Fairy knockers, inverted pyramids and kilometre wide holes by Jenny Hall

Hollow photo by David M Reynolds

Hollow photo by David M Reynolds

Audio recording of Hollow symposium captured live on 13 April 2016 at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre, with introduction by Paul Newland, Director of Centre for Cultures of Place, Presentation about the mines of Ceredigion by Ioan Rhys Lord, Hugh Ratzer and Robert Ireland (4:30 - 37:20) and Q&A hosted by Jenny Hall with architect Niall Maxwell, performance and architecture lecturer Dr Andrew Filmer and mining archaeologist Jamie Thorburn (37:21-1:23:38).

I wanted Hollow to bring people together to explore a spectrum of human experience related to the artwork. In a sense to form a constellation of the complex networks linked to mining, extraction, destruction and construction. I considered inviting economists, geologists, environmental activists, representatives from industry, perhaps a Buddhist monk concerned with notions of equilibrium and reincarnation (the ultimate recycling) as well as human geographers, architects and philosophers. In the end, the mix of specialists we had was just right for exploring ideas at a local and global level. The symposium was held in the gallery to enable the audience to move in and around the artwork and to handle the exhibition objects.

My key partners in developing ideas were Dr Andrew Filmer and Dr Paul Newland both of the Theatre, Film & Television Studies Department at the Aberystwyth University. Andrew is a colleague I've been working with for several years now, exploring the intersection between performance and architecture. Paul is the Director of the Centre for Cultures of Place and kindly offered to host the symposium under the umbrella of his research centre.  Together we framed ideas and explored possible structures for a symposium and set a date.

I had had the good fortune to listen to the Radio 3 podcast 'Holes in the Ground' first aired 20 January 2016 and had listened with interest to the cultural theorists talking about links between the subterranean and culture. In particular the MIT researcher Rosalind Williams offered fascinating insights into how the underground has shaped human psychology as well as human discoveries. I decided to introduce myself and Hollow.

Her gracious email followed ....

'It is unlikely but not out of the question that I could be in the UK in April.  I have a talk scheduled in Pennsylvania for April 13-15 but otherwise the month is pretty open for me...'

Note the date...April 13. Sadly neither Rosalind nor Gareth Hoskins, Senior lecturer in Human Geography at the Aberystwyth University could make it...and nor could any of his Earth Sciences department who were collectively on research trips over Easter.

So, given that I couldn't leave Rosalind and Gareth to shape the no doubt fascinating symposium we would have enjoyed with their illustrious presence, I endeavoured to glean what I could in conversation with them both. Rosalind referred me to her book 'Notes on the Underground' as well as to Lewis Mumford's 'Technics & Civilization, 'The Time Machine', 'The Machine Stops' and 'The Journey to the Centre of the Earth.' She suggested inviting science students to consider their own holistic and emotional responses as evidence when enquiring into 'what used to be in a place that now seems empty'. Gareth pointed me towards the artists and academics exploring mining imagery, geology and post humanism as drivers for their work, namely Elizabeth Ellsworth's publication 'Making the geologic now' and the work of Caitlin de Silva, Elizabeth Grosz and Elizabeth Povinelli.

There is a huge body of work exploring links between the subterranean and culture and my observation of mining as a mirror of culture is just one of many analogies that are being drawn.

As I continued to explore the nature of the symposium, I was referred again and again to a 17 year old boy called Ioan Rhys lord who was born and has lived in an old miners' cottage in Cwm Rheidol all his life. He is a forthcoming Director of the Welsh Mines Preservation Trust, and is currently writing a book on the metal mining industry of Cwm Rheidol and Ponterwyd. I had been told he was an incredible speaker and so invited him to the symposium.

