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Jack J Herring

MA work

Treasure in Tarnish

It could be said that the object-user bond is a result of the tangible presence of a belonging in the life of an individual – a vessel for memories. Although this presence has remained constant up until the modern day, it is increasingly hard to ignore the argument that these unbreakable bonds are being broken. Who is to blame, the designer or the consumer?

Perhaps the most reliable and enlightening method of building on such relationships is by taking the standpoint of the increasingly redundant craftsman in this world of decreasing object-user interactions. In an attempt to justify the epistemology of such a piece of writing, ‘Treasure in Tarnish’ was written alongside a period of materialistic experimentation. Inspired by the importance of aesthetics in the accumulation of emotional value in our belongings, a series of finishes on a selection of metals were developed.

Not only is ‘Treasure in Tarnish’  an attempt at understanding the ever-present decrease in the object-user connection, it is the acceptance that it is a bond that should not be allowed to be broken more than it already has so.

Qualities of uniqueness, individuality and luxury are all considered to be fundamental aspects of a bespoke product; not to mention its lasting relationship with time, whether that is the accumulation of hours of expertise put into creating an object, or simply the years that the product is expected to remain as a constant in its owner’s life. In order to efficiently design a bespoke product that fulfils all of these qualities, the factors of material and process are equally as imperative as the other – could the properties of a material be exploited to enhance the sense of value and attachment that an individual experiences from a belonging?

A trinity of collections exploring the effects of specific catalysts on copper, brass and steel are presented within this project. Processes of patination and rusting raise the question of whether a product should be treasured or is simply tarnishing over the potentially flawless material underneath which is so highly coveted in the modern day and age. Following on from the themes discussed within, the front cover of ‘Treasure in Tarnish’ was treated using the techniques developed through the stages of material experimentation; an additional side project was also taken up in an attempt to create copper and steel based paints designed to naturally alter their appearance over time, intended for future architectural applications.

Considering that the processes of experimentation were carried out with the intention of creating products with a heightened level of intrigue and character, it only seemed appropriate to use the skills acquired to create an artefact in order to define the revolution in design that this research proposed.

With these experiments personified in the simple form of a bowl, the aesthetic was obtained by applying the most humble of all the processes applied to the samples, whereby a solution of ammonia and salt is applied to the raw material and is allowed to leave its natural tarnish. The contrast with the polished perfect interior symbolises the differing stances on aesthetics that have been taken by designers and consumers alike, also representing the opposite ends of the making spectrum, ranging from craft to industry. Although the flawless form of the bowl could not have been obtained without the utilisation of industrialised machinery, the uniquely bespoke aspect in the form of the finish could not have been obtained without the poetic mind of the craftsman.

In order to truly maintain the creativity and unpredictability that accompanies the work of the designer, the haphazard beauty of the world of the unknown must be embraced rather than extinguished. It is important to remember that the artisan has had the monopoly on ground-breaking ideas and developments throughout history, although many of these discoveries were only made as a result of funding or support in one form or another. The concept of corporations offering more support to creative forms of research should not be sneered at. Craft and originality should complement engineering and precision.


  • MA Degree


    School of Design


    MA Design Products, 2017

  • Current technological developments and a keen interest in material science have been catalysts in much of my work produced at the Royal College of Art. A combination of material experimentation and technical design is an approach that I have taken in an attempt to tackle real world problems now and in the near future. The need to re-evaluate design processes and life cycles of objects drives me to question the ways our belongings are made and what they are made of.

  • Degrees

  • BA Architecture, University of Kent, 2015
  • Experience

  • RIBA Mentoring Scheme, MEME Architecture, Canterbury, 2014/15
  • Exhibitions

  • KSA Exhibition X Degree Show, Canterbury, 2015
  • Publications

  • Jack J Herring, 'Treasure In Tarnish', 2016

InnovationRCA Projects