DDW23: Isola Presents Nothing Happens If Nothing Happens (Design Milk)

The former Schellens Fabriek in Eindhoven became Something.bigger for Dutch Design Week 2023 – a creative hub for designers, artists, and makers as residents and host to Nothing Happens If Nothing Happens by the digital and physical design platform Isola. The exhibition showcased innovative biomaterials, circular products, and collectible design pieces.

The German designer behind the limewood and bouclette Big Marshmallow (Ottoman)Paul Ketz, claims that it suits any environment “from throne room to lounge area” and that the segmented shapes are like “a fountain of youth that seems to float gently around.” We’re not quite sure about any of that, but it does look super comfy and it certainly makes a statement!

In case you didn’t spot the visual reference or the clue in the name, Paperclip by Esmee Gruson was in fact inspired by the ubiquitous paperclip, “enlarged and deformed into a new absurd reality,” with the intention of questioning comfort, functionality, and the boxes into which we place things.

Deze Beams (“these beams”) originated from a collaboration between Plastiek Breda and Soeps Creative Collective. At their simplest, they are sustainably manufactured, recycled plastic beams with holes in them – together they can be used as a modular system to make almost anything, from seating to sleeping pods. “Together we build a creative ecosystem without limits to sustainable thinking and action,” says the team. “These are easy to use, encourage reuse, and therefore reduce the purchase of new materials and/or products.”

MESA is a side table handmade from 100% natural and biodegradable eucalyptus bark by the Portuguese multi-disciplinary design practice DUBLO Studio. Eucalyptus bark falls naturally from the tree and can be collected from the ground and, at the end of its life, the stool can be returned to the earth as compost. “This conceptual work is intended to show a field of application for plant materials in less complex products,” says the studio. “Properties of the material are lightness and stability and a long lifecycle, as it is reusable.”

As unlikely as it might sound, Groove by Rotterdam-based Cousins Design unites image making, improvisational music making, and ceramic production. “Using music I have composed and recorded, or images I have created (chiefly, analog photographs), I sought a way to express these as topographical ‘landscapes,’” says designer Wilem Cousins. “Using digital fabrication techniques, particularly 3D modeling and computer numerical control (‘CNC’) milling, I create plaster molds derived from these landscapes allowing me to transfer these detailed textures into the clay body.”

Paris-based designer Raphaël Pontais’ favorite material is metal – not the most comfortable choice for a chair, so he has paired brushed stainless steel with fabric and foam to create the Rooly pouf. The duality of materials and snug fit of the two pieces results in an oddly satisfying form.

Senimo is a carpenter and a designer who creates limited editions of collectible furniture, inspired by curved forms and using recycled materials. The Sharpei Stool is handmade in a small series from reclaimed or reused wood, wooden fibers bound with resin into medium-density fiberboard (MDF), and lacquer for the orange glossy finish.

X4 by Rotterdam-based Studio Verbaan is part of an ongoing series formed with a 3D-printed foundation that is then veneered by hand. “Attention is given to every detail, texture, and contour, imparting a unique and artistic character,” say co-founders Solange Frankort and Jordi Verbaan. “This artisanal process infuses a human touch into the technology, making the sculpture a masterpiece that reflects both advanced technology and human craftsmanship.”

RE-Puzzle is a space-saving furniture concept by Ukranian designer Solmazprimavera crafted from recycled materials. The modular system is made entirely from post-consumer materials like plastics, metals, fabrics, and OSB (oriented strand board) and is fully customizable to fit any space.

Dutch Circular Design describes itself as “a young Dutch design brand with a mission” and that mission is to raise awareness of the value of reusing materials. WasteCraft is part of their effort to do exactly that through such pieces as side tables in which the waste they are made from (in this case, bottle tops) is left deliberately visible in the end product. “Because this is the only way people can see, and therefore believe, that the circular economy is already happening,” they explain. “For us, this is more than just a style, it is a deeply felt mission to create a better world together.”

Weld Stool Recycled is a collaboration between Studio Joris de Groot and Gogo Plastics, demonstrating their research into applications for the latter’s recycled panels, and specifically, whether the panels would be both strong enough and flexible enough to be used for Studio Joris de Groot’s Weld Stool – the answer, after much testing and experimentation – is yes!

Photography by Katie Treggiden.

DDW23: New Order of Fashion Is Empowering Regenerative Design (Design Milk)

New Order of Fashion provides emerging fashion designers with a platform, material expertise, research support, and a well-equipped atelier, empowering them to accelerate a just transition to a fully circular fashion and textile industry. “We are fortifying the groundwork for a brighter future,” they say. “This entails an alternative fashion system that benefits our planet and humanity as a whole.” Their exhibition for Dutch Design Week 2023 was entitled Regeneration: Fashion From The Ground Up and explored what regeneration looks like in the fashion context through three lenses: Earth CarePeople Care, and Fair Share.

Earth Care included contributions that approach the earth as a living, breathing entity and practices that promote environmental biodiversity – nurturing the living soil. The first piece, The Healing Lace, by Royal College of Art graduate Katerina Knight, is an impossibly delicate needle-lace dress made from three varieties of lavender, that she grew on her own allotment and harvested over two summers.

Katerina spent more than 250 hours hand threading each dried and preserved seed of lavender onto silk and linen. “The relationship between growing and sewing is deeply intertwined. Both are incredibly nurturing when you invest patience and time,” she says. “None of the techniques I now work with I believe to be technically demanding or highly innovative per se. But what they do demand of me is time. Perhaps an entity in today’s accelerated society we take for granted.”

Fifth-year Aalto University fashion student Ruusa Vuori trained in classical ballet and contemporary dance before an injury forced a change in direction. “Clothing can expand or reduce the experience of personal space, form a shell or invite in, open or close, draw boundaries or break them,” she says. “The work emphasizes sensory aspects and the sensitivity to embodied experience developed through my background in dancing.”

“I believe that when things are destroyed and exhausted, the vitality that bursts out of them is infinite,” says Ju Bao of his collection Annihilation. “I have always been obsessed with the washed and destroyed effects of denim. The longer the wearing time, the richer the texture will be.” He uses knitting techniques to create an illusion of worn denim, avoiding the artificial washing and destroying processes used by manufacturers, making this “ruined romance more sustainable.”

Regenerative Folklore is a collection by