School of Material Work-in-progress Show Engages Through Diversity and Interactivity

In a Work-in-progress Show that positions students’ work in a rich web of juxtapositions, connections and conversations, the School of Material delivers an extraordinary variety of objects in such a way as to instigate interaction and engagement with its audience. Emphasising the importance of the visual and tactile, students across all programmes show a deep understanding of the technology and science of materials, enabling them to push at the possibilities and boundaries of design and making.

Without the formality of the Graduate Show or the pressure to conform to the protocol of the catwalk, the Work-in-progress Show offers a freedom to experiment with modes of display that challenge convention. Pillars within the Kensington galleries have been adopted as exhibition tools, one enrobed in tactile layers of cream woven textiles, another painted with a bold cartoon, drawing on the visual language of graffiti. Fashion Menswear strike a dynamic pose with large floor-to-ceiling displays, while the measured presentation of Ceramics & Glass leaves space for contemplation.

For the School of Material, the Work-in-progress Show is a unique opportunity to present the work of every programme, including Fashion Menswear and Fashion Womenswear. Students in all programmes are asserting their identity as individual designers, but also uniting to explore their work in the context of their peers. A Womenswear showreel pulls the work of all the students together in a highly successful way that, along with a collaborative newspaper, adds another dimension to the exhibition.

Combining work from every programme not only results in enormous diversity of objects and materials, but also elicits energetic debate and dialogues. The Work-in-progress Show offers the public a fantastic opportunity to delight in the variety of materials on display, and the skills and hours that go into making them, but it is also a moment for students to show their work to each other. Tastes are shaped, associations made, ideas inspired and collaborations initiated. Throughout the show, thematic threads make connections across programmes. Natural forms abound, not as mere decorations but as biomimicry, adopting the delicate strength of leaf, honeycomb and shell construction into metalwork and 3D textiles. A timeless and placeless quality is also present: a set of plates featuring blurred and pixellated digital imagery; a cloudy green bottle that could originate in the past or future; jewellery nestled in a frame of soil, as if freshly sprouted or newly unearthed; painted earthenware from moulds of 1970s television sets; a deconstructed tulip vase inspired by a seventeenth-century Dutch pagoda form and Chinese porcelain techniques.

While these dialogues occur between the students and the objects on display, the public audience is also invited to participate. In general terms, the nature of the Work-in-progress Show allows insight into the working processes and a chance to see ideas in earlier stages of formation, through samples, experiments, source material and sketches, allowing audiences to see work that has started its journey to somewhere. More explicitly, many works in this exhibition directly invite viewers to contribute, through comment books and feedback questionnaires, prompting more considered responses to experiential pieces: rows of gently dancing pebbles strung from the ceiling to be stepped among, or textures to be experienced blind.

Engaging with the science and technology of materials, as well as revelling in their magic, this year’s School of Material Work-in-progress Show pushes at boundaries in order to innovate, in design, making and display. Drawing inspiration from across the globe and throughout time, works on show display a complexity that insists audiences think and look again at the material environment.


The School of Fine Art Work-in-progress Show is open:
Wednesday 21 –  Sunday 25 January 2015, 10am – 5pm

Royal College of Art Kensington campus

For information on travelling to the RCA, see Maps & Visiting