Exploring Sustainable High and Low Tech Materials through Critical Crafts

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Image by Kristin Jakubek

This minor challenges you to think critically about the way you make and design. You acquire hands-on knowledge and skills that enable you to experience how things might be made differently and discover alternatives to reduce the environmental impact of man-made things.

Making today

In the throw-away culture that dominates contemporary society it has become the new normal, for makers and consumers alike, to buy (semi-manufactured) products cheaply and conveniently and easily discard them. For example, many people find it easier to buy a new phone instead of repairing it. This is partly due to the non-transparency of the object, the lack of knowledge about its material structure, the complexity of its inner workings, and the system(s) in which it is embedded, which discourage altering, hacking and repairing. This discrepancy between making and consuming is also visible in other industries such as automobiles, electronics and fashion. We lose foundational knowledge of all the things involved in making something from scratch, what materials can do, and how we might connect, disconnect and (re)shape things, as high-tech innovation transforms fabrication processes into complex global systems.

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Image by Kristin Jakubek

About the program

In this program we go back to the fundamentals of materials and how things are made. We rethink the wealth of traditional material knowledge and craftsmanship in order to meet the demands of the 21st century. We re-envision them in the context of contemporary high-tech crafts and sustainable digital fabrication to rediscover the potential of local materials and traditions. With this minor we aim to redefine the position of the maker and her role in relation to the commons (the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of society), by taking a DIY and open-source approach to high-tech and (smarter) smart materials that are largely compostable, locally sourced, and documented with cultural/historical awareness, accessible for anyone to use.

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Image by Kristin Jakubek

Week 1-10: Coursework

The first ten weeks you will dive into digital craftsmanship, material research and storytelling. We will work on a range of digital crafts and techniques, in order to allow you to fully and independently engage with the high tech equipment, like 3D printers and laser cutters, available to you in the Makers Lab: our digital fabrication workshop. You will also learn foundational material knowledge by cooking, curing, growing, modifying and connecting materials like bioplastics, crystals, natural pigments, fibres and programmable materials that respond to touch or heat or change shape. By experimenting and researching independently and collaboratively, you are challenged to discover techniques and combinations and make meaningful contributions to a shared material archive.

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Image by Kristin Jakubek

Week 11-21: Projects

From week 11-20 you choose an area of interest and develop a research project. This can take the form of exploring and expanding (the creative applications of) existing techniques or materials, or developing a tool or machine to support making processes. These outcomes are all shown at the class expo and documented under a creative commons licence in the material archive. As this is an interdisciplinary program with participants from very different fields, students can expect a lot of freedom to follow their own interests and be creative. Tutors, researchers, and designers and makers from the professional field will support you in critically reflecting on your experiments, contextualizing your creative practice and understand where and why your work could be or become relevant. Leerdoelen / Competenties

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Image by Kristin Jakubek

Learning objectives

At the end of this minor you have developed yourself as a material storyteller and critical maker. You bring valuable hands-on knowledge and skills to any professional environment: you can work with conceptual frameworks to initiate question-driven design processes for exploring sustainable material development with an awareness of the politics, cultures and histories of made objects. This allows you to develop an ethical contemporary maker practice and share your expertise in a way that allows others to build on and learn from your work.

Digital Craftsmanship

The ability to safely and creatively use lab equipment and tools to design and fabricate 2D and 3D objects and textures, make functional molds, create and program sensors and actuators, following recipes to recreate and modify bio-polymers and pigments.

Material Research & Documentation

The ability to analyse the properties of materials and their relationship to tools and production processes used, in order to identify areas for further question-led material exploration. Knowing how, when and what to reference and document in order for others to reproduce, replicate and continue building on your work.

Argumentation & Storytelling

The ability to develop stimulating scenarios and use effective (material) storytelling techniques to build an argument for the future relevance, urgency and creative potential of their materials research, presented as part of an exhibition.

Assessment information

All course is structured in three domains, each existing of a foundational part (I) and an applied part (II). All parts are graded with various assignments (I) and portfolio assessments (II).

  • Digital Craftsmanship I & II - 10 EC
  • Materials Research & Documentation I & II - 10 EC
  • Argumentation & Storytelling I & II - 10 EC

Admission info

This course is offered in semester 2 (February - July)

Admission requirements

(the teaching and examination regulations of the Bachelor programme apply)

This minor welcomes students with an open, curious and analytical attitude, coming from a fashion, design, art or engineering background, who have demonstrable experience with 2 or more of the following at intermediate level: 3D modeling, electronics, 2D design (vector drawing), programming skills, garment construction, molding & casting, mechanical engineering/machine building. As the entire program is taught in English, participants are required to speak English well and are able to read and understand English texts.

Minimum number of students: 16

Maximum number of students: 25

Class times: normally on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Friday morning + independent study in the lab (subject to change in relation to the COVID-19 measures)

Costs: ​consider material costs of about € 150 on account of the student for materials, excursions and printing fees.

Host faculty: Digital Media & Creative Industries ​

Teaching staff & coordination

​​Loes Bogers | Micky van Zeijl | Sam Edens | Yuri Westplat | Marjolijn Ruyg | Laura Mudde | and guests

Selection from course syllabus

Bogers, Loes & Letzia Chiappini (eds) The Critical Makers Reader: (Un)Learning Technology. Amsterdam: Insittute of Network Cultures, 2019.

Franklin, Kate. Radical Matter: Rethinking Materials for a Sustainable Future. London: Thames & Hudson, 2018.

Logan, Jason. Make Ink: A Forager’s Guide to Natural Inkmaking. New York: Abrams, 2018.

Solanki, Seetal. Why Materials Matter: Responsible Design for a Better World. Munich: Prestel, 2018.

Terneaux, Elodie, and Daniel Kula, Materiology: The Creative Industry’s Guide to Materials and Technologies. Revised edition. Amsterdam: Frame Publishers, 2013 (2008).

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Image by Kristin Jakubek