Worth the Weight by Oscar Medley-Whitfield


Worth the Weight by Oscar Medley-Whitfield

New Designers 2011: as the value of copper increases, product design graduate Oscar Medley-Whitfield has minted a range of copper-bullion bowls so investors can display their assets at home.

His Worth the Weight project involved finding a suitable low-tech way to cast copper in the teaching workshops at Kingston University.

Worth the Weight by Oscar Medley-Whitfield

The material tends to absorb oxygen when molten then become aerated and brittle when cooled - not very useful for making ingots.

Worth the Weight by Oscar Medley-Whitfield

He settled on a traditional Japanese technique, shown in the movie above, where molten copper is poured into a cloth inside a pan of boiling water.

Worth the Weight by Oscar Medley-Whitfield

This slows the cooling process and reduces the amount of oxygen incorporated, resulting in a pure and dense casting.

Worth the Weight by Oscar Medley-Whitfield

Medley-Whitfield developed the project in his final year and presented it at graduate show New Designers, which took place in London from 6 to 9 July. He also showed a series of benches that rely on each other for supportSee all our stories about New Designers 2011 here.

Worth the Weight by Oscar Medley-Whitfield

The details below are from Oscar Medley-Whitfield:

Worth the Weight
The un-Final Collection

Worth The Weight is a project driven by an insight into the worth and projected worth of the commodity, copper.

Worth the Weight by Oscar Medley-Whitfield

It is an experimental, material and process lead project that is focused around developing a method of casting which is suitable for copper.

Worth the Weight by Oscar Medley-Whitfield

Copper is a difficult metal to cast with as it has a tendency to absorb up to 100% of is own volume in oxygen when in its molten state.

Worth the Weight by Oscar Medley-Whitfield

This makes it extremely hard to get refined results from the casting processes as the additional oxygen creates air pockets leaving the finished object with an aerated texture and brittle composite. For these reasons copper is little cast within industry.

Worth the Weight by Oscar Medley-Whitfield

The cloth mould water casting process tackles the issues surrounding copper casting in a number of ways. The lack of oxygen in water ensures a more refined surface finish then conventional moulds. It also supplies a slower cooling process, which gives the metal a dense concentration.

Worth the Weight by Oscar Medley-Whitfield

Although the bowls are presented and finished as a final collection they are in no way demonstrations of cloth mould water castings full potential. Each bowl is a show of slight variation on the process and with each variation comes new opportunity for process refinement.

  • Tim

    From a slighly different perspective, but same idea: Investment of 10 kilos copper. http://tobias-sieber.de/work/kupferleuchte.html. Exhibited at DMY Berlin 2011

  • Leon

    It's just a bad executed attempt at water casting. This is where he learned it:
    (Why not give some credit Oscar?) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUVUYH_vvZE
    and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGMj7o6AwnM (>2:30)

    • Jean-Sébastien

      Thanks for the Utsushi link. This guy is awesome.

  • Dexter

    Whats with the bad vibes Leon?

    Oscar clearly says in the last paragraph that the bowls are in know way a representation of water castings full potential and that they're more about the journey he's taken in experimenting with the process.

    At least he's trying something interesting and relatively unknown, I don't know many people who have heard of water casting. I'm sure if he continues to refine his skills at water casting the insight from these experiments will help him make something truly exquisite.

    • Leon

      "I'm sure if he continues to refine his skills at water casting the insight from these experiments will help him make something truly exquisite."
      So we agree about this being a 'first step'? Why then should one present it as Art, or even worse; 'a Project'?
      If it is not finished it is not worth showing.
      Just stamps on scrap heap parts.

  • ….. and see the project in the flesh alongside other experiments in casting and moulding at The Aram Gallery from 28th July.

    Prototypes & Experiments VI: Casts & Moulds
    28th July – 27th August 2011
    110 Drury Lane, Covent Garden, WC2B 5SG

  • Dexter,
    the point I believe Leon was making was that this process as demonstrated by Oscar is not at all the result of his experimentation or research (unless a few minutes googling is now regarded as research). Oscar is simply copying a process he asked me about directly in an email last May. The rest of the details are available on youtube and my picasa gallery, both of which I directed Oscar to when he contacted me. That none of this was considered worth mentioning is, to me at least, less than entirely honest.

    And Leon's right…. these are essentially failures as regards water cast copper ingots go. It seems anything can pass as art nowadays ;-)

    as for the journey he's evidently taken in exploring the potential in this process …all I can say is that it's been a very short trip ;-)


    Ford Hallam

  • Julio

    This is an example of what is wrong with "contemporary arts". It is almost as if associating oneself to a tradition must be done via some arcane connection that lends marketing weight and potential. No link must be made to any actual contemporary practitioners who might have done the work as required under a formal tradition to learn the curriculum of in this case Japanese classical metalwork.

