Clay Culture: Magnetic Clay

1 Three Dragonstone forms made using a clay mixed with metal powder.

Dutch designer Jólan van der Wiel creates unusual ceramic sculptures using the attraction between metallic clay and magnets. The possibilities for this process are irresistible. 

Dutch artist Jólan van der Wiel is creating attractive art.

Inspired by the push and pull between magnetic fields and gravity, van der Wiel’s Dragonstone project fabricates intricate ceramic structures from magnetic clay under the influence of a magnetic field.

The resulting structures—architectural, dynamic, and somewhat dangerous-looking—cozy up to the blurry divide between art and science.

“By being curious, you can think about anything in the world in your own way and redevelop it for yourself by thinking about how it works,” van der Wiel says in an article about his design approach that was written by Richard Prime and published on the website Cool Hunting (www.coolhunting.com). In the article, van der Wiel says that the way Dutch designers are educated had a strong influence on his style: “It’s based on experience and hands-on doing, plus encouraging a curiosity in the way things work.”

2 The vessels are shaped on a banding wheel set up under a strong magnet. The clay is built up using a syringe to extrude the slip into coils.

Created from a clay powder containing metal fibers, the material is extruded from a syringe and pulled with a magnet to create some unique shapes. The interesting structures are created in an additive manufacturing style, with layers built up to allow the material to cure and strengthen into a super-strong ceramic.

Van der Wiel hopes that his technique and art will transcend beyond aesthetics, though. Because the concept also works for cement, he says the idea “could well be applied to architecture and constructions on a large scale, with a designer or architect actively building structures or amending them on site,” according to the article. Van der Wiel explains, “Unlike a regular concrete, the metal and magnets can be used to hold a form in shape while cooling, so you don’t need a mold.”

To see more of van der Wiel’s design projects, visit http://jolanvanderwiel.com.

3 Dragonstone sculptural form made by combining two pieces together.

4 A complete Dragonstone vessel.

All photos: Jólan van der Wiel. Dragonstone is made possible by Sundaymorning @EKWC & Creative Industries Fund NL.

the author April Gocha, Ph.D is an Associate Editor for The American Ceramic Society Bulletin, our sister publication for society members and the science field and also writes for the science division’s blog, Ceramic Tech Today (http://ceramics.org/ctt).


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