Why Anna Parker loves chip foam, rough cast concrete and CNC sheet cutting fabrication
Enabling our research into low-cost CNC sheet cutting fabrication, Valchromat is a textured and colourful MDF, made of softwood waste and dyed with organic and non-toxic colours. We used it for our volunteer programme ‘make:it_brum’, a collaboration with Arup in Birmingham, where we worked with local school children to design and build a pavilion to further insights into careers in design and construction. For our latest project we tested its structural capabilities and developed our own angular jig pieces to create a self-supporting enclosure just in Valchromat. The spectrum of tones offers interesting experiential properties too.
Chip foam, a lightweight, high density recycled foam, can be used in many ways. We appropriated it to use as backdrop infills and seat cushions, for its acoustic properties and its softness for seating, for an exhibition we designed and made recently in a local Birmingham gallery, Grand Union. We were searching for a material which would add warmth and comfort to an open plan gallery, as well as a pop of colour (we went for pink) with interesting terrazzo-like flecks providing an almost kaleidoscopic effect, to contrast with the joinery framework which we built in blond birch ply.
We took part in an artists’ show at Centrala in Birmingham, and wanted to recreate domestic objects from the home dematerialised within an immersive installation that we built. For this we tested alternate rough casting concrete recreations from latex mouldings. Through this process we embraced the handmade and mis-shapen versions of a traditional construction material such as concrete, and have since specified kitchen worktops to have a similar character of roughness and imperfection to create an informal and crafted effect. When we made the cast objects, our concrete bar of soap also pleasantly retained the fresh smell.