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Ariane Prin. Photography by Tommaso Lanza.
30th July 2017

Material of the Year: Q&A with Ariane Prin

London-based designer Ariane Prin’s studio is described on her website as “home to a wide variety of joyously messy material experiments.” We like her already. 

Since 2013, Ariane has been working with Jesmonite. An acrylic-modified gypsum composite, Jesmonite is unique in its versatility – it sets quickly, requires no kiln and is non-toxic so you can experiment with it freely. Ariane first started working with Jesmonite purely by chance (more of that later) but her experimentations with the material proved to be so beautiful that she went on to carve a glowing business out of it.

Ariane’s RUST collection – a series of trays, bowls, planters and pots – are formed from a unique mix of Jesmonite AC100 and metal dust salvaged from key cutters. The vessels are astonishingly varied in both texture and colour, the result of a natural oxidisation process that can take from several weeks to a few months, and which continues over the lifespan of the product.

This year, Ariane has been selected to exhibit at London Design Fair as part of its Jesmonite-dedicate Material of the Year exhibition. A site-specific installation, Rustiles is an extension of RUST and explores the aesthetic possibilities of Jesmonite as a surface material. Ariane is using her unique Jesmonite blend to make a series of tiles inspired by the classic dimensions of the London brick. 

Ahead of Rustiles being unveiled in September, Zetteler caught up with Ariane to find out more about her unique process. 

RUST by PRIN. Photography by Ariane Prin.
When and why did you first begin working with Jesmonite? 

I first used Jesmonite back in 2013. One of my friends that I share a studio with had a small bucket of Jesmonite leftover from a previous project and gave me some. I had collected a lot of waste materials in the studio from skips and previous projects, including a bag a key dust. On that day, I was not searching for anything in particular, I was just experimenting and having fun by mixing lots of different materials together. I had a freelance job at the time and when I came back to the studio a week later the samples with the key dust had oxidised. I thought it could be an interesting field of experimentation to continue pushing. At that point, I would have never imagined setting up a business out of this accidental mix of materials years later.

What attracts you to Jesmonite as a material?

Its versatility is number one. I also love the fact that it sets quickly (no kiln is required), it is a non-toxic material and is water-based, so very easy to clean. Perfect for the messy jobs that I like to do. The versatility of Jesmonite means that many things can be made out of it. Plus, there are six variants of the material available in the Jesmonite product range, so everybody can find appropriate product for their creation. 

An increasing number of designers are now working with the material, are there any Jesmonite projects that you particularly admire?  

Indeed, so many designers are now using Jesmonite. I absolutely love Hilda Hellstrom’s work, Silo Studio’s Newton’s Bucket, Malgorzata Bany’s Jesmonite bowls and trinkets, and the lamps that French designer Ferréol Babin created for the Matylda Krzykowski-curated exhibition Domestic Appeal. All these projects are so different, yet they are all made of the same material.
RUST by PRIN. Photography by Ariane Prin.
You’ve used Jesmonite exclusively in your RUST series. Do you plan to explore the material beyond RUST? 

I am still learning through the process of making. Because of this, the excitement is still there and, at the moment, I don’t have any reason to stop and start making anything else. I have not finished my exploration with RUST yet. After all these years I am still learning from it everyday, and that fascinates me. I am always trying new metal particles or new oxidation processes to try and expand the colour range. Recently I  visited the Denby ceramic factory. I happily left with a number of metal powders that they use in their amazing glazing process. There is always room for experimentation and this is what I like about the project. I hope the RUSTILES will be a nice demonstration of this. That said, if a special commission comes over I would be interested to take on the challenge.
RUST by PRIN. Photography by Francois Devulder, stylist Julie Boucherat.
Up until now, you’ve used Jesmonite to create vessels but for London Design Fair you are making tiles. Why tiles? 

I wanted to challenge myself by pushing the material limits of Jesmonite and also create RUST at a larger scale. I am also interested in working with interior designers and architects as I have always been curious about their fields. As a product designer, I have always designed products that can be manipulated by hand. To make a product the scale of an entire building feels out of my comfort zone but simultaneously really excites me. I also wanted to show that RUST was primarily a material: homeware is one output, tiles is another, but really, so many other things can be done with it.
RUST by PRIN. Photography by Jamie Isbell.
There’s a video on the prin.in website that shows your process. A lot of designers are reluctant to talk about their process, let alone film it. Why is being transparent important? 

I don’t have a particularly strong opinion on this. However, I think that it’s important to do what feels right for you as a maker and a designer. Keeping some sort of mystery in the execution of a project can be extremely inspiring. That said, so can watching DIY videos on YouTube.  
RUST by Ariane Prin.
For more information on 2017's Material of the Year contact Jodi on jodi@zetteler.co.uk.
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