Conversation: Materials

Kelly Dobson

How does our relationship with materials shape both our art-making practices and our ways of experiencing the world? Kelly Dobson, Associate Professor and Department Head, Digital + Media, asked Anais Missakian, Professor and Department Head, Textiles; Jocelyne Prince, Assistant Professor, Glass; Eric Anderson, Assistant Professor, History of Art and Visual Culture; and Mark Pompelia, Visual + Material Resource Librarian, Fleet Library at RISD, to speak about the unique ways in which they interact with their materials — whether fiber, glass, text, or archive. The conversations often returned to the idea that the artist/material relationship is itself a dialogue, in which both the artist and the material participate, listen to one another, and evolve together.


And there must be simple substances, since there are composites; for the composite is nothing more than a collection, or aggregate, of simples. . . . And since every present state of a simple substance is a natural consequence of its preceding state, the present is pregnant with the future.

— Gottfried Leibniz 1

In the past decade, resource books on materials for artists and designers have offered a foray into the available materials for use in practice as well as the materials currently in research and development stages.2 These books mainly focus on telling stories about materials, with materials being, in general, a range of resources for human use. They are incredibly useful as field ...

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