    Mr. Medley Whitfield has not developed anything, he has simply contacted Mr. Ford Hallam privately, picked his brains and the fruits of his work in this field and then made no effort to credit him whatsoever if this blog article is anything to go by. That is where the bad vibes are created. Is it too much of a shame to admit that you might have learned something via the efforts of someone else because this person doesn't happen to be Japanese? Last I knew it is only polite and good form to quote and use references where they exist in any sort of scholarly work. At risk of repeating myself, this as it stands is just a crass attempt to emulate a technique and risk being labelled am example of plagiarism.
    Taking the work of others with no real regard for what might be the reaction of professionals who have opened their door to Mr. Medley Whitfield certainly would not encourage congratulations but opprobrium from people associated with any parties affected and as such Leon and myself happen to be associated in one way or another through friendship with Mr. Hallam. It would be interesting perhaps to hear what Kingston University might have to say about this.

    Because descriptions of this process have been made available to the public this does not make them free of any sort of licensing responsibility and whilst under creative commons Mr. Whitfield can use this for his research it does not absolve him from the responsibility to quote accurately. Mr. Hallam wouldn't be the only person affected by this as other serious researchers have done lab work to compare several techniques for the production of traditional Japanese copper alloys but giving these sources would probably expose the other gentlemen to being placed in a similar position for the benefit of someone else's artistic ego.

    I recently demonstrated myself at an event in Kent said water casting techniques. Seeings as I have studied and consider myself a student of Mr. Hallam and consider to have learned what little I know about this from him, it was only natural to ask him to sanction anything I might impart on other people related to what he has given kindly and with no financial requirements from his part.

    Maybe if the gentleman in question had bothered to be gracious he might have actually learned how to make something truly exquisite out of his experiments, for as they are they completely miss the point of what water casting is about, but I'm sure the masses of uneducated appreciators will still use their armchair expertise to laud and praise the underachievements of someone who has clearly gone for glory with little effort… you know, as you do these days with most things.

    Had he gone about it differently perhaps we at the "following the iron brush forum" would be cheering on him and lauding his efforts should they merit it and that is what this is about.

  • Julio

    Yes, I have often heard that from people who are too lazy to give credit.

    If you couldn't be bothered to read to the last line I also said we over at the forum would be celebrating his efforts had he shown a little bit of integrity. Seeking to flatter anyone by copying does not in any reality absolve anyone.

    And yes we will continue to encourage and share with honest individuals and shut the door on the noses of those who aren't.

    Because the modern approach includes a sense of DIY and damn everything else it does not make it an example of good work if you go it that way. Perhaps it has escaped your notice but until the industrial revolution no secrets or methods were shared in the arts and crafts unless you happened to belong, this wasn't just to preserve a livelihood but to ensure that standards were upheld. And seeing as what we are talking about and trying to do is arts and crafts it would only benefit the overall majority of practitioners if they were to observe similar standards. Unfortunately that is not what contemporary "arts" are about.

    It's the attitude of such individuals that put traditions at risk, and not the ossified part of traditions but the dynamic part of it. The part that requires a commitment to the continuum and dedication regardless of what your corpus of work might end up looking like. Have you ever wondered then why so few apprentices are accepted under such hard core traditions? No wonder doors are shut to the majority because of the lack of integrity of a few. And if you think this is about my or Mr Hallam's ego you would be wrong. My personal relationship with these techniques come through Ford Hallam but at all times I'm aware of my responsibility towards Izumi Sensei and all the gentlemen who made it possible for me to have a chance to learn this, and I will always make sure that is at the forefront when it comes to giving credit.

    I'm sorry if that's hard to understand to the contemporary mindset but I suppose you have to be lazy to fail to comprehend the importance of continuity. Do we want in 100 years time Oscar's work as representative of what water casting should be like? No! Do we want him to experiment and develop the technique in his search for self expression? Yes! So long as it is grounded on solid principles from which his experiments might evolve.

    • Hannah

      I did bother to read your final sentence, and saw it purely as a way of plugging your own website.

  • Oscar MW

    Thanks for all the interest in my work.

    The process was a means to executing a concept. My aim was to create copper investment / bullion items where it is essential that the material retains all its re-workable qualities. The ancient technique of cloth-mold water casting was the best way to do this. I submitted this work as part of my degree at Kingston University in which full credit was given to my sources, including Ford Hallam but more especially the informative report at http://shura.shu.ac.uk/971/. So any accusation of academic plagiarism is libelous.

    The description of the work as “failures” is discouraging, although I think that the point of the work has been missed. People can go to the Aram Gallery to make up their own mind.

    • Grounded

      I think my friend you have been victim to the “failure” of others to be kind and gracious. Instead they are more worried about self recognition and some form of ownership over something they have also learnt from others.

      We are all here on earth to be happy, make, create and share. It’s a pity they commented on your work like that. The fact you are being creative and learning from traditional techniques, is great.

      I hope their comments didn’t sway you from continuing your work and believing in yourself.