Recipes for Material Activism

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embodied energy series

Recipes for Material Activism Part 1 — Miriam Ribul


02 Recipes for Material Activism 04 Methods 06 Material Activist’s Tool Cabinet 08 Basic Recipe 10 Recipe 1 12 Texture Molding 13 Flat Ribbons 14 Goggles 15 Seamless Waterproofing 16 Thin Film 17 Architectural Bodies 18 Recipe 2 20 Thick Thread 21 Rubber Leather

22 Recipe 3 24 Flex 25 Particled Shape 26 Nonwovens 28 Rope Construction 29 3D Layering 30 3D Layered Particles 32 3D Layered White Shirt 34 Recipe 4 36 Armour 37 Modular Puzzle 38 Recipe 5 40 Soft Cement + Presenting Plate 41 New Tools 42 Biopellets 44 Credits

Recipes for Material Activism

Recipes for Material Activism explores a low tech approach to the democratisation of production. Common tools and ingredients are adapted in the pursuit to create alternative aesthetics and processes for materials and making. In a context of increased materials scarcity and builtin obsolescence of consumer goods, adapting and making with inconspicuous tools will develop increasing importance. Adaptation and improvisation is leading to a new wave of individual tools and objects. Recipes for Material Activism does not require specialised skills, and replaces collaborative consumption with collaborative production. The produced material and textile outcomes are directly related to the time and effort invested into the operation, and open paths for everyone to further conduct individual experiments with the recipes.

In the pursuit to develop a variation of models to replace traditional manufacturing processes, each prototype implies systems for producing know materials and structures in an alternative way. The outcome of this project is a group of prototypes that prove the potentials of these models. This book invites to the dissemination of the outcomes and their use and adaptation in various contexts. Physical ingredients coexist with individual approaches to the recipes. The recipes and instructions aim for a low-tech DIY production of materials and textiles, sometimes with the requirement to hack common tools. The materials used are non-toxic and can be easily sourced, leading to an inventive ‘mixing’ approach with improvised ingredients for different outcomes. Recipes for Material Activism explores each recipe and documents the process in order to share what is achievable, and where things can be adapted or further explored. Recipes for Material Activism is part of The Embodied Energy Series, an on-going research initiated by Miriam Ribul exploring how the energy applied is directly related to the outcome in shape and material. The aim of this series is to research material and people focused processes for sustainable manufacturing. Part 1 is a starting point for further explorations, and will probably be followed by more tools and recipes.

Methods Making do When specialised tools and machines are not available, making with what is present becomes a vehicle for improvisation. Functioning as a method for personal cultural probing, the outcomes demonstrate an individual approach to production and the desired outcomes. Timescale As an analogy to the preparation of food together, for yourself, or for others each outcome has an individual scale of effort, ingredients and tools. Recipes for Material Activism offers options for different scales of production. The results are more intricate the more time is invested in it.

Re-appropriation Reclaiming control over common and immediate items and to fully explore their potential leads to re-appropriation of familiar processes for alternative uses. Resources The recipes are inspired by material that is publicly shared online, cooking shows, amateur videos, but combine and adapt them into a context for material activism for sustainable textiles, materials and product manufacture. The sources for the basic recipes were a range of YouTube links that explored home science experiments and bioplastic recipes.

The Materials The materials employed for the recipes are bio-plastics made with home ingredients. The choice of this material is derived from the pursuit to generate low-tech and individual approaches to manufacturing, and these materials do not require specialist ingredients or tools. Also being non-toxic they can be used safely and disposed of into food waste. The Dyes The colours result from key personal ingredients, building a natural colour palette defined by the user’s taste. For the colouring of the prototypes the dyes have been sourced at home: some are tea derived, some from leaves and some from food colouring for icing sugar.

Tools = Outcomes. The tools have a direct impact on the outcomes. Defining and choosing the best tool can have an impact on shape and freedom of development. The Applications The materials have similar properties to plastic and silicone that is used in several design products and prototypes and can therefore act as a sustainable alternative to it. Design prototyping being a wasteful practice in itself, it is encouraged to use these materials for prototyping and form explorations. Recipes for Material Activism promotes individual and collaborative production as the shared outcomes allow for implementation by other users.


Material Activist’s Tools Cabinet

Basic Recipe Preparation time: 5-10 minutes All ingredients can be mixed at a cold stage, and then cooked over low heat until it becomes a uniform and transparent paste. Throughout the process stirring with a spatula supports an even consistency. All material can be used when warm. Material residues on the tools can safely be dissolved in water or composted into food waste.



