New Making

Hybrid Materiality : The Natural and Unnatural

During the New Making course I explored the potential for digital fabrication to be combined with one other material though a series of hybrid objects. 

I focused around the juxtaposition between the natural and the unnatural, using a combination of wood, cork and rock to contrast with the laser cut acrylic.

When the brief around hybrid materiality was set I was unsure where to start, typically my design process involved sketching, iterating, development and then finally making. This forced me to tip this notion on its head, as before I’d done any sketching I was looking for whatever scrap material I could use to create a hybrid material. 

After finding some scrap acrylic I quickly create a file I could laser cut and experiment with. By ensuring there were pockets left in the material I allowed space I could use to blend another into. However, I wanted to join this with 3D natural materials to create the contrast, but how could I join the 2D acrylic and the 3D wood and rock?

Recently, I’d seen an article on melting plastic bottles around broken chair legs to ‘fix’ them. Was there a way I could do something similar but use purposely designed digital fabrications to create a more unique form?  

The object at the front of the photo features a broken stick with heat gunned acrylic wrapped around. As the acrylic has cooled down, it’s contracted and held the acrylic in one place. I hadn’t anticipated the way that a material carries on changing after I’d formed it. 

Another similar object is the perforated rectangle of acrylic I’d twisted and morphed into a more fluid and natural through the heat gun. I  found the entanglement of the natural wood within the precise and glossy acrylic and interesting contrast. It was almost as if the wood was still growing and had altered the shape of the plastic it’s self.

In the centre of the photo, my main piece of the series combines the learning I’d used when heat gunning acrylic around natural forms with the use of an additional material to aid the joining. Creating this piece I allowed me to experiment with texture and form in a more intuitive and fluid way that i’d never associated with ‘digital fabrication’. 

Is there a future in digitally fabricated materials that have had an added human and natural interaction? Would this create objects that harness the benefits of both digital craft and hand craft into one piece? 

Overall, I found this project made me reconsider what it means to ‘design something’. The design process has no definitive right or wrong, but as we develop new materials and process maybe we need to fill our initial linear process on its head? Materials don’t just need to be part of the end of the process, they can be within the experimental, iterative and design idea stage. 

Could we think more about design through making not design for making?