yuval harel celebrates the alchemy of metal and clay
In her ongoing research, she examines the inherent relationship between sound and metal, Yuval Harel unravels the unexpected possibilities and appreciations of materials. Celebrating their harmonious aesthetic and functional transformation, Terra Alchemy returns the separate man-made states of clay and metal to their found compounds, reducing their relationship to the use of oxides to die pottery.
The project culminates in a series of small tiles that reunite metal and clay in different combinations and stages of their life cycle through accelerated corrosion, oxidation and sintering processes. The fine experimental results, complemented by a book of research findings, together reveal a new potential in the alchemy of materials, allowing the properties of metals to be used in new forms, spaces and contexts.
Tiles with copper tone sintered in ceramic | all images courtesy of Yuval Harel
Reassessing the inherent relationship between the materials found
Clay and metal minerals are both components of rock. When metals corrode, they revert to their original natural states, while ceramics sinter and turn back to stone when fired. Although this construction and dismantling takes several years, they remain in constant motion.
Yuval Harel’s materials research project intentionally accelerates these processes, employing two techniques of accelerated corrosion, oxidation and sintering. these experiments, the artist argues, can change the way we understand, consume and work with these materials. Ultimately, Terra Alchemy is a visual archive that showcases these new precious relationships between metal and clay and their unique material properties.
Copper can be used for conductivity within the tiles
Using her first experimental technique, Yuval Harel oxidizes metals, including steel and iron, directly onto clay, allowing it to absorb the oxides. The clay and oxides are brought together in varying proportions, creating a rawer, unruly result. Aside from just adding color, the process affects the texture and structure of the clay and opens up opportunities to use discarded oxidizing metals that are considered less valuable, rather than the refined, store-bought oxide powders.
Alternatively, her second technique combines metal with clay and experiments with different firing and melting methods. In search of a middle ground between the two temperatures, Harel here mixes in copper fibers and works with Metal Clay – a material made from powdered metal and an organic powder, which during the firing process denigrates, undergoing a transformation of beautiful colors and leaving a fully sintered metal.
As metal is oxidized directly onto raw clay, new ratios bring out unruly textures and structures
from left to right: coal-fired copper clay bricks, torch-fired copper bricks, and oxidized copper bricks