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Tracing how ‘Material Matters’ with Grant Gibson
(Clockwise) Grant Gibson, Spared by Volume Creative, Nature Squared by CArrelé, Hydro's chairs and Smile Plastics
Video: Courtesy of Material Matters 2022

Tracing how ‘Material Matters’ with Grant Gibson

The Material Matters exhibition, the physical iteration of its podcast counterpart, is all set to mark its presence at London Design Festival 2022 with talks, showcases and installations.

by Almas Sadique
Published on : Sep 16, 2022

Beyond the ideas and philosophies that guide a designer’s style, lie the ingredients that come together to stew a creative’s final handiwork. While an artist or maker may visualise their designs with certain preconceived notions, the appearance and experience of the final object almost always depend on the attributes of the raw materials used. The journey of the object, post usage, is also delineated by the materials that it is made up of. This aspect, however, is hardly ever explored unilaterally in creative discussions. Subverting this trend, Grant Gibson, a design, craft, and architecture writer from London, United Kingdom, launched a podcast called Material Matters with Grant Gibson in January 2019. Over the course of more than three and a half years, Gibson has interviewed a variety of artists and designers in an attempt to understand their relationship with the materials that they build their designs with.

Some of them include Michael Young, Nigel Coates, Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien, Amin Taha, Yinka Ilori, Paola Antonelli, Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby and Bethan Laura Wood, among others. Gibson partnered with eminent design promoter and consultant William Knight to transform Material Matters into a design exhibition. The physical event, touted Material Matters 2022 will take place from September 22 until September 25, 2022, at Bargehouse as part of the Bankside Design District during the London Design Festival 2022.

In an exclusive interview with STIR, Grant Gibson shares, “We wanted to do a fair, but it needed to have a purpose, we didn’t just want to bring a load of stuff into a room. It did feel like the world was going to be different when we came out of the situation that we’ve been in for the past few years. And since the Material Matters podcast has done pretty well, it seemed to make sense to do something about material intelligence and circular economy in a physical space.”

APeel by Studio ARP, an orange waste product to be displayed at Material Matters
APeel by Studio ARP, an orange waste product to be displayed at Material Matters Image: Alejandro Olaya

The idea behind launching the Material Matters podcast was simple. Each episode offers a glimpse into the relationship of an architect, artist, designer or maker with a particular material or technique. Learnings from these discourses can lead to a more nuanced understanding of how our world works: of how raw substances are processed, of power structures that determine the availability and usage of entities, as well as the the limits that a material can be stretched to and the myriad innovative experiments that can lead to new inventions. This insight can serve as a springboard for important discussions that can help us further contain the potential ill effects of the climate crisis. Taking a look at the variety of topics Gibson has discussed on the podcast gives one an indication of the podcast's scope and reach. From exploring the importance of mending objects through design with British designer Carl Clerkin to understanding the impact of growing up in a mining community with artist and embroiderer Richard McVetis, from tracing the relationship between bread and power with journalist, cyclist and woodsman Robert Penn to assimilating why glass and ceramic artist Chris Day believes dyslexia can be a superpower, there is nothing that is off limits with Gibson.

Vessels made out of finely ground plastic waste by Volume Creative
Vessels made out of finely ground plastic waste by Volume Creative Image: Yeshen
Recycled furniture by Circuform
Recycled furniture by Circuform Image: Courtesy of Material Matters

While the podcast serves as a virtual space for learning, the upcoming exhibition in London aims to bring the discourse on ground. The exhibition, curated by Grant Gibson and William Knight, will feature showcases, awards, and talks. Designed to increase awareness about materials and engage the audience in conversations about designing a more sustainable world, the event hopes to cement the importance of material intelligence in the real world. Forty renowned brands, designers, makers, and organisations are designated to come together and occupy the five floors of Bargehouse at Oxo Tower Wharf, a refurbished public landmark building, and fill its spaces with an immersive experience.

Exhibits and installations at the design week include works by textile artist Beatrice Mayfield, product designer Alkesh Parmar, artist and bio-designer Zena Holloway, artist and designer Stuart Haygarth, Scandinavian design brands Fora Form and Ragnars and aluminium manufacturer Hydro, among others. Additionally, the event is also partnering with Wood Awards, a platform that celebrates the best of wood designs in the realm of building and furniture design. Thirty two projects, shortlisted from a total of 200 entries, focusing on sustainability and material impact, will be presented at Gallery@Oxo during the event. Some design-led talks that will feature during Material Matters 2022 include Inside Norway’s Ecosystems of Design, Life in Plastic, The Negroni Talks and Dyslexia and Design.

Read more about Material Matters, Wood Awards and the talks at Material Matters 2022 here, here and here, respectively.

Everything you need to know about London Design Festival 2022. Celebrating its 20th year, the festival takes over the city of London with installations, exhibitions, and talks from major design districts such as Brompton, Shoreditch Design Triangle, Greenwich Peninsula, Design London, Clerkenwell Design Trail, Park Royal, Mayfair, Bankside, King's Cross, William Morris Line, and Islington.

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