on the history of the slave trade in the eighteenth century, as well as events leading up to the American civil rights movement. 
    The artist says that his main purpose is to ‘engage the audience on issues that are hard to confront on many levels, using art to help overcome some of the traumas that haunt our collective past.’ 
    His work is already held in a number of private collections, as well as the V&A, the National Museum of Scotland and The Chrysler Museum in the US.
    In this episode we talk about: his new installation at Harewood House; how he discovered glass; growing up mixed race in Derby during the ’70s; why his pieces are concerned with slavery and the black experience; dyslexia as a super-power; becoming a successful engineer; and his urge to be seen as a role model for emerging black glass blowers. 
    My thanks go to leading glass specialist, Vessel Gallery, for sponsoring this episode. To find out more about them go to: www.vesselgallery.com
    Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/materialmatters?fan_landing=true)

    • 56 min
    1882 Ltd's Emily Johnson on manufacturing ceramics in Stoke-on-Trent.

    1882 Ltd's Emily Johnson on manufacturing ceramics in Stoke-on-Trent.

    My final guest of the latest series is Emily Johnson, co-founder of the Stoke-on-Trent-based, ceramics company 1882 Ltd. Clay is part of the former TV executive’s DNA. She is the fifth generation of Johnson to work in the industry, with her father and business partner, Chris, spending over 30 years as a production director of Wedgwood, after it brought the Johnson Brothers in 1964. 
    Since launching a decade ago, 1882 Ltd has worked with an eclectic roster of designers including Max Lamb, Faye Toogood, former Material Matters guest Barnaby Barford, architect John Pawson and fashion designer Paul Smith. According to the company’s own official blurb, at its core is a combination of ‘progressive design and industrial craftsmanship’. 
    So why did she decide to leave television and return to clay and what’s it like to launch a new company and manufacture in Stoke-on-Trent in the 21st century?
    In this episode we talk about: making through the pandemic; opening a brand new production unit (or factory) at Wedgwood; why she initially eschewed clay for TV advertising in the US; the pain of watching Johnson Brothers wither; launching 1882 Ltd; keeping craft skills alive in Stoke-on-Trent; the social and economic issues the city faces; working with her father and why a piece by Barnaby Barford changed their relationship; Brexit; and the joy of the common language of clay.
    Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/materialmatters?fan_landing=true)

    • 44 min
    Sir John Sorrell CBE on a life in design.

    Sir John Sorrell CBE on a life in design.

    As regular listeners will know, every once in a while I break free of Material Matters’ self-imposed format and meet someone with an overview of the design world. And in this episode, I’m delighted to chat with Sir John Sorrell CBE. 
    It’s a question really of where to start with John’s career (but here goes). He was chair of the Design Council from 1994-2000; chair of CABE (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) from 2004-2009; vice-president of the Chartered Society of Designers from 1989-1992; and chairman of the Design Business Association from 1990-1992. In 2014, he founded the Creative Industries Federation, stepping down as chair in 2017. 

    Not content with any of that, he co-founded the London Design Festival in 2003, as well as the London Design Biennale in 2016 – both with Ben Evans. Perhaps most importantly, in 1999 he co-founded The Sorrell Foundation with his wife Frances, which has the aim of inspiring creativity in young people and improving lives with good design. Subsequently, they co-founded The Saturday Club Trust, which offers young people the opportunity to study subjects such as art and design at a university for free on a Saturday. 

    And I haven’t even mentioned Newell & Sorrell, the pioneering design business he set up with Frances in 1976. 
    This, I guess, is a long way of saying that he has been one of the most influential figures in British design for well over four decades. 
    In this episode we talk about: adapting to the pandemic; bringing 400 trees to Somerset House for this year's London Design Biennale; creating the London Design Festival and why it took a while to find its feet; being born during an air raid in 1945 and growing up on a north London council estate; how going to a Saturday art club changed his life; starting his career in the sixties; his extraordinary marriage to Frances; Margaret Thatcher’s handkerchief and a wildly controversial project for British Airways; the importance of the Sorrell Foundation; and creating a new generation of leaders for the design world. 
    Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/materialmatters?fan_landing=true)

    • 48 min
    Garry Fabian Miller on cibachrome paper.

    Garry Fabian Miller on cibachrome paper.

    What does an artist do when the material he has devoted his working life runs out? 
    Garry Fabian Miller is a renowned photographer, who doesn’t use a camera in his practice. Instead, he works in his dark room and relies on a combination of light and cibachrome paper, using exposures that can last between one to twenty hours.  
    His extraordinary, abstract pieces are inspired by nature and the things his sees on his walks around his home in Dartmoor. 
    His work is held in an array of public and private collections, including MoMA in New York, the Sir Elton John Collection and the V&A in London. Meanwhile his latest book – and there have been many – is entitled Blaze and features a forward from an old friend of the show, Edmund de Waal.
    Trouble is that, thanks to the rise of digital photography, production of cibachrome halted in 2012 and supplies have dwindled to nothing. This is the story of how he has coped.  
    In this episode we talk about: the vital role light and cibachrome paper have played in his life; the importance of Dartmoor to his process; deciding to discard the camera; growing up as a child in a dark room; photography as a medium of magic; feeling like an ‘edge player’; his love of the etcher Robin Tanner and punk rocker Poly Styrene; and, of course, dealing with the dying days of his craft.

    You can learn more about Garry here

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    Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/materialmatters?fan_landing=true)

    • 54 min

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