Following an introduction from our host Paul, Ioan was the first speaker of the night. He was accompanied by Hugh Ratzer, director of The Cambrian Mines Trust and Robert Ireland, Chairman of the Welsh Mines Preservation Trust. The three gentlemen offered an insight into the mines of Ceredigion, explaining why they are there and what they were like and endeavoured to illustrate the lives of the miners who worked there through dramatising historic accounts of conditions recorded at the time and screening huge pictures of the miners faces. They shared with us the rise and fall of mining in the region and brought to life the history that they have been piecing together (4:30 - 37:20). Their presentation was fascinating and elucidated among other ideas, the folk tale of the fairy knockers (35:17 - 37:20). Great thanks to Ioan, Hugh and Robert.

I am also grateful to the architect Niall Maxwell of Rural Office for Architecture, Dr Andrew Filmer and Jamie Thorburn of the Early Mines Research Group for sitting on the Q&A panel with me afterwards. We explored ideas connecting the practical industry of mining with the creative production of buildings and civic engineering and the implications on how people exist within these constructions. We explored how mining and the idea of 'mining for truth' informed the very desire for the industrial processes that have come to shape society (37:21 - 1:23:38). For this discussion we heavily referenced Rosalind Williams' Notes from the Underground which I cannot recommend highly enough.

We were blessed with Jamie's transporting visualisations of his experiences as an archaeologist for the Rio Tinto mines in the 1980s. He helped us understand the scale of the mines and the psychology of the people that operated them as well as bringing us up to speed on how contemporary technologies are refining and seeking greater accuracy to be less wasteful. He was forced to recognise that Hollow, a construction in cardboard that he originally thought had little relevance with the capital driven force of the extractive industries, was a more visually accurate representation of how material is contemporarily being commodified than he was aware. I think this was a backhanded compliment!

A final word to Kara Moses, the inspiring activist who was a part of the Ffos y ffran coal protest in May 2016 and pertinently highlighted the dark side of mining, the pollution, health impacts, environmental destruction and displacement of communities that continues as an onslaught of unchecked capitalism. This dark side is what I sought to shine a light on in a way that doesn't necessarily seek immediate action but rather to illuminate our continued heavy reliance on the subterannean, to the order of 10 tonnes per person per year in the UK. To recognise, weigh and consider at what cost and for what gain this relationship. Where have we come from, where are we going? Do we like who we are becoming? How can we change our relationship to the earth?

The Q&A was the perfect place to start an exploration of the constellation of complex networks connected with mining. I hope this will form the beginning of new partnerships, research and awareness.

With special thanks to Paul Newland, all the guest speakers, Aberystwyth Arts Centre staff and the insightful Rosalind Williams.


Safety instructions as poetry comic... by Jenny Hall

Hollow Safety Instructions by Nicky Arscott

Hollow Safety Instructions by Nicky Arscott

Re-writing the rules of the gallery to encourage some kinds of play and not others is neither an easy task or a particularly obvious one to get right. I felt Nicky's playful drawings would offer a textural layer to explore as people tried to become familiar with the parameters of the work. Over time as members of the public have returned again and again these new rules start to self regulate and become familiar.

One thing we have learnt is that many people want to go further. The invitation to interact has whet their appetite. There is more here to explore.

Explore more of Nicky's painting, drawing and writing at www.nickyarscott.co.uk


Cyfanwiddiadau Diogelwch Hollow gan Nicky Arscott

Cyfanwiddiadau Diogelwch Hollow gan Nicky Arscott



Hollow symposium by Jenny Hall

Call for Participants  

Gwahoddiad i Gymryd Rhan

13 April 2016, 7pm  |  13 Ebrill 2016, 7pm

What are the consequences when human beings dwell in an environment that is predominantly built rather than given?” 
— Rosalind Williams, Notes on the Underground

Using Jenny Hall's Hollow as a springboard for inspiration, the Centre for Cultures of Place at Aberystwyth University will host a multi-disciplinary symposium on themes of material, displacement, destruction, construction, culture, and society in Gallery 1 of the Aberystwyth Arts Centre.
Jenny Hall and the Centre for Cultures of Place are inviting participants in the symposium taking place on 13 April 2016 at 7pm. Participation is free and open to all.

