Conceived and founded by artist and designer Seetal Solanki, the London-based studio and consultancy Matter explores human relationships between ideas and processes. The material-driven studio operates with research, discussion and experimentation as its guiding light. Launched at LDF 2015, the physical realization is primarily an online resource which can be shared throughout the creative industry. Solanki delves into the outlook of the material industry from her perspective:

What developments have you seen recently in the world of materials?
SEETAL SOLANKI: Growing your own materials has become something that is allowing science and design to work in synergy more and more. This could be growing a leather-like material in a lab – grown from microorganisms or with the Kombucha technique – which Suzanne Lee pioneered way back in 2005 and called Biocouture. This is having a profound effect on collaboration and cross-pollination within so many industries. Materials are the key to linking different industries since everything is made of something, making them such a powerful tool and resource. Material designers and makers could potentially create their own industry within farming, having a huge impact on sustainability too.

There are so many resources available to us. More and more designers are recycling materials that already exist and creating products or objects from those resources. Studio Swine is a great example of this type of creation. Also, Parley recently teamed up with adidas to create trainers that were made from plastic left in the ocean, which is a great notion. If only there wasn’t plastic in the ocean to begin with though, but since there is, I think it’s great that a huge global brand such as adidas is bringing more awareness to this issue.

Nano materials such as Nanostone and Graphene are a very interesting surface too. The potential for these materials are endless.

What is your vision for the future of materials?
I believe that materials are such a powerful resource. In order for ideas, processes and materials to co-exist, we need to collaborate more with different industries to see how we could all work together to create a better product, process or idea. This is the key to building a better future. A material that would normally be used within architecture could possibly be used within the Aircraft industry. Graphene could be the material that allows industries to cross-pollinate even further, there just needs to be more clarity regarding the uses of the material initially, but it is an exciting time.

As a designer, what do you think the main values of material should be?
Materials need to be more valued to begin with, as without them, there wouldn’t be any creation or ideas. The main values could be varied to be honest, I think it depends on what the context is and what the end purpose would be. Some materials need to be consumed within a short amount of time so building to last doesn’t have a priority, so I think it really depends on the end goal.

What industries lead the way when it comes to material?
Architecture and the automotive industries are ahead of the curve. They work on such a huge scale and buildings need to last for many years, so the challenge is much more interesting. Material scientists are the real creators behind everything as they have the ability to manipulate specific traits of a material that we may have not even considered. Marlene Huissoud is a great example of this as she has created a leather-like material made out of Sericin, the glue from a silkworm cocoon. Nanostone is again a great material as it is designed to protect from stains, scratches, chipping and does not contain any solvents or silicone.

Has the notion of materiality changed?
Yes it most definitely has. Over the past few years, it has become increasingly obvious that sustainability is a huge problem and because of this, so many materials are being created with this in mind. Technology has been a key ingredient to our growth. By combining these two ideas, we have found huge potential to generate materials which co-exist to create a better world. Without innovation, there can’t be a sustainable world. I’ve worked across many diverse industries – including architecture, automotive, fashion and lighting installations – and the common link was, and still is, materials. They aren’t just a tangible source either; ideas can materialise, processes are the way in which we discover them and the people behind making them and the resulting materials are formed – It’s What We’re Made of.

Photos Seetal Solanki

Read further into the topic of smart materials in Frame #107 Material Futures. The Nov/Dec 2015 issue dissects the fabric of tomorrow. Find your copy in the online Frame store.

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