From Filters to Tables- How Ceramic Foam is coming out of the shadows and into our homes.
by Adele Orcajada
When we think of ceramic the words that come to mind are hard, stiff, heavy, or solid. On the other hand, when we think of foam the way we would describe it tends to be along the lines of lightweight, soft, squishy, airy. So what happens when the two are put together to produce a material called Ceramic Foam?
How is Ceramic Foam used traditionally?
Ceramic foams can be produced using a range of ceramic materials, and are usually considered in STEM– Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine –applications. These include hot gas or molten metal filters, biomedical applications, thermal insulation, absorption of environmental pollutants and catalyst support. Generally, ceramics such as alumina, cordierite, mullite and zirconia are being used for foams, as well as other non-oxides such as silicon carbide and aluminum nitride.
What are the properties of Ceramic Foam?
Ceramic foams are made up of a lightweight yet robust three-dimensional network of struts or walls. The material behaves somewhat similarly to porcelain or china, but is much stronger due to the porous, open structure created by the air bubbles, called windows, that are interspersed throughout out. In contrast, the struts are solid and fully dense, providing high strength and chemical resistance.
Decorative Ceramic Foam
Aside from these wonderful technical properties, this combination of cavities and struts create a wonderfully textured, aesthetic and organic looking material that designers and artists worldwide are finding hard to resist.
One of these artists is Jordan Keaney, a product designer based in London who is passionate about creating lighting, furniture and home accessories with innovative materials that are not traditionally used in these sectors. His work results in unique artifacts that strike a perfect balance between being both highly sculptural, and functional.
The British Council of Art and Design, spurred by the overarching theme for the 2018 Venice Biennale of ‘Free Space’, commissioned a cohort of British artists, including Jordan Keaney, to represent how space is negotiated in the city of Venice, drawing from natural elements such as light and the waterways, as well as the craftsmanship behind man-made structure such as canals, bridges and gondolas.
Meaning 'Tail' in Italian, Coda is the beautiful side table that Jordan Keaney produced as a response to this brief. Inspired by the tail of Venetian gondolas and the sea foam that they float on top of, he chose ceramic foam to represent this bubbly water that appears all along the canals.
The tabletop is made out of three layers of ceramic foam that allow light to filter through the porous structure, creating stunning shadows, all atop a natural marble base. The protagonism of the foam and marble is enhanced by the simple, minimalist design of the table. To add to the natural play with light, Jordan coated the foam with metallic spray paint that replicates aluminum and brass, creating a subtle and elegant shine.
The result is a timeless piece full of sensory details, which will transport you to Venice, on a journey across it’s canals, through the designer’s wonderful use of ceramic foam.