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Our one hundred and sixty-something cubes have all been specially made to have the same form and dimensions (40mm2). These four centimetre cubes, made in a multitude of different materials, are one of the stalwarts of the Materials Library, with a long and rich history. They started their life back in the mid-2000s as one of the first sets of specially made objects for our Director Zoe’s PhD, which she used to explore people’s experiences of the density of materials as varied as tungsten, jelly and balsa wood.

We still use these original cubes today as an often-memorable part of our introduction to the workshop for new members: passing round the aluminium and tungsten cubes and seeing the joy and surprise when people experience their drastically different densities. These cubes are used to encourage our members to think critically about how the materials they choose for their work might impact on people’s sensory and aesthetic experiences of everyday objects.

More recently, the cubes have been used for research with amputees and people with limb differences as a way of exploring the materials and sensory properties they would like to see in different parts of their prosthetic limbs.

The latest additions to the cube family are fifty-two ceramic cubes that allow us to directly compare the plasticity of different clay bodies, the possibilities of different clay building techniques, and the shrinkage, hardness and colour palettes achieved when these clays are fired to different temperatures.