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The Power of Material: From Virtual to Physical

23 July 2021 to 28 July 2021 | Private View: Thursday 22 July

Design Museum, London, W8 6AG


Last Summer, for the first time in its history, the RCA’s renowned MA Ceramics & Glass graduate show went virtual.

Covid- 19 and the lockdown in March presented what felt, at the time, like insurmountable challenges: students abandoned unfired work on their benches, kilns stood unemptied, and the glass furnace was left to cool down. The inevitable frustrations that arose quickly turned to resilience as the class of 2020 devised new ways to express themselves in a ‘virtual’ world.

Now, as graduates, dispersed across the world, they continue to innovate and experiment, this time to create physical works for a unique presentation at the Design Museum. The exhibition will demonstrate the power of material thinking and making and its importance in enriching our lives in imaginative and meaningful ways. Shown alongside the work of the 2020 graduates, will be a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ by the current final- year students, and recent examples by leading research staff in the department.

The transformation of states, phenomena of substance, and the materiality of colour are all explored, while references to geology and landscape sit alongside narratives that comment on contemporary world events.

The postgraduate MA Ceramics & Glass programme is part of the School of Arts and & Humanities, reflecting the growing interest amongst students for cross disciplinary encounters which provide a broader framework and context for their work.

The department, originally based in at the RCA’s building in Kensington campus, is now housed in the Woo Building on the Battersea campus just the other side of Battersea Bridge. Opened in 2015, the building, designed by Haworth Tompkins in collaboration with staff and students, is dedicated to the specific needs of the programme with a ‘state of the art’ kiln room, a glaze laboratory, a plaster room, glass facilities, and wonderful open plan studios.

In this dynamic learning environment students spend two years developing a deep understanding of raw materials and their transformative processes. They are encouraged to explore ideas within and beyond the traditions of art and design, to expand their imagination, to locate themselves in a global context, and to find their professional voice.  This year group, for example, piloted a student residency project in Jingdezhen, in China, which offered two students the opportunity to collaborate with local artisans to produce work which would have been difficult to undertake back in London. Closer to home the programme is engaged in the development of community projects, notably workshops with dementia groups. All are seen as a source of motivation and a spur to creativity.