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Material Matters with Grant Gibson

English, Arts, 17 seasons, 116 episodes, 4 days, 3 hours, 43 minutes
About
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 @material.matters_grant.gibson
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Ernest Scheyder on lithium, mining, and the politics behind going green.

Ernest Scheyder is an author and senior correspondent for Reuters. His new book, The War Below: Lithium, Copper, and the Global Battle to Power Our Lives, looks at the impact of the green transition in the US – and, more particularly, the tensions over the increasing need to mine for metals to decarbonise the grid (and power a plethora of devices) against the nation’s desire to conserve the environment. The book illustrates how materials effect geo-politics and the urge for energy security, inform the national debate, and impact at a very local level. It also suggests that  becoming more sustainable is anything but straightforward.In this episode we talk about: why lithium and copper are vital to our futures; where the materials are mined and processed; 'material colonialism'; how the pandemic changed perceptions of our supply chains; why some mineral-rich nations are excluding the US; the role of China in the 21st century global economy and the withering of US hegemony; the new ‘green arms race’; why mining is in a ‘perpetual state of decline’; the tension between local desires and global needs; the role of religion and conservation; child labour in the Democratic Republic of Congo;  the ‘dualistic’ policies of President Biden; and Scheyder’s issue with leaf blowers…Support the Show.
6/10/202452 minutes, 36 seconds
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Adi Toch on why she buries copper.

Adi Toch is one of the world’s most fascinating metals artists, who over the years has buried her pieces for months on end before digging them up, and even made them reaction to sound. She has also taken part in collaborations with furniture makers and glass artists. Adi has work in the permanent collections of the V&A, The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, Ulster Museum in Northern Ireland, and the Jewish Museum in New York. She won a Wallpaper Magazine Design Award in 2017, and in that same year was a finalist of the Loewe Craft Prize. She has also exhibited around the world from the FOG Design + Art fair in San Francisco with Sarah Myerscough Gallery to Make Hauser & Wirth in Somerset.In this episode we talk about: her extraordinary studio and sharing with two other leading metal artists; the relationships she has with different metals; her creative process and her use of ‘ghosts’; why the pandemic was hugely creative; her fascination with mirrors; how metal communicates through sound and ‘screams’; burying her pieces for months; growing up in Jerusalem; getting rejected initially from design school; and how the Gaza crisis has impacted on her identity. We’re delighted that this episode has been sponsored by the wonderful Sarah Myerscough Gallery. Established in 1998, the gallery represents a distinguished group of contemporary craft and design artists, specialising in material-led processes with a focus on wood and natural materials. It also curates a fascinating programme of exhibitions. To find out more go to: www.sarahmyerscough.comSupport the Show.
5/23/202454 minutes, 1 second
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Human Nature's Jonathan Smales on mining the Anthropocene, and building in timber and Hempcrete at The Phoenix.

Jonathan Smales is a housing developer like few others. He is the co-founder and executive chairman of Human Nature, whose new project, The Phoenix, on the outskirts of Lewes, East Sussex in the UK, has just won planning permission. What makes the development different? The Phoenix will contain 685 homes, designed by a roster of fascinating architects, who will be working in materials such as cross laminated timber and Hempcrete. The development will be pretty much vehicle-free, with residents encouraged to make use of a car share scheme, an electric bike service, or a shuttle bus. It will have amenities including a community canteen, event hall, taproom, fitness centre and makers studios. There will be shared courtyards, parks and green corridors to promote communal living and provide habitats for local wildlife. As the architecture critic, Rowan Moore, wrote in The Observer recently: ‘It looks, in a land where new homes are largely lumpen products of volume housebuilders, miraculous.’ Jonathan also has one of those CVs that makes you wonder what you’ve been doing with your time. Over the years, he has been managing director of Greenpeace, an advisor on sustainability issues to the government, and he also led the Earth Centre project, regenerating a former coal mine outside Doncaster.In this episode we talk about: how he got involved in The  Phoenix; his fascination with cities; building in CLT and Hempcrete; mining the Anthropocene; choosing the project’s architects; why the UK has forgotten how to make places; growing up in a mining village; a school trip to Paris that changed his life; coming up with the idea for the Earth Centre and why it closed so quickly. We also chat about his love of punk…Support the Show.
5/14/20241 hour, 6 minutes, 23 seconds
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Bert Frank's Adam Yeats on manufacturing in post-Brexit Britain.

