Anna Ploszajski
Bloomsbury Sigma
2021 | 320pp | £ 17.99
ISBN 9781472971074

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An image showing the book cover made by Handmade

Were you one of the many people who started crafting in the last year of the lockdown? Perhaps you were already aware of the powerful psychological benefits of doing something with your own hands? The things we do tell our stories, but the materials we work with have their own stories.

Designed and researched ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic, Handmade explores the connections between man and material. Each chapter focuses on one of these substances. The first chapter deals with glass lawns for a materials scientist and author Anna Ploszajski. After studying plastic, steel and brass, Ploszajski uses her expertise to remove substances like sugar and wool that are traditionally not described in materials science. Their properties may vary, but they can all be found in the handcrafted world.

The purpose of the book is to bring new narratives to materials that we often take for granted. Ploszajski explains the science of using a certain material for a specific purpose besides its social history. She also seeks out today’s artisans who will work with any material, and often gets stuck on herself to share firsthand the skills and emotions the manufacturing process evokes in beginners. Ploszajski also tells her own stories and affirms the topic of connections between people and materials.

The chapter on clay stayed with me. I learned that bone china is exactly what it says on the jar and why ceramic is used on the outside of the space shuttle. Ploszajski also describes how making her own ceramics helped her deal with bullying in the laboratory. Not that it sounds like the situation has been properly resolved, but Ploszajski managed to find some kind of closure. It’s another sad reminder that bullying and harassment are still prevalent in science. We hope this may encourage others to speak up or seek help.

Ploszajski writes with passion and honesty. The scientific explanations are perfectly balanced for the general reader, and the stories are fascinating and thought-provoking. read Handmade It may be the first time you come across Ploszajski, but I doubt it will be the last.

This book is included in our Book Club Podcast, which you can listen to here.

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