The idea for the initiative was sparked by its first subject – Jesmonite®, a lightweight acrylic-modified gypsum composite originally developed in the UK in 1984. First adopted by builders and architects for its lightweight nature and endless versatility in creating finely detailed surface finishes, Jesmonite has become increasingly popular as a design material and a growing number of designers internationally are finding ways of exploring the material in their products and sculptural objects.
‘We saw lots of products in 2015 and 2016 which we really liked and were particularly intrigued by. We presumed that they were ceramics that had taken on colour amazingly well but, when we scratched the surface, we discovered that they were made from Jesmonite. We didn’t know anything about the material and we wanted to find out more. There is nothing that really inspires a designer more than a new material
to play with and Jesmonite is the ultimate exploration. Very few people know what it is and who is using it, and what it enables designers to achieve. You can make anything using Jesmonite.’ – Jimmy McDonald, founder and director, London Design Fair
One of the designers who has wholeheartedly embraced Jesmonite is Ariane Prin, founder of PRIN London, who has been invited to create the site-specific Rustiles installation at the heart of the Material of the Year showcase. Prin discovered the material’s remarkable properties almost by accident in 2013, when she combined a leftover bucket of her studio mate’s Jesmonite with a bag of metal dust acquired from a key-cutter, and left it to see what would happen. The following week, the dust had oxidised, creating a unique colour and pattern in the Jesmonite.
That experiment became the foundation for RUST – the series of ceramic vessels cast in key-dustadulterated Jesmonite, which launched at Herrick Gallery, Shoreditch in 2015 and went on to become PRIN London’s leading product line. Visually and texturally unique, the vases, trays and pots develop further as they age, thanks to the continuing interaction between the material and the atmosphere. For London Design Fair, Prin is pushing her discovery in a new direction, working on an immersive, tilebased installation inspired by the form of the classic London brick and responding to the architecture of its setting in the Old Truman Brewery. ‘Rustiles’ is a demonstration of Jesmonite’s ability to be combined with other materials to achieve distinctive visual and textural effects, as well as presenting RUST’s potential in large-scale applications.
‘I wanted to challenge myself by pushing the material limits of Jesmonite and also create RUST at a larger scale. As a product designer, I have always designed products that can be manipulated by hand, but I am also interested in working with interior designers and architects. To make a product the scale of an entire building feels out of my comfort zone but really excites me. I wanted to show that RUST was primarily a material: homeware is one output; tiles is another. So many other things can be done with it.’ – Ariane Prin, designer
Working with masters created by PRIN London, Jesmonite-casting specialist Feathercast has developed tile moulds that allow the Jesmonite mix to set into tiles – each of which will be unique. These will be used to create a distinctive mosaic of colour and texture that visitors to London Design Fair will be able to enter and explore.
Complementing Rustiles, a variety of other Jesmonite objects and products will be on show, including work by Maison & Objet 2017 Rising Talent Zuza Mengham and surface designer Katie Gillies. In its entirety, the showcase offers the fair audience an eye-opening insight into one of the most promising making materials that today’s designers have at their disposal, and sets the bar high for many more Material of the Year exhibitions to come.
Rustiles will be on display on the ground floor of Hall G5 at Old Truman Brewery on 21 - 24 September.