The Knowing Body in Material Exploration by Camilla Groth & Maarit Mäkelä in Studies in Material Thinking

Posted on May 2016


Ceramic material tests. Antti utilized his mould making skills for metal in the moulds for cast porcelain, but the clay is not behaving as molten metal. Photo by Antti.

Groth, Camilla & Mäkelä, Maarit (2016).
The knowing body in material exploration.
Studies in Material Thinking (SMT) Volume 14.

The role of the body is not yet fully recognized in the process of knowledge creation. In the creative fields, especially in the field of art, craft and design, the manipulation of material is essential and much of the knowledge created in this process is generated bodily. This paper explores the role of the knowing body in material exploration. In order to investigate this theme, we gathered drawings, diaries as well as weekly and final reflections from MA-students during the Personal Exploration and Experimentation course (DEE) at the Aalto University, School of Art, Design and Architecture, Department of Design in Helsinki, Finland. The course supports the students’ own explorative process from concept to artefact, often via extensive material explorations. The course has been offered since 2009, and for this research we have analysed the data gathered from years 2013 and 2014, that involves 19 students in total. In this paper we study two students’ material exploration processes in detail, from the point of view of their embodied engagement. The findings suggest that previous material experiences gathered through our body, guide us in material exploration even before physical manipulations start. Tactile impressions and images of materials are key in the choice of materials. The physical manipulation of materials help resolving complicated spatial design problems as the design is taken into the lived experience.

Body; experiential knowledge; material exploration, design practice; Education.

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