Material Knowledge is a once a month peer-led activity held at the Cubitt Education Studio for School for Artist Educator participants, friends, artists and others.

The first session on Monday 31st October 2011 involved some hands-on exploration of bookbinding techniques, making notebooks and sketchbooks.

Future sessions will provide the opportunity to work together to think about other techniques, skills and materials to develop new ideas and skills for direct use in educational projects and artists' own work.

A basic technique was demonstrated and the artists were quick in their response to create individual and innovative design if their own.

The evening was an informal yet industrious affair fuelled by tea, clementines, flap-jacks and classical music and everyone ended the session with some finished products ready for use.

The value of gathering together to share practical, social and philosophical ideas never depreciates and it is easy to see why this tradition has stood the test of time.

The next event will be on Monday 5th Dec 2011 5-7pm.

Screenprinting DIY Style Continued

April’s Material Knowledge session explored printmaking further. Without either daylight or the investment of a UV set-up, the photosensitive technique of burning screens proved a little tricky for our late Winter evening class.

For those who wish to explore this further, there are 2 main methods to choose from:


1) Drawing Fluid

  • This is a more direct approach than using the photosensitive method
  • Better for beginners
  • Easier to facilitate a workshop with
  • The amount of detail depends on the skill of the artist
  • The screen can be quite easily washed for re-use with less hazardous chemicals used
  • A positive image is created so what you see is what you get


2) Photosensitive Emulsion

  • A high contrast image needs to be prepared
  • Suitable for those more experienced
  • Difficult to facilitate a workshop without a specialist set-up with UV bulbs or good sunlight
  • There is potential for greater detail
  • More hazardous chemicals are required for production and washing
  • A negative image is produced so how this translates needs to be considered

However, we continued experimenting with the materials to hand with a sense of freedom that our inexpensive equipment gave.

It was found that the finer the gauze material, the finer detail could be achieved with some lovely crisp lines being produced using a silk scarf over a wooden frame as a screen.

It is also possible to print onto textiles quite easily using the same method for paper with acrylic paint mixed with a textile medium. You can blend the paint to any colour you choose, as normal, adding the textile medium afterwards at an easily remembered ratio of 1 part paint : 1 part medium or in simpler terms, equal amounts.

Stencils need to be cut from a thin sheet to avoid paint or ink leaking underneath and using an acetate sheet spray mounted onto the screen gives more durability.

Lino & Mono Printing

 Our Material Knowledge exploration of printmaking ended on Monday 11th June with a quick look at 2 other simple printmaking techniques.

I particularly enjoyed lino cutting which is an enjoyable process in itself. The cut is then inked up and used to make prints. These prints can be works of art or used to print your own bespoke cards, envelopes, tags, notebooks and wrapping paper. I will definitely be taking some time over the Summer to develop my lino printing skills with the intention of creating some hand-made gifts and unique wrapping paper for a more personal (and economical) touch.

We attained some reasonable results with ready mixed paint and paint brushes but for best results use print block ink on glass (or stiff plastic) with a roller.


Along with countless inspirational images on the web and YouTube demonstrations, a useful lino cutting instruction sheet for workshops can be found at:


For monoprinting see:


This is a more direct method than lino or screen printing, useful for artists who are more comfortable with spontaneous drawing and painting. It is more important to have the correct medium for this as fine lines and details were obliterated when the paper was placed on top using both ready mixed and acrylic paint, oil paint worked best in experiments but comes with the problem of needing white spirit for cleaning equipment and fumes.

From Sheet To Form

July’s Material Knowledge session began an exploration from 2D to 3D forms and was inspired by the brilliant and gorgeous book ‘Folding Techniques For Designers, From Sheet To Form’ by Paul Jackson.


As is the custom for Material Knowledge experiments, the materials were kept very minimal so that the focus was on the form.

What can be achieved with the ubiquitous white A4 sheet of paper with a little time and imagination?

