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The Obsidian Project: Revaluation

Made by: Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta Materials: synthetic obsidian
As Part of the Wallpaper* Handmade exhibition, Dutch artists Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta of Studio Drift present an eloquent, seemingly alchemical response to the world’s excessive chemical waste problem, highlighting a solution to its increasing threat.

Marking a new direction in their work, the Obsedian Project, a highly polished and reflective black, organically formed mirror made from synthetic obsidian will be exhibited in Milan.

Since 2007, Studio Drift's focus has been to create a dialogue between nature and technology, creating awareness of how these two apparent opposites can work together. As a direct result of their research process for the production of this mirror, Studio Drift is keen to emphasize this almost alchemical, 'something from nothing' characteristic of synthetic obsidian and to highlight a dialogue about the ethical responsibility of creating solutions for worldwide problems. The mirror is symbolic of the potential of the meeting between technology and creative thinking to produce a solution to the world’s problems: as we look into its sensuous curves, the face of our own chemical responsibility reflects back to us.

Synthetic Obsidian comes from an ingenious process of waste management in which the conditions of a volcano are imitated in an industrial oven, recycling difficult chemical waste. This process was invented in, and has been operational since, 1972. In stages, the oven temperatures rise and match those of the melting points of different raw materials such as gold, mercury and silver, which are then extracted in liquid form. All gasses released are kept, purified, cooled and recycled. With an emission of just 0.1 percent, this method is the most safe and clean way of recycling raw chemical materials in the world.

The ash and residue that remain from this process are then reheated and subjected to a process of vitrification, restructuring the molecules into the homogenous, stable and beautiful black glass that is synthetic obsidian. Much of Studio Drift's long process of researching the production of these sensual, black mirrors has been groundbreaking. Studio Drift has been making initial research into the properties of moulding and working with this substance: the first mirror is the starting point in an ongoing process of research.