The Centre for Cultures of Place is a forum for interdisciplinary research within the Aberystwyth University, exploring the cultural meanings of place.
The Symposium will bring together artists, architects, performers, writers, academics and students to explore these themes presented in Jenny Hall's Hollow.
The event will include a panel discussion, presentations by key speakers, performance activities, and a crowd-sourced Q&A session.


Yn defnyddio arddangosfa Jenny Hall, Hollow, fel ysbrydoliaeth,  bydd y Ganolfan ar gyfer Diwylliannau Lleoliad ym Mhrifysgol Aberystwyth yn cynnal symposiwm aml-ddisgyblaethol ar themâu deunydd, dadleoliad, dinistriad, adeiladu, diwylliant, a chymdeithas.
Mae Jenny Hall a’r Ganolfan ar gyfer Diwylliannau Lleoliad yn gwahodd unigolion i gymryd rhan yn y symposiwm a gynhelir ar 13 Ebrill 2016 am 7pm. Cewch gymryd rhan yn rhad ac am ddim ac mae croeso i bawb.

Mae’r Ganolfan ar gyfer Diwylliannau Lleoliad yn fforwm ar gyfer ymchwil rhyngddisgyblaethol o fewn PrifysgolAberystwyth, yn archwilio ystyron diwylliannol lleoliad.
Bydd y Symposiwm yn gwahodd artistiaid, penseiri, perfformwyr, ysgrifenwyr, academyddion a myfyrwyr i archwilio’r themâu hyn a gyflwynir yn arddangosfa  Jenny Hall.
Bydd y symposiwm yn cynnwys trafodaeth panel, cyflwyniadau gan siaradwyr allweddol, gweithgareddau perfformio, a sesiwn C&A sy’n agored i bawb. 





BLOG Claire Pickard New Welsh Reader: Issue 110 by Jenny Hall

Photo credit by Keith Morris

Photo credit by Keith Morris

Blog review by Claire Pickard for NWR: New Welsh Review/ Reader...

Link to original article here.

Jenny Hall’s Hollow at Aberystwyth Arts Centre

Tucked away right at the end of this exhibition is a tiny cross-sectional drawing of a copper mine in Finland. The drawing is anonymous, but is dated 1826. It is slight, delicate and also rather strange. Jenny Hall, the creator of the installation ‘Hollow’, came across this drawing in 2013, during a winter residency in Finland. Little information was available about the image’s origin. No other plans of the Orijärvi mine existed and there was no way of ascertaining whether or not the drawing was an accurate representation of the site. Although the piece was presumably the work of a draughtsman and had a practical purpose, there is also something fantastical about it. The disjunction between the neat, contained buildings above and the unfamiliar, cavernous shapes beneath disorientates and confuses the viewer.

Hall was captivated by this image and began reproducing some of its shapes and forms in her own drawings and models. The question that preoccupied her was how she could ‘make visible the idea that a mine is a mirror of the culture above ground that had blossomed in its wake.’ The idea of the displacements inherent in mining merged with a broader fascination with ‘the equal and opposite actions of excavation and construction’. As Hall observes, human beings are obsessed with displacement. As children we dig and build, first with whatever comes to hand, then with games such as Lego and Minecraft. These urges form the ‘defining act of creativity’. Hollow’ emerged from Hall’s exploration of such displacement and from her attempt to discover ‘what is left in the emptiness’ it creates.

The installation itself, designed to resemble a mine, is composed of a large number of cardboard boxes that are held together by magnets. Its floor is mirrored, reflecting the construction above and adding a further illusion of depth. At the centre is the ‘hollow’ – an empty space through which the public can move. Surrounding this central construction are a number of loose boxes representing ‘an equal and opposite amount of extracted “ore”.’ Viewers are invited to move these around and to build, or dismantle, structures with them – essentially to recover the element of ‘play’ that is one of the driving forces behind the work.

