Welcome to CFile’s Year in Review! We’re revisiting our favorite posts from 2015. They’re arranged in no particular order. We’re not commenting on the quality of what we did (or didn’t) include. Rather, we’re reminiscing about all of the fine things ceramics has given us in 2015. Think of it as a victory lap after a fantastic year. We may revisit some of these lists in the spring for a special project, so please let us know what you think of them in the comments.
Ceramics played an important role in science and technology this year. Below are some of our favorites.
Repairing Coral Ecosystems with Ceramics
The disappearance of coral reefs and the ecosystems that depend on them is a perennial source of bummer news. Well, we’ll spare you that for now, because a ceramic designer from Australia has a clever idea to help the reefs using ceramics that link together like life-saving Legos.
3D Printing Allows the Blind to “See” Famous Paintings
Marc Dillon, a Helsinki designer, created Unseen Art, a project which prints classical paintings that can be experienced through touch. You’d be tackled by a few dozen docents if you ever attempted to touch the Mona Lisa, but you’re encouraged to do just that with Unseen Art’s rendition of her.
Shards of Ceramic Grenades in Japan
Humanity hasn’t created a material yet that they haven’t at least tried killing someone with. Nowhere is that truth more plain than on the banks of a stream in Kawagoe, Japan, where shards of the short-lived ceramic “Type 4” grenade remain as a haunting reminder of the desperation of World War II.
A Glove for Shaping Materials by Hand
Our immediate thoughts upon viewing the glove in action were “this is really sci-fi” and “this seems like a great way to saw into your free hand.” Don’t let that dissuade you, however. We all suffer for art.
Ceramic Printing with a Smidge of Analog
A common criticism of clay printing (and, we assume, all forms of art that adopt automation — Ray Bradbury refused to own a computer, for example) is that it takes all of the “hard” work out of the process, and the piece is somehow lesser as a result. We see such devices as tools more than anything else. But, in recognition of that criticism, we see how De Bruin’s machine blurs the line. If De Bruin designs, powers, modifies the aluminum guide wire to change a vessel’s shape and mixes clay to create gradients, how is that any less involved than more conventional methods?
Microscopic Images of Clay and Minerals
Think you’ve seen everything clay has to offer? The Mineralogical Society wowed us recently with some up-close-and-personal images of different kinds of clay and minerals. These microscopic photographs have us seeing our favorite material in a whole new way. The Society was founded in 1876 to advance the scientific field of mineralogy through the publication of journals and the holding of scientific meetings. These photographs are a fun intersection of science and art, making the familiar appear alien.
Jenny Filipetti: “Breath Vessels”
Felipetti’s expertise shines in her recent work Breath Vessels, computer-and-3D-printer-aided ceramics that trap a single breath in time. Her machines cast a present and real representation of something you do up to 20,000 times a day, creating a new experience around this simple activity.
A Circuit Board Speaker by Nendo and Mitsuke Masagasu
We still like the idea of combining the ancient medium of clay with something as techy as a high-quality sound system. They enhance each other. Sound makes the ceramics seem modern and fresh and ceramics give the speaker a unique visual presence (compare that to every other speaker on the market — a black box with a black metal screen. Boring.) We recently came across a ceramic speaker that looks as impressive today as it did five years ago.
Google Scans 3D Images of Ancient Art
Google, in their semi-terrifying quest to document and archive everything on the planet, has scanned and uploaded 3D models of objects in six different museums. The 303 objects, mostly animal skulls from the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco collection, also include ancient (and we mean ancient) works of art. The scans are available on Google’s Cultural Institute.
Claytronics are Programmable Matter
Imagine if you could manifest a model in front of you in moments, shape it with your hands and change its size and color with a touch. Now, imagine if the model was a replica of someone miles away, who you could have a face-to-face conversation with, who you could see, hear and even shake hands with.
3D Printed Soil by IAAC’s “Pylos” Project
3D printing’s usefulness for architecture is being tested by researchers with the Institute for Advanced Architecture in Catalonia. Pylos, is a larger-scale printing project that shapes common soil. IAAC states that the printer could have a future with construction, using natural, biodegradable, and locally found material. It works within the confines of “economic and environmental crisis.”
Ancient Chinese Glazes continue to Baffle Scientists
Modern techniques of producing this material usually only result in itty bitty crystals that all contain imperfections and contaminants from the process. And yet, potters working generations upon generations ago made this material using nothing but glazes and a kiln. Researchers are studying how this was done in the hope that we can learn more about producing this material for ourselves.
German Researchers Create Flexible Ceramics
Researchers at Kiel University in Germany recently created flexible ceramics that could be used in heat shields, filters and medical devices, according to The American Ceramic Society. The material looks like woven noodles, which you can see in the microscope images included below. It has a wooly, cotton-like appearance.
The Breathe Brick passively Improves Air Quality
Recently Architect Magazine profiled the Breathe Brick, a brick which passively improves the air quality for inhabitants inside a building. The project is the brainchild of Carmen Trudell of B O T H Landscape and Architecture. Trudell worked with students at the California Polytechnic State University to design a building component that would act as an electricity-free filtration system.
Designer Solar Tiles by Area Franceram and SolTech
Area Franceram created a tile called Tegolasolare, which uses photovoltaic cell technology to allow one to have discrete solar panels integrated directly into the roof of the home. The tiles are 1-foot, 6-inch squares that have a four-cell panel. Materials and sources reports that about 400 square feet of roof surface will generate 3 kilowatts of electricity, which, according to estimates, generates about half of the average family’s electricity requirements.
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