DUST MATTER(s) is a case study by Lucie Libotte that examines a common discarded matter – domestic dust – to innovate a new type of glaze for ceramics. Her works aims to share a new understanding of value making in the field of material innovation.

Her initial intention was not to use dust as a decorative dye. It was through experimentations and collaborations with scientists that she came across the idea to work with the non-organic elements of the dust. Ceramic proved to be the most suitable medium to research new techniques of reusing dust. Through her experimentations, she accidentally realised that some of the dust components chemically react like ceramic glaze. That is because some of the ingredients of the ceramic glaze can be found in our domestic environment.

Domestic dust has never been considered valuable as a material and it has had problematic connotations in the context of social behaviours, health, environment and science. Challenging those issues through design intrigued Libotte. The attitude toward this substance can then be then potentially redefined entirely: re-orientating the way domestic dust is perceived and integrating it into accessible use.

When burned in the kiln, domestic dust goes under a ‘purification’ process: dust changes state. Her process involves treating dust inside ceramic pots. When closed, the pots create a locally reduced atmosphere: that is, they concentrate the effects of salts, metal oxides and other materials on the surface of their ware. When the pot gets to a high temperature, the organic components start to burn away, leaving the non-organic particles and a chemical reaction, which creates a glaze. Each dust-glazed piece offers an element of surprise, derived from the transformation of these unwanted grey particles into colours, textures and structures.

Libotte invites people to realise that dust is a reflection of our daily use of an environment, whether natural or built, a material projection of our passage and the traces we live behind.
No dust is identical to another. As a result, each of the ceramic objects will have a different identity, reflecting the space they are created from.

Lucie Libotte is an artist and designer using material as a starting point for wide-ranging explorations. Through uncommon materials and techniques, her works explore people’s materials behaviour, in particular, their attitudes towards the ‘unwanted.’ Find out more about her works here.

Article by Els Zijlstra