What is striking is how cleverly ‘Hollow’ captures the internal dynamic of the 1826 drawing from which it originated. At first glance, the two creations could hardly be more different – in scale, in form and in execution. Yet, through the imaginative playfulness of Hall’s installation, through its use of light and mirroring, the straight lines of its boxes are able to convey the same elements as the cross-sectional drawing, in terms of the fantastic and the organic. The ‘beautiful underground hollow’ of the drawing is reimagined in a contemporary form – one that is participatory rather than simply an object of observation. The functionality of a brown box is transformed into something engaging; as viewers, we turn it into an object of our imagination, just as a child does with a den, or as the anonymous draughtsman did with his drawing. We are encouraged to impose our own meanings on the piece, just as we are encouraged to refashion its form. And we interact with the installation, taking from it what we will, just as, Hall suggests, we have always taken from the earth in order to construct.  

‘Hollow’ allows us to consider these ideas on whatever level we chose – the piece does indeed make us think of play and creativity, but also potentially of exploitation, both of people and of land. The installation’s emphasis on participation also inevitably raises the related idea of responsibility. Moving on from the starting point of the anonymous drawing from two centuries ago, ‘Hollow’ does not simply show us that when we make something, we usually displace something else. It invites us to think about the consequences of that displacement and to consider our own role within it.

Claire Pickard is a writer and critic based north of Aberystwyth.

Thinking outside the box - Cambrian News article by Jenny Hall

Image by Cambrian photographer

Written and posted by Julie Mc Nicholls Vale for the Cambrian News

Published in print, South editions 31 March and online 3 April.

Link to original article here.

TAKING a copper mine as a source of inspiration, a new exhibition at Aberystwyth Arts Centre explores the creative destruction involved in the act of construction. 

The mine in Jenny Hall’s exhibition, which is called Hollow and officially opens on 1 April, is represented as a large hollow sculpture in the gallery and cardboard boxes represent the ‘ore’ that has been extracted from inside. Cardboard, which connects together with magnets, is good for expressing a thing displaced, said Jenny.

At different stages throughout the exhibition the sculpture will be rebuilt. Constructed on a large, mirrored floor, it encourages visitors to consider the relationship between the spaces we create above and below the ground.

“Mines have faded in our minds as we no longer reach for the coal scuttle or travel by steam engine, but we continue to rapidly build a world on the surface of the same size if not the same shape as the subterranean world that we excavate,” said Jenny.

The public are invited to move, stack, connect and build with the loose boxes and the scale model to explore building structures and creating empty space.

‘Hollow’ will be open in Gallery 1 of Aberystwyth Arts Centre until 7 May. There will be an official opening night on Friday (1 April), in the gallery from 6pm. Admission free, all welcome.

Connected events include a symposium exploring exhibition themes on Wednesday, 13 April, 7pm in Gallery 1, and performance workshops on 16 and 17 April.

See the week’s south editions for the full story or online by clicking the Digital Editions tab at the top of the page.


Hollow: Getting inside the art by Jenny Hall

First published online at Wales Arts Review on 14.03.16

Artist Jenny Hall walks us through the germination and creation of her new exhibition, Hollow, which opens at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre on March 23rd.

I’m fascinated by art and architecture that we can play in. Jacob Dahlgren’s ‘The wonderful world of abstraction’ is an installation of ribbons that you alter when you step inside and Diébédo Francis Kéré’s ‘Sensing spaces installation’ at the Royal Academy was a most popular exhibition because it invited people to change the artwork. When a building or sculpture needs to be fixed, rigid and secure it can still be playful – ‘The Longest Bench’ by Studio Weave harnesses the seaside sentiments of candy floss, deck chairs and holidays in the way it ebbs and flows around the town.

I make architecture and artworks for people to bring to life with their own narratives and I wanted to explore some new ideas for making a gathering space, one that might allow for intervention and play. To do this, I headed to Finland as artist in residence at the prestigious Fiskars Village art and design centre with support from Wales Arts International. It was winter and the sun rose so slowly that I could watch it rise twice a day, from the woods above the valley and again from my studio window.

