yuval harel’s ceramic tiles revalue the union of raw clay with metal

yuval harel celebrates the alchemy of metal and clay

In her ongoing research examining the inherent relationship between clay and metal, Yuval Harel unravels the unexpected possibilities and values ​​the materials hold. Celebrating their harmonious aesthetic and functional transfigurations, ‘Terra Alchemy’ reverses the separate manmade states of clay and metal back to their found connections, reducing their relationship to the use of oxides for dying ceramics.

The project culminates as a series of small tiles that reunite metal and clay in different combinations and phases of their life cycle through accelerated processes of corrosion, oxidization, and sintering. The delicate experimental outcomes, supplemented with a research findings book, together unveil a new potential of the alchemy of the materials, allowing the use of the attributes of metals in new forms, spaces, and contexts.

tiles showcasing copper clay sintered into ceramics | all images courtesy Yuval Harel

revaluing the inherent relationship between the found materials

Clay and metal minerals are both components of stone. As metals corrode, they return to their original natural states, meanwhile ceramics, when fired, sinter and return to stone. Though this composition and decomposition takes several years, they remain in ceaseless motion.

Accelerating these processes in intentional ways, Yuval Harel’s material research project implements 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’ gives rise to a visual archive displaying these new valuable relationships between metal and clay and their unique material properties.

dyed ceramic tiles by yuval harel revalue the union of raw clay with metal through oxidization & corrosion
copper can be used for conductivity within the tiles

With 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 different ratios, creating a more raw, unruly outcome. Besides just adding color, the process affects the texture and structure of the clay and opens up possibilities to utilize discarded oxidizing metals that are considered of lesser value instead of the refined, store bought oxide powders.

Alternatively, her second technique combines metal with clay and experiments with different firing and melting methods. Finding middle grounds between the two temperatures, here Harel mixes in copper fibers and works with metal clay — a material made from metal powder and an organic powder that denigrates during the firing process, going through a transformation of beautiful colors, and leaving behind a fully sintered metal.

dyed ceramic tiles by yuval harel revalue the union of raw clay with metal through oxidization & corrosion
as metal is oxidized directly onto raw clay, new ratios bring about unruly textures and structures

dyed ceramic tiles by yuval harel revalue the union of raw clay with metal through oxidization & corrosion
left to right: copper clay tile in carbon firing, copper tile in torch firing, and oxidized copper tile

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