This is a brilliant book where art and science collide. Materials scientist, super swimmer and trumpet player, Dr Anna Ploszajski, explores glass, plastic, steel, brass, clay, sugar, wool, wood, paper and stone. She has a go at crafting with them by hand, to understand them better. These are all materials which have significance for her, as well as huge importance to human history. The book is a mixture of memoir and science, with some history and travel. It reminded me of Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik and indeed I think they must be colleagues. The tone of the book is both informative and amusing. It’s also heartfelt and very personal.
I’m interested in science but unfortunately I don’t have the right kind of brain to understand even the simplest explanations of why materials behave as they do. Despite this, I liked Dr Ploszajski’s lively descriptions, most memorably of electrons being like cakes on rafts. The chapter I enjoyed the most was the one about brass, which discusses the history and making of trumpets. Like the best kind of science lesson, this book is fun yet educational, with a friendly teacher who’s passionate about her subject.
I would have liked to see some photos, but maybe they will be included in the finished book. Thank you to the publisher Bloomsbury for the advance copy via NetGalley. Handmade will be published on 13th May.