As design visualization software becomes more ubiquitous and easier to use, the novelty of digital form for the sake of digital form is wearing off. These exponentially evolving conception and fabrication techniques can now be applied to existing design problems that do not traditionally involve digital technologies bring a fresh perspective to an established craft.
At San Francisco's Museum of Craft and Design, the exhibition Data Clay: Digital Strategies for Parsing the Earth looks at the ways in which leading researchers and practitioners are experimenting at the intersection of digital technology and ceramics. This range of diverse products and sculptural forms are based on design, art, and architectural sensibilities.
Curators Del Harrow and Joshua G. Stein explain that these new artisans are drawn to clay's unfamiliarity at a larger scale and its unique material properties that make it more difficult to predict, including slump and shrinkage. While it is not as easy to work with as more stable materials such as concrete, engineered wood, and steel, clay has more potential for experimentation when it comes to translating the digital to the physical.
Because clay has been a useful and familiar material for over 27,000 years, this experimental research remains accessible to both the general public and specialists advancing future applications. Now, this once-basic material is being adopted in complex hybrid systems, pushing ceramics to the forefront of innovation in the allied design fields, combining tooling from the contemporary digital era with traditional, craft- and skill-based knowledge, to offer the best of both worlds.
Stein explains in a statement, “Data Clay pushes beyond our current cultural obsession with the novelty of digital technology, and instead situates the speed and ephemerality of the digital in relation to the resistant physical weight, and long histories of earth."
The exhibition is on view through April 19, 2015, at San Francisco's Museum of Craft and Design, 2569 Third Street. It will be accompanied by a symposium at California College of the Arts (CCA) on Saturday, February 7, 9:00 am–4:00 pm.