I love Finland. Wildlife is everywhere and the Finns have summer cottages where they spend a month each year fishing, swimming and foraging for wild foods. There is a deep yet simple connection to nature where the sauna provides both a personal sanctuary and the collective rhythm.

It is also home to a design ethos that strips away the inessential, leaving the bare qualities of the material, form and function to resonate. I don’t think these phenomena are separate.

In 2012 when Helsinki was the World Design Capital a temporary pavilion was built in the city centre by the Wood Program students of the Alvar Aalto University. Geometric, fresh and beautiful it offered itself as a family friendly café, workshop space, cinema, restaurant and bar. This was a new type of gathering place. Flexible indoor-outdoor spaces had been created like this before, but rarely with the confident embrace of form and functionality, style and warmth this pavilion created.

Fiskars Village was also celebrated as part of World Design Capital in 2012: the village has the same name as the orange handled scissors that were born there. Fiskars is a multinational corporation but it still has a presence in the beautiful village where it started which is now a thriving arts and cultural space. It also offers an artist in residence program and felt like the place to develop new ideas.

In 2013 I returned to undertake a winter residency at both Fiskars and the Wood Program in Helsinki where I was invited as guest tutor. My aim was to explore design problems from the bottom up – instead of thinking about ‘what to make,’ to think about ‘how to make.’ I also wanted to draw inspiration from nature, to generate ‘an architecture that carries the particular properties, practices and techniques of its location through to the smallest detail,’(1) with the aim of place-making, whether as permanent architecture or ephemeral installation.

I was hugely inspired by the flow of ideas generated at the Wood Program. Each week I would return to the studio with new forms to explore, new puzzles to solve. The process felt rich and rewarding to be making in card, wood and paper, tessellating, reciprocating and creating self-supporting structures and irregular, abstract forms.

At the same time as exploring the world of construction, I was also investigating Fiskars itself. It has a primeval sauna on the edge of a lake, a dance pavilion, jetties onto the water, sculptures dotted throughout the landscape and an industrial architecture that has been converted into fine restaurants and artisanal shops. It is a place where the commodification of the earth and the resultant wealth creation is simultaneously visible. Fiskars honours its industrial heritage and has a fantastic archive for exploration. There I found a drawing of one of the mines that supplied copper ore to Fiskars in the late 19th century. This beautiful image, a cross-section of Orijärvi mine haunted me. It was an artist’s impression of the vast mine underground. How had it been created? Did the artist make a measured study? Was it described by the miners or was it a visual impression? The National Geological Society say that no other records exist – when Orijärvi was exhausted it filled with water and remains unexplored.

This beautiful underground hollow became my muse. I explored its form in drawings and models asking how I could make visible the idea that a mine is a mirror of the culture above ground that had blossomed in its wake. I felt that by creating a modular structure I would be able to convey the industrial drivers behind mining – the commodification of the earth and the displacement of material so that the destruction of one thing enables the construction of another. I had the kernel of an idea for a building block structure that would contain a hollow space.

When I returned home to Wales, I started to consider how people might engage with this piece of work and at what scale. Dr Andrew Filmer of the Theatre, Film & TV department at Aberystwyth University and I created a workshop called Play, Space and Performance where we explored the theatrics of construction using cardboard cubes with a group of actors, choreographers and devisers. The workshop was fascinating and it seemed that I would be able to create an installation that responded to different qualities I value in architecture: playful, adaptable, metaphorical and beautiful.

Hollow launches on 23 March at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre thanks to The Arts Council of Wales. It will then tour to Ceredigion Museum with a linked exhibition exploring ‘Mining for stories’ and then onto Undegun in Wrexham and the re-imagined Muni in Pontypridd.

