The ‘The Soft Side of Steel’ is a research into fabrication processes and a study of material properties. The project transforms an existing material, steel fibres into flexible sheets, which are explored within the traditional fields of textiles and metalwork. The process started from a unconventional and immediate engagement with materials and tools, cumulating in a refined process involving and partnering up with diverse parties within the industry of manufacturing and production.
The project explores alternative processes of making and challenges existing manufacturers in the industry to work in an unconventional way, combining industries in order to innovate. Through this project we explore the question, what if welders would become tailors and instead of producing industrial goods manufacture domestic products.
The aim for this project was to create a series of objects that take advantage of steel and its contradicting states. Through this exploration steel has become soft and warm, and it can be welded to steel that is cold and hard creating a haptic contradiction. Furthermore, through adopting traditional welding techniques, objects can be created entirely through the same material, displaying different performances according to where it is utilised. In addition, the flexible textile can be hardened in defined areas through seam welding in order to create structure, offering a unique quality to both the material and process.
The work is driven from a blacksmith’s perspective with a tailor’s ideology
Sciaky Electric Welding Machines Ltd. Slough, UK
The Woolly Shepherd Ltd. Taunton, UK
The initial starting point for this project was a basic brief focused on joints. This led to the research into the notion of welding as a joint in the context of the steel industry, and questioning what the forms of steel are, what are its states and where do we encounter the material. Through exploring domestic environments we found the steel sponge, which is commonly used for cleaning because of its abrasive qualities and became fascinated by how steel is usually perceived as a material that is solid, brutal and structured. By scrutinising the wire sponge, we found the structure to be contradictory, steel but simultaneously sponge-like in its state. This posed the question, what would happen if one was to weld a steel sponge, and the exploration of ways in which the fibres could be connected began. Spot welding proved particularly effective as the material becomes heated, melted and welded in one small and precise area. An exploration into ways in which this technique could be applied on a larger scale - such as a textile - followed. Through research into alternative steel cleaning materials we found steel wool, a material with visible and tactile similarities to traditional sheep wool. This led to a research into felting, where we discovered that needle punching, most often used in sheep wool felting, could be adapted for the production of our steel textile.