60 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
    • 4.9 • 158 Ratings

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

    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

    And you can sign up to my newsletter here
    Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/materialmatters?fan_landing=true)

    • 54 min
    Mark Miodownik on animate materials.

    Mark Miodownik on animate materials.

    This episode investigates the near-future and how material technology could transform the way we live.

    Mark Miodownik is the UCL professor of materials & society. He received his PhD in turbine jet engine alloys from Oxford University, and has worked as a materials engineer in the USA, Ireland and the UK. For more than twenty years he has championed materials science research that links to the arts and humanities, medicine, and society. This culminated in the establishment of the UCL Institute of Making, where he is a director and runs the research programme.
    He’s the author of two highly successful – and, I think importantly, incredibly accessible – books on materials, Stuff Matters and Liquid and regularly presents TV and radio programmes about material science on the BBC. 
    Most recently, however, he’s co-chaired a working group that has just delivered a fascinating, and far reaching, report for the Royal Society, entitled Animate Materials, which is the focus of much of our chat. 
    In the episode we talk about: how new ‘active, adaptive and autonomous’ materials will change our lives; concrete that heals itself using bacteria; why we’ll grow our cities in years to come; the potential for new materials in healthcare and the nanoparticles that could help cure cancer; the economic and social impacts of this new technology; the importance of scientists collaborating with designers, architects and artists; and how animate materials could drive a new evolutionary tree.  
    It’s frequently eye-popping stuff. I hope you enjoy.

    You can download Animate Materials here

    And you can sign up to my newsletter here
    Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/materialmatters?fan_landing=true)

    • 56 min
    Sarah Wigglesworth on building with straw.

    Sarah Wigglesworth on building with straw.

    One of the joys of Material Matters is that it allows me to roam across disciplines. So one week I can discuss carbon fibre and Formula 1 racing with John Barnard, while in the next I could be talking taxidermy with fine artist Polly Morgan. 
    My guest in this episode is the excellent Sarah Wigglesworth. I think it’s fair to say that Sarah has been a pioneer of sustainable architecture through her eponymous practice. Over the years projects have included cultural centres such as Siobhan Davies Dance Studios, housing schemes like Umpire View in Harrow and Trent Basin in Nottingham, and a fistful of thoughtful, sensitively-designed schools, including Roseacres Primary School in Essex and Mellor Primary School in the Peak District. 
    She made her name though with her own home-cum-office, the revolutionary Stock Orchard Street, designed with partner Jeremy Till. The building, which is 20 years old this year, used a plethora of low tech materials such as rubble, sandbags and, most famously, straw bales to change the way people thought about environmentally-conscious architecture. The Straw Bale House as it was quickly nicknamed also appeared on the first-ever series of Grand Designs with Kevin McCloud.
    We chat about: how four years of thinking went into Stock Orchard Street; its extraordinary palette of materials; attitudes towards sustainable architecture two decades ago; why she built with straw; the feminist agenda behind the building and making her way in a male-dominated profession; how a visit to Le Corbusier’s Ronchamp changed her life; being on the original series of Grand Designs; and designing for old age. 
    There’s plenty to get your teeth into (or ears around) I reckon.

    Learn more about Sarah here

    And sign up to my newsletter here

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

    • 58 min
    Jasleen Kaur on food.

    Jasleen Kaur on food.

    Grant Gibson talks to artist, designer and maker Jasleen Kaur about working with food, growing up in Glasgow's Sikh community, and investigating Britain's untold histories.

    • 47 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
158 Ratings

158 Ratings

crystaltips69 ,

Interesting and Engaging

The Material Matters podcasts are a joy to listen to. They are well researched and thoughtfully put together. With guests from a variety of creative backgrounds I’d recommend them to anyone who has even the slightest interest in art, design, materials and making things.

Rhiannon E-J ,


Such a joy to listen in to warm and thoughtful conversations. There’s a really lovely pace in these conversations, unearthing perspective and offering inspiration.

djcadfoundry ,

Great listen!

Fascinating conversations with a never ending stream of brilliant artists/designers/makers. Thank you Grant 👌

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