Hollow is not the only piece of work to come out of my residency in Finland. The experience hugely informed my ideas about creating site specific architecture as well as stimulating new lines of enquiry for making work. It is very satisfying however to see Hollow coming to fruition. I do hope it offers itself for contemplation, connection and play and continues to inform my development of participatory architecture.


1          ‘Crafted – The Ingredients of Architecture’ by Pekka Heikinen, Director of the Wood Program

Jenny has been artist in residence at Aberystwyth Arts Centre for 12 months and is the director of architectural design practice Craftedspace.

Find out more about the symposium and workshops connected to the exhibition at www.hollow.info.

Where Minecraft and fine art meet by Jenny Hall

An article first published in The Ego, March publication.

One of my early memories is of remodelling my bedroom by inching enormous pieces of furniture around the room to find a new fit. I didn’t ask for help and I’m not really sure how I managed it with skinny little limbs and no puff but the will was there and it found a way. I have continued to make and model, design and plan furniture, buildings and art installations. You could say it’s become a habit.

I do think one of the defining qualities of being human is this desire to displace material and to reconfigure it: to move stuff around. Small children construct dens, play with Lego and get lost in computer games like Minecraft and even smaller ones are content with digging holes in sand or clay. Need I mention our cultural obsession with house makeovers?

Mines have faded in our minds as we no longer reach for the coal scuttle or travel by steam engine but we continue to rapidly build a world on the surface of the same size if not the same shape as the subterranean world that we excavate.

I was struck by the idea of ‘mines as mirrors’ when I was artist in residence in Finland at the prestigious art and design centre called Fiskars. (The village with the same name as the orange handled scissors that are everywhere.) Fiskars is now a multinational corporation with warehouses and plant all over the world but it still has a presence in the village where it started. Now a thriving arts and cultural space, Fiskars was once alive with blast furnaces and molten iron.

In the 18th Century, copper ore was smelted there that had been extracted from the local Orijarvi copper mine. The only record of this intriguing underground space is a draughtsman’s cross sectional drawing from 1826. No data has been recorded since because the mine flooded once exhausted. All that remains of this place where rock and ore were blasted by hand day after day is a drawing that I consider to be part fantasy on the part of the draughtsman.

So I have extended the fantasy. This March at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre I am creating a model of the unknown draughtsman’s drawing of the Orijarvi mine as a large installation made out of cardboard boxes that connect together with magnets, located on a large reflective floor to create a container of space into which the public are invited. The exhibition is called Hollow.

On the one hand the installation offers itself as mine into which members of the public can burrow and explore with head torches and on the other it offers itself as a constructive material with which to make new structures and sculptures, dens and hideouts. Through these processes, the artwork seeks to connect destruction with construction and the idea that when we make, we unmake.

Hollow opens 23 March at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre. As well as the large installation there is also a small scale model to explore: a model of a model if you will. And there will be drawings and models of the ideas in progress. Hollow features as a part of the program of events hosted by RSAW’s Wales Festival of Architecture this Spring. Hollow then tours across Wales to Wrexham and Pontypridd with a connected exhibition that explores ‘Mining for stories’ at the Ceredigion Museum. Please see www.hollow.info for details.

Jenny Hall is director of craftedspace.co.uk

Holes in the ground by Jenny Hall

On the 20th January I got a late night text from an anthropologist friend of mine who had just caught the end of an inspiring conversation: "...Right now, Radio 3 'Free thinking' is talking about the extraction of subterranean resources and it's impact on culture. Might be useful listening for your hollow project..."

And it was. I listened over and over to Rosalind Williams, Ted Nield and Paul Younger talk with their host Rana Mitter about their experiences of being deep in mines in the ground and how mining, ostensibly a driver of planet earth destruction was also the device through which we learnt how the world was formed. Once the underworld was a smoking hole of mystery but as miners delved inside the earth they found a universal layering of rock which informed the understanding of plate tectonics and in turn the theory of evolution.