We kicked off with a simple exercise in learning how to fold an equally proportioned concertina from any size sheet of paper without having to use a ruler…

  • Fold your sheet of portrait oriented paper in half, unfold
  • Fold both edges to the centre line, unfold
  • Fold the bottom edge of the paper to the top crease, turn sheet around and repeat, unfold
  • Fold the bottom edge of the paper to the first crease, turn sheet around and repeat, unfold
  • Mark alternate creases beginning with the first
  • Fold the bottom edge of the paper to all 4 marks in turn, turn sheet around and repeat
  • You should now have a sheet of paper that has been equally divided into 16 sections. This can easily be folded into a neat and precise concertina or folded further into 32 or 64 equal sections or manipulated in other ways to create interesting forms.

This exercise gives a renewed appreciation for the simplest of materials such as our plain A4 sheet of paper. Through creativity it became beautiful and sculptural, capable of supporting quite heavy loads, inspiration for new and more 3D shapes, duplicated for modular construction, cut for even strips of paper or cut in other ways to create new shapes.

To make a cylinder, cut one section off and glue one end of the concertina to another. Try selective gluing of sections to make pleats. Try other materials, paper could be a first step prototype.

We also discussed how this exercise could be translated into an educational workshop, identifying possible challenges and applications. Dexterity came top of the list, at what age can children manage this task? Perhaps if they were primary school age working in pairs or groups would be better so that tasks can be allocated to different members? Or working on a larger scale making it is less fiddly for little fingers and creating a sculptural piece? Maybe each team could make one or several sections of a modular whole?

Modular Structures

The Autumn Material Knowledge term started on Monday 10th September by exploring modular building. This is an easy way to construct quickly and can utilise multiples of existing and found objects or you can create your own.

When browsing for materials for this session I was immediately drawn to some contrasting blocks of plasticine. My inner child squealed with delight at the prospect of handling this wonderful material again and my artist educator agreed that this was a practical choice that could be applied to a broad range of projects, ages and abilities. This childhood classic allows a tactile 3D experience with minimal mess and comes in a great range of colours showing the movement of the makers hand embedded in the object.

I rolled 21 white balls and 21 black balls to begin with and using cocktail sticks to join them together started assembling. I recommend using a board so that projects can be easily transported to safe storage. I had no fixed idea of what I was going to make when the basic framework of a chair appeared.

Plucky Bucky

October’s Material Knowledge session continued exploring modular structures and was inspired by one of the most famous modular structure designs – the Geodesic Dome


A geodesic dome is usually made up of a number of triangle shaped modules that are not all the same. These triangles can be a frame with a membrane placed over the top or solid. An example is the Epcot (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) Centre housed within the Walt Disney theme park complex, Florida USA


This invention is usually accredited to the design legend Buckminster Fuller (Bucky) as it was his modified design on an earlier version that was granted a US patent and popularised.

After several personal disasters Buckminster abandoned the mantra of his upbringing “Never mind what you think. Listen. We are trying to teach you!” (1) and committed his life’s work to the benefit of all humanity through a process of personal observation and experimentation. Learning most from his mistakes and funding his work through spontaneous offers from interested parties, he never promoted or sold his ideas or allowed others to do so. He believed that if a genuine need for his inventions existed they would be integrated into human affairs by evolution. If no need existed, he would conclude that what he had invented must be the wrong thing and try again. 


With the awareness that not all of the triangles should be the same for a geodesic dome, we cut and started to attach triangle modules made out of cardboard to observe what happens if they are. Making and attaching our modules was quite a labour intensive process, with only two of us working on this project in a 2hr time limit.

However in this time we learned that the structure had more flexibility with the joints on the outside and is more rigid with the joints on the inside. This observation could be applied to suit the need of a particular project. As the structure grew, it became obvious that the double sided tape being used was not strong enough to hold it, so wanting to carry on building with these modules next month,  I recommend using split pins on both ends of the edge for a stronger bond. The advantage of these is that you can dismantle the structure afterwards and use the modules and pins to build another shape. 

Booking for this event has now closed.