RCA Graduate Jie Wu Seeks to Elevate Value of Plastic
Blocks of resin with colourful marble-like patterns surround chunks of wood to form these miniature storage boxes by Royal College of Art graduate Jie Wu.
The 17 containers, called ‘Living in the Anthropocene’, were created during Wu’s time on the Textiles MA programme at the RCA, with the aim of the project to explore society’s relationship with natural and manmade materials, and in particular the perceived values of those materials.
“The central premise to my creative practice is to elevate our perceptions of synthetic materials and their potential,” Wu explained to Dezeen. “My father deals with antiques, and watching the care with which each precious ornament is passed down from generation to generation got me thinking about what will become antiques of the present day.”
“I wanted to use plastic and reconfigure it in such a way that it can be thought of as a timeless treasure,” she continued. “As I continue to develop my creative practice, I hope my approach to resin making can be considered with a similar appreciation to how we view other more traditional long-lasting organic materials, such as marble.”
Wu is able to create the boxes by casting a special and rare type of antique rosewood in resin made up of different colours. The type of wood is found in a remote village in China and has a prolonged growth cycle. The locals used this wood for FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) and wood-burning.
“They didn’t realise the preciousness of the forest,” she explained. “For me, these precious woods are themselves a piece of art, and I hope they can be valued by people.”
The blocks of wood and resin are cut using a CNC machine – a complex process that Wu said takes over 20 hours. After this, the containers are polished to create a high-gloss finish.
“Their marble-like patterns are born out of the wrestling dance of the organic and the plastic,” she explained.
“I made these non-recyclable materials into new art pieces. The way that I see it, a material can arguably be considered ‘sustainable’ if it is valued and useful for decades to come.”
Wu hopes to continue developing the collection, adding larger pieces, such as furniture and ornaments.