I grew up fascinated by materials. At first, I didn't realize that was what lead me to collect geodes, quartz, mica, stones & shells, and fabulous bits of cloth. I thought I was just another weird nerd. But when I first read about Aerogel, I knew. Materials are awesome.
Expanding the breadth of materials knowledge is not just about learning about the newest decorative surface - which comes in handy in our field, of course - but it can also be an exploration into new design concepts and possibilities.
Starting in the late 1700s, structural iron and steel began to change the landscape and skyscape of our cities as buildings changed design to take advantage of these new materials. It's no surprise then, that the architecture and engineering fields constantly seek the next new material innovation, with articles popping up year after year, hoping to find what will solve the building challenges around us. While we might not need to worry about long term structural viability or building life-cycle energy use, seeing mushroom-based materials replace building materials or new medical sponges soak up specific body toxins, well, those materials might inform more than the color of your lead character's bedroom - it could transform the way you imagine and design props, sets, and inform collaboration with co-storytellers.
Where do you find out about transparent wood, you ask? And what if you just want to know what finishing options you might have available for the rest of the visible wood on your set? Well, because you asked, here are some resources you might check out.
Materials Libraries & Technology News Resources
Materia is a global network of materials enthusiasts, sponsoring events around the world. Join their site (it's free!) and peruse articles about new plastics, ceramics, glass, and nanotube applications.
Architonic has a fabulously searchable design materials online library that you can easily browse by product type and picture.
Material ConneXion is a subscription based worldwide materials library. Often quoted as the largest and most comprehensive, it liaisons with many educational institutions that work in the design field.
materiO' is also subscription-based materials & technology library based in France, currently with an online database and showrooms sprinkled throughout the EU.
Materials Today is a community dedicated to materials science knowledge and experience. You can become a member (it's free!) and get full access to their website, podcasts and webinars. If you're extra curious, you can contact them about subscriptions to their peer-reviewed journals and industry magazines.
What if you just need a photos of materials?
Free Stock Textures and Textures.com are easily searchable websites featuring thousands of pictures of material textures. Developed for CG artists, these databases, and those like them, are great resources for natural textures and aging structures like brick, concrete, and steel walls.
How about the rest of it? To find amazing fabrics, wall coverings, & other beautiful decorative materials, there are Design & Decorative Materials Centers around the globe that you can often join as a design professional to peruse to your heart's content.
Design & Decorating Building in NYC
Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, CA
The Merchandise Mart in Chicago, IL
Design Center in London, UK
And many more - enjoy the search!