This is a fascinating podcast. It explores the underground as a realm of wonder and hallucination and re-names the industrial revolution as the fossil fuel or subterranean revolution.  Rosalind and I have since been in discussion developing ideas for the Hollow symposium on 13 April hosted by The Centre for Cultures of Place. She asks the question:

What are the consequences when human beings dwell in an environment that is predominantly built rather than given?
— Rosalind Williams, Notes on the Underground

Pertinent as we build a world on the surface of the same size as the subterranean one that we continue to excavate.

What super strong magnets really mean! by Jenny Hall

Here is a crushing explanation about the importance of handling strong magnets carefully. These have a pull strength of 300kg whereas the ones I will be using for Hollow have a pull strength of 7.3kg. I've still managed to get a few blood blisters.

One incredible thing about Neodymium magnets is that once magnetised they remain magnets effectively permanently losing magnetism imperceptibly over a 100 years. They are easy to re-use but less easy to re-cycle.

Apparently the discovery of neodymium magnets in 1972 and has been a big factor in the advances in consumer electronics. They are in every speaker, microphone and telephone. They are all around us!

Everything has issues by Jenny Hall

The division set inside the boxes that allow them to be stood on

The division set inside the boxes that allow them to be stood on

So magnets have issues. Who knew? They can be very powerful in close proximity but as you move them further apart their bond exponentially weakens.

And cardboard has issues. It's strong in one plane but not the other. So to create a box that functions equally in three planes takes some designing as well as lots of construction processes and therefore time. In the above picture you can see the division set inside the boxes. These are really effective in one plane but not in three. So I'm trying to find a way that they can be reinforced so that the boxes aren't 'handed.' Currently you have to 'keep the moon up' (the little crescent you can see on the lid). If I crack the structural problem on the inside, it means one less instruction for people exploring what they can and can't do in the exhibition space.

Inserts to reinforce the division set

Inserts to reinforce the division set

Above you can see a possible reinforcement. Hollow cubes and half cubes installed to reduce racking and improve the structural performance.

I'll be in touch with the box manufacturer to discuss this option and their suggested alternatives, as well as their thoughts on part punching or embossing holes for receiving the magnets.

Such a modification could really increase the magnets pull on each other as well as providing nice little locations for them to be fixed. Oh and it would help support the adhesive tape (that secures the magnets to the cardboard) in shear force too.

An all round improvement!

The magic of magnets by Jenny Hall

Great thanks to Matt Newby at First4Magnets in Nottinghamshire for taking time to share his knowledge of magents with me. Some of the questions I asked him were:

Do magnets occur naturally or are they all man made? How are magnets formed? How much energy goes into magnetising? Can magnets be demagnetised and remagnetised? Does a magnet weaken over time?

The below are from my notes. Any errors are mine.

Though there are natural elements with magnetic properties such as haematite, magnets as we understand them, are made. They are formed within a strong electro-magnetic field. The first permanent magnet created was called Alnico. It weakens over time and is magnetically fragile so its use was replaced by Ferrite magnets which are a bit stronger and resist demagnetisation more.

However in 1972, the Neodymium magnet was created which is powerful in comparison with negilible demagnetisation over a 100 years. In effect, its a true permanent magnet. The discovery of Neodymium magnets is mirrored by the advances in consumer electronics. Every speaker, phone and microphone has tiny neodymium magnets inside.

There is another permanent magnet called Samarium Cobalt which can actually function at higher operating temperatures than Neodymium but its not as strong.

Neodymium is a rare earth metail that is mined in the Far East. It occurs within a compound from which it needs to be extracted. The magnet is made of neodymium, iron, boron and trace elements which are powder compressed under high pressure into a mould which is then subjected to a very high magnetic field. After this its cooled, plated, coated, shaped and magnetised again.

Neodymium magnets are difficult to recycle. But, as permanent magnets they are easy to re-use.

The neodymium magnets I've got for this project have a 5.5kg pull and are somewhere between awesome and frightening. They are so magical and amazing it would seem crazy to throw away a magnet ever again.