Future Materials Bank

Future Materials Bank at the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht

The Future Materials Bank is is a meeting place of materials for artists that propose sustainable, biodegradable or non-toxic alternatives. It has been initiated by the Nature Research department at the Jan van Eyck Academie, in collaboration with the MA Materials Futures at Central St Martins in London. It aims to provide inspiration to artists on how to cultivate a more holistic, non-toxic and sustainable artistic practice. The Future Materials Bank is our ongoing research and continuous attempt to keep on learning how to make better informed choices about the materials we use.  You can enter the digital database to browse materials and projects via www.futurematerialsbank.com

Future Materials Lab at the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht

The knowledge, materials, processes and research developed as part of the project is disseminated through hands-on workshops by partners. Because all gala partners can add materials to the database it becomes our collective effort to accelerate a global shift towards the usage of artists’ materials that don’t negatively impact the environment – or our human health.

Material Categories

  • Glues and polymers
  • Pigments and dyes
  • Biomaterials
  • Eco-synthetics
  • Textiles and Fibres

Materials Policy

The Future Materials Bank guides artists through the plethora of available alternatives. Selecting sustainable materials is tricky. Materials often don’t consist of just one component or the supply chain might be very un-transparent. This makes that often there is no direct answer to whether a material is ‘future-proof’ and if it will still be relevant in our imagined sustainable future. For instance: we know plastic is a damaging material for our environment, releasing micro-plastics into our oceans, soil and even our own body. Should we even then still work with recycled plastics that help deal with managing this waste? Or another example: how sustainable is an organic raw material that has been grown and harvested on the other side of the world, but is still shipped and therefore has a big carbon footprint?  To bring those different focus points together and create a more holistic overview of the materials we created a list of questions that we asked ourselves before adding the materials to the database:

USABILITY

  • Is it a material that is relevant for an artistic practice
  • Does the material have a negative impact on human health? For instance: does it irritate the skin or lungs?
  • Is it affordable and available for artists?
  • Are there any copyrights or patents on this material or are we allowed to share the recipe and share the knowledge?
  • Transparency; how easy can we check the social and environmental credentials?

ENVIRONMENTAL FRIENDLY

  • Is the material organically grown?
  • What is the environmental footprint in terms of distance: is this material available locally or even: can it be made at home?
  • Does it contain VOC’s or chemical compounds?
  • Where and how are the raw materials sourced?
  • Has the material been tested on animals or does it contain animal products?
  • Is the material circular?
  • Is the material (or any ingredients) certified with any ‘eco’ labels? 
  • How much water has been used in the process of making the material?

SOCIAL CIRCUMSTANCES

  • Do people working on this receive a fair wage throughout the supply chain?
  • What are the working conditions?
  • Was there any child labour in the process of making of this material?
  • Were traditional and civic rights respected in the making of this material?
  • Is it a craft/technique with important cultural value?

AFTERLIFE

  • What are the possibilities of recycling this material?
  • What are the possibilities of upcycling this material?
  • What is the lifecycle of the material? How often does it need to be replaced?
  • Does the material biodegrade?