Personal Making Assignment 5: Materials

This is a two part assignment investigating the materiality of objects. In the first part, you will write a paragraph response to objects we will see in our Benton Museum visit in class on Tuesday, April 9. In the second part, you will collect 5 every day objects that could be valuable design materials, but might be often overlooked.

Part I: A material conversation

In our age of the internet, we often only see digital representations of physical objects–photographs or scans on our Instagram feeds or on museum websites. First, take a look at the PDF digital presentations of the objects we will encounter during our Benton Visit. Pick one object for your Part I reflection. It could be the one that immediately visually stands out to you, one that intrigues you, one that you dislike—any object that draws you in. Search for the object online in the permanent collections database to get a higher quality resolution image. Then, take a few notes on your intial thoughts:

  • What is the medium of this object? Why do you think the artist chose this medium?
  • How does looking at this object make you feel? How do you relate to it?
  • Why do you think this object was made?
  • What materials do you think the artist used, and how do you think they used them?

During our visit, as we physically encounter these objects, take time to look closely at your chosen object. Have these questions in mind to answer later:

  • Now that you are physically engaging with object, what do you notice that you didn’t notice before when engaging solely with the digital representation?
  • Have your initial impressions or relationship with the object changed?
  • What are the material qualities of this object? How is the texture? Is it shinier or more matte than you expected?

Write a paragraph response that includes

  1. The name of the object, artist, and medium
  2. Your initial thoughts from looking at a digital representation of the object
  3. Your thoughts after physically encountering the object
  4. A general reflection of what, if anything, you think is lost when going from the physical to the digital archive. What do you think is the best way to keep digital records of art? How can we honor materials?

Note: if you need to miss class for whatever reason in our museum visit day, feel free to choose any object on display currently in the museum and write your paragraph about that instead.

Part II: Bricoluer

Bricolage: construction or creation from a diverse range of available things. Derived from the French verb bricoler (“to tinker”)

There are so many things in our world. Some of these things are fixed (and often useful or valuable in their current shape and form, such as your laptop or chair), while others are eager to be reshaped, reconfigured, and reimagined. What are the raw creative materials around us that you may take and remake?

In your accessible landscape (e.g., your room, closet, kitchen, garden, laboratory, dumpster, sidewalk, etc.), conduct a scanvenger hunt to locate and document 5 unique artifacts to serve as materials for prototyping. The materials

  • Should be physical
  • Should be reconfigurable (i.e., don’t steal a coffee maker that’s in use to take apart, but you could steal a coffee filter)
  • Should be unique (i.e., not 5 pieces of differently colored paper)

In general, if someone is not likely to notice or care that the object is gone, you can appropriate it as a material for this assignment.

Take photos of these 5 materials and label them with what they are and where you found them. Add this to your paragraph reflection from Part I. Bring the 5 materials to class on Tuesday, April 16: we’ll design with them!

Grading & Submission

On Canvas, a PDF that contains:

  • Your reflection paragraph from your Benton visit on the difference between digital representations and physical form
  • Your 5 found materials + a description of each

Estimated/expected time: I expect this project to take no more than 2 hours outside of class time: 1 hour for your pre and post reflections, and 1 hour to gather materials. The bulk of this assignment will be during class time (e.g., visiting the Benton, and designing as a class with our collective found materials.)


  • ✓+ : Reflection paragraph shows insights and high engagement with the piece; materials are unique, unexpected, and interesting
  • ✓ : Reflection paragraph shows good effort in thought; materials are unique, unexpected, or interesting
  • ✓- : Reflection paragraph is generic; materials are generic things you can pick up from the Hive