Radishes or isothiocyanates? A search for control between art and science

O'DUBHGHAILL, Coilin (2012). Radishes or isothiocyanates? A search for control between art and science. In: Understanding Interdisciplinarity: Theory and Practice - An International Conference, Sheffield, 12th - 14th June 2012. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

This paper addresses a five-year interdisciplinary research collaboration between a silversmith and a material scientist. The paper describes two projects carried out by Dr Coilin O’Dubhghaill (Art and Design Research Centre) and Dr Hywel Jones (Materials and Engineering Research Institute) at Sheffield Hallam University between 2007–2012.

The first of these projects addressed problems of reliability and control in metal patination. In the Japanese metalwork tradition there is a unique process used to produce multi-coloured metalwork. A range of metals and special alloys are combined in a piece of metalwork and patinated using a single solution – the niiro solution. This approach allows the designer to incorporate a wide palette of colours in a piece of metalwork. However, difficulties in producing the alloys and controlling the patination process have limited the possibilities for application of these materials.

The collaboration brought together the expert knowledge of a craftsperson and a materials scientist in a search for improved alloy production and patination process control. The study led to improved understanding of casting techniques for alloy production, the development of a non-proprietary synthetic niiro solution, and overall enhanced process control. The research was disseminated through lectures and papers in journals and international conferences, and through exhibitions of artwork produced as a study of practical applications.

A second ongoing research project looks at new techniques for the production of Mokume Gane, a multi-coloured metal laminate used in the jewellery industry. Mokume Gane is a highly desirable and unique decorative material, but production is difficult at both small workshop and industrial levels. The research investigates a novel method for producing mixed metal layered materials using friction stir welding (FSW) and compares the results with mokume gane made by a number of different conventional methods.

FSW was invented in 1991 in the UK by TWI and has found widespread use in the joining of aluminum and, more recently, steels. By adapting FSW it has been possible to successfully bond many layers of dissimilar metals, while simultaneously producing unique patterns in the metal. This minimizes further processing, reducing waste and potentially lowering costs. The technique avoids many of the problems experienced in traditional workshop production e.g. melting or lack of bonding, while allowing production of small, customized ingots and mass production of large sheets, with up to several square meters possible. The research builds on the traditional craft knowledge of the silversmith, developing novel methods and materials through the use of cutting edge processing techniques.

The paper describes the practices and outcomes from the above projects and the kinds of new knowledge such research can yield. The paper also reflects on how the research was structured and carried out. Through interviews with the participants, the experience of the collaborators is examined and the difficulties and advantages of this type of research collaboration are considered and explored.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Cultural Communication and Computing Research Institute > Art and Design Research Centre
Depositing User: Coilin O'Dubhghaill
Date Deposited: 24 Sep 2012 16:59
Last Modified: 24 Sep 2012 16:59
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/5784

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