Recipe 1

Recipe 1 10

Material Prep Ratio 1: 0.5: 0.5: 4 1 tbsp. tapioca starch 1 tsp. glycerine 1 tsp.vinegar 4 tbsp. water


Texture Molding The material can be layered on any structure and takes on the mould details very well to mimic the surface as a negative shape up to very fine details. It can dry very thin or thick depending on application, and absorbs the detailed structure of the original material.


Flat Ribbons When extruded with a piping tube the material extrudes as rounded threads and dries into transparent flat ribbons with spongy and elastic consistency.

Goggles The application onto products can contribute to a new set of useful equipment. Less and more material layering offers various levels of protection.

Seamless Waterproofing The application of the material onto fabric makes it bond with the textile when drying and adds a waterproof coating. It can act as an optimal solution for temporary waterproofing requirements, such as for festival clothing and canvas shoes. Thicker layers build stronger connections and patterned strata. The material dries in place and does not require a supporting structure, making it ideal as glue for connecting fabric. A shirt can be constructed from two woven material strips with minimal woven material input, and connect through the application of functional seaming and decorative links or trimmings.


Thin Film Applied as 3-5mm to a solid surface for drying, it results in a strong thin layer with flexible properties. Although when wet it looks uneven and voluminous, it dries to very thin film.


Architectural Bodies For potential accessories, architectural and interior use, this recipe can lead to building strong bonds and connections between materials, in this case bamboo skewers. The application could be a temporary installation that dissolves and returns to the individual units over time. It acts as building links for improvised connections and for bridging the material gap.


Recipe 2 18

Material Prep Ratio 1: 0.5: 0.5: 4

1 tbsp. corn starch 1 tsp. glycerine 1 tsp. vinegar 4 tbsp. water

Thick Thread This material results in thick threads when extruded. The threads are voluminous and have a natural yellow translucent colour. It does not extrude in long threads, but when cured it has body and strength.

Rubber Leather The material dries in thick, rubbery layers that break into islands. Each segment is strong and insulating, providing a second leathery skin to a surface. A syphon cooking process allows for modification of the individual segments to a different structure.


Recipe 3 22

Material Prep Ratio 1: 0.5: 0.5: 4 1 tbsp. potato starch 1 tsp. glycerine 1 tsp. vinegar 4 tbsp. water

Flex The material is ideal for threads extrusion in round and flexible shapes. The material dries best when extruded in a linear process, as angles can make it break. The pressure of the extrusion and the smaller surface area make the material strong.


Particled Shape When applied and dried on a surface it breaks into small flexible bright white thin layers. Each single particle has strong elasticity and is transparent white, and as a group it can act as a filling material or surface structure.


Nonwovens Threads can be built up on a flat surface with gradient colour combinations. The nonwoven can be constructed from random or regular patterns.


Rope Construction The material can be extruded with larger nozzles and build larger constructed areas with colour and texture layers. A rope construction can be achieved with extruded large threads, cutting the intermediate step of twisting yarns.

3D Layering This explores how production systems that are typical to 3D printing can be translated and applied in textiles and fashion. Instead of creating textiles with 3D printing, here 3D printing is emulated through textiles. The key characteristic that is explored is the ‘layer by layer’ manufacturing process that 3D printing uses and that results in complex product construction. In an architectural perspective, we usually see a front view of the garment, which has been constructed from a flat surface. Using 3D printing as a methodology for exploration, the material is constructed from a top view of the 3D form, and builds it up in layers, resulting in material manipulation coupled with garment construction that does not require seams.



3D Layered Particles

3D Layered White Shirt



Recipe 4 34

Material Prep Ratio 2: 2: 0.5 2tbsp. tapioca starch 2 tbsp. water 1 tsp. oil

Armour When evenly spread on a flat surface, the material dries and curves into a strong shape.


Modular Puzzle The material can be cut when wet to build modular shapes that connect to a larger construction.


Recipe 5 38

Material Prep Ratio 2: 2: 0.5 2 tbsp. potato starch 2 tbsp. water 1 tsp. oil

Soft Cement The liquid can be placed as a thin layer in an oven mould and then shaped while on a hot surface, resulting in soft looking hard materials.

Presenting Plate


New Tools The material can be grilled and shaped before it cools. New tools can be made when needed and shaped while on a hot surface, resulting in soft looking hard materials.


Biopellets Acting as a replacement for Styrofoam pellets, the biopellets can be made and shipped when required for packaging.


Credits Material activist Miriam Ribul Graphic design Laura Gordon Photography Lydia Whitmore


embodied energy series

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