These striking works combine natural materials with artificial processes to create crystallized surfaces reminiscent of coral.
Humans have been attracted to shiny things for millennia, which might explain why a growing number of people are becoming avid collectors of minerals and crystals. But like anything that is extracted from the earth, there can be environmental downsides and ethical considerations to think about with these specimens, which can vary depending on how and from where they are sourced.
That said, the next best thing may be electroformed crystals, which are artificially created through a process that uses electrical currents to redeposit metallic atoms onto a surface, as New York-based ceramicist Sabri Ben-Achour has done with his crystallized works that seem to bristle with a life of their own.
As Ben-Achour explains, his aim in working with clay is to allow viewers to "find beauty in the orderly disorder of nature," which flows from the "intrinsic properties of the matter with which this universe is created." He takes an experimental approach, and elaborates further:
I use charged electrodes, one attached to a ceramic base and the other attached to a piece of scrap metal, both submerged in one of several types of chemical bath I developed. The current rips metal atoms from the scrap metal and re-deposits them on the ceramic work, forming crystal formations reminiscent of coral. These forms would normally be quite weak and fragile, but through research I have found ways of making them durable enough to incorporate into my art. I can manipulate where the crystals emerge, and can influence their shape and structure. But the basis of the work is allowing these natural phenomena and properties to unfold on their own.
Some of Ben-Achour's other works use special kinds of clay in order to produce a distinctive fissured surface:
I developed a clay that rapidly cracks on its own before your eyes like a dry lakebed miniaturized in time and space. To do that I had to research the properties of different ions and their impact on how clay molecules bond and interact. I developed a magnetic clay that follows the normally invisible field lines of super-magnets placed in an array to maximize their strength.
The results of Ben-Achour's diligent experimentation are fascinating -- a combination of the natural and artificial, and points to the possibility of a new kind of beauty that emerges from a combination of materials and processes, which when "[brought] out into the open, they allow us to look into the nature of being that is hidden around and inside us."