Adam Yeats is co-founder and managing director of Bert Frank, one of the UK’s leading lighting companies. Yeats started the brand with designer, Robbie Llewellyn, in 2013. Since then it has gone from strength to strength, opening a showroom in London’s Clerkenwell in 2019, exhibiting at home and abroad, and winning the Elle Decoration British Design Award for Lighting in 2016. The company was also the headline sponsor for last year’s Material Matters fair. Craft has always been an intrinsic element of the brand and Yeats comes from a family steeped in making and British manufacturing. So what’s it like to be an ambitious manufacturing company in post-Brexit Britain?In this episode we talk about: growing up in his father’s factory; why he lives next door to his workshop; founding the Bert Frank brand; the importance of craft and skill to the company’s products; working with brass; learning his trade, from sweeping the factory floor to running the business; how Bert Frank has evolved over the past decade; wanting to create a legacy for his family; the economic consequences of Brexit; starting a new assembly facility in Belgium; the importance of immigration to his workforce; the state of manufacturing in the UK; and why he always wanted to be a marine biologist.To find out more about Material Matters go to materialmatters.design or check out our Instagram page: materialmatters.design.Support the Show.
5/7/202440 minutes, 7 seconds
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Ptolemy Mann on colour, weaving, and painting.

Ptolemy Mann is a British artist who came to widespread attention with her woven textile pieces, often stretched across a frame and notable for her extraordinary use of colour. More recently, her practice shifted and she has turned to painting on paper with fascinating – and inevitably colourful – results. Her latest pieces combine the two, as she paints on her hand-woven artworks. Ptolemy is hard to avoid at the moment. Currently, she has a show of paintings at the Union Club in London’s Soho. During May, there will also be a solo exhibition with Taste Contemporary at Cromwell Place and her first monograph is published by Hurtwood that same month.In this episode we talk about: why the time is right for her first book; her fascination with colour; being told she was a ‘terrible’ painter as a student; taking up weaving and her love of the craft’s restrictions; learning to stand up for her ideas; unexpectedly creating products for John Lewis; picking up a paint brush again; how the realisation she wasn’t going to have children changed her practice; why her new works are ‘an act of anarchy’; and growing up with her ‘bohemian’ father.To find out more about Material Matters go to materialmatters.design or check out our Instagram page materialmatters.design. Support the Show.
4/30/202457 minutes, 48 seconds
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Fairphone's Bas van Abel on repair, longevity, and conflict minerals.

Bas van Abel founded Fairphone in 2013. The company attempts to transform the way our smartphones are manufactured, by reducing e-waste, sourcing conflict-free minerals, and improving working conditions in its supply chain. It creates a product consumers are encouraged to keep longer and which, importantly, they can also repair themselves. Fairphone was an immediate hit, attracting 25,000 orders when it launched its first smartphone via a crowd-funding campaign. It has now sold over half a million phones and employs 150 staff. In 2018, Bas stepped back as CEO of the company – although he remains a non-executive board member – and, subsequently, co-founded De Clique, a circular start up that looks at ways of dealing with food waste. He is also author of Open Design Now.In this episode we talk about: not owning a mobile before he founded Fairphone; how smartphones are made and the global supply chain they require; issues around mining minerals; the importance of repair and longevity; why recycling is 'stupid'; wanting to create a ‘values based’ economic system; how his son’s broken Nintendo DS played a role in starting the company; his initial doubts; the immense stress starting the brand put him under; the company’s ‘shitty’ first phone; and trying to change the system from within. If you’re interested in purchasing a Fairphone please use this link: https://www.fairphone.com/en/?utm_medium=social&utm_source=podcast&utm_campaign=material_mattersSupport the show
2/19/20241 hour, 1 minute, 15 seconds
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John Tuomey on his childhood and becoming an architect.

