Working with Soil is an evolving artistic research project that engages in actions and discussions of the relationship of humans and soil through collective work and interdisciplinary collaborations. In this project, the knowledge and methods of ceramic art practice are used to raise attention to soil relations’ cultural, societal, political, and ecological aspects. The project is led by artist-researchers from the EMPIRICA research group in Aalto University.

For thousands of years, pottery-makers have collected clay and other soil materials such as earth metals and minerals to make ceramic objects. Ceramic knowledge builds on disciplinary tradition, tacit and embodied knowledge, ceramic material chemistry and aesthetics. In the project Working with Soil, ceramic knowledge is combined with the understanding that soil is not static but changes over time through humans’ impact. The project targets specific sites and local materialities through interdisciplinary and artistic methods. The processes and outcomes are presented through exhibitions, discursive events, academic publications, and online platforms.

Working with Soil fosters a collective and collaborative mode of working and research involving people with different skills and backgrounds such as artists, designers, researchers, students, and science experts. The project is initiated and led by craft practitioners and craft and design researchers from the School of Art Design and Architecture (ARTS) in Aalto University, Finland: ceramic artist and professor Maarit Mäkelä, and artist-curator and doctoral candidate Riikka Latva-Somppi.