There have been over 100 episodes of Material Matters but, for listeners who might be new to all this, the idea is that I speak to a designer, maker, artist, or architect about a material or technique with which they’re intrinsically linked and discover how it changed their lives and careers. However, once in a while I break my own self-imposed format and interview someone I’ve always wanted to meet. This is one of those episodes. Architect John Tuomey is the co-founder of multi-award winning practice O’Donnell + Tuomey, with his wife Sheila O’Donnell. The firm has designed the Glucksman Gallery Cork, the Lyric Theatre in Belfast and the upcoming V&A East Museum, while in 2015, the John and Sheila were awarded the prestigious RIBA Royal Gold Medal. Towards the end of 2023, he published First Quarter, a gorgeous, lyrical memoir that tells the story of his formative years – from childhood in rural Ireland through to becoming a fully-fledged architect in London and Dublin.In this episode we talk about: writing First Quarter during lockdown; how an email from his sister started the process; his peripatetic childhood; growing up in rural Ireland; the story telling aspect of architecture; the brutality of his school years; the pivotal relationship with his father; the up-ending of Ireland’s clergy; being an extrovert introvert; moving to Dublin and London; meeting Sheila at university; working for James Stirling; and the possibilities of a derelict site…Support the show
2/12/202455 minutes, 47 seconds
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Sara Grady and Alice Robinson on British Pasture Leather.

Sara Grady and Alice Robinson co-founded British Pasture Leather in 2020. The duo aim in their own words ‘to link leather with exemplary farming and, in doing so, to redefine leather as an agricultural product’. All of which means creating a new network of systems within the industry. Essentially, the pair are attempting to make the material we buy traceable in the same way food is. In 2022, they created an exhibition, entitled Leather from British Pastures, during the London Design Festival, which included collaborations with the likes of Mulberry and New Balance, as well as Material Matters favourites, Bill Amberg and Simon Hasan. More recently, Alice has written a new book, Field Fork Fashion, which charts a bullock’s journey from a field to a series of finished products and dishes – creating her own supply chain in the process.In this episode we talk about: how most leather is made; issues around the chrome tanning process; how British Pasture Leather is trying to make a difference;  increased meat consumption across the globe and why it changes the value of a hide; building a new supply chain; the state of the British tanning industry; producing their material entirely in the UK; redefining quality and embracing imperfection; how leather brought them together; buying a bullock and writing a book. Support the show
2/5/202455 minutes, 47 seconds
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Florian Gadsby on clay and becoming a potter.

Florian Gadsby is a bit of a phenomenon. The ceramicist currently has a new show at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and has also published a memoir, By My Hands, that charts his formative years with clay, including apprenticeships in the UK and, most intriguingly, Japan. Essentially, it unpicks his route to becoming a fully, fledged professional potter, while at the same time, providing tips about his thinking and process. Since he started on Instagram a decade ago, Florian has built up a social media following that can only be described as formidable. He’s part of a generation that has changed the way pots, in particular, but craft, in general, can be communicated, using Instagram and YouTube as educational tools but also as a hugely effective channels for selling work. In this episode we talk about: what his studio says about him; his YSP show; selling ‘merch’; being young to publish a memoir; comparing writing to pottery; his fascination with the colour green; going to a Steiner school; deciding against university; his love of mugs and the joy of repetition; his apprenticeship in Japan; resisting the tag of the ‘Instagram potter’; the pressure of social media; and wanting his own apprentice (eventually). Support the show
1/29/202458 minutes, 13 seconds
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Christien Meinderstma on wool (and linoleum).

Christien Meinderstma is a Dutch designer who has a fascination with materials. She currently has an installation at the V&A, entitled Re-forming Waste, which shows new work based around her interest in linoleum, as well as technological advances with the material she has described as her first love, wool. Christien came to wider attention initially when she graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven in 2003, with a book that catalogued a week’s worth of objects confiscated at security checkpoints in Schipol Airport. She followed that up a few years later, with PIG 05049, an extraordinary tome which looked at all the products made using a single pig. Her work is the collections of MoMA, the V&A, and the Vitra Design Museum. Over the years, she has won numerous Dutch Design Awards, as well as creating the award for the prestigious Earthshot Prize.In this episode we talk about: working alone; experimenting with linoleum; her family’s history with wool; the importance of provenance; defining failure and success; not being interested in selling things or mass production; working with the city of Rotterdam to find ways to deal with its wool; collaborating with a ‘wobot’; designing like a journalist, the energy of Design Academy Eindhoven; and the unexpected uses of a  pig…We are delighted this episode has been sponsored by the Surface Design Show. The event of choice for architects and designers, it runs from 6-8 February at London’s Business Design Centre and you can register for free at surfacedesignshow.com. We hope to see you there. Support the show
1/22/202451 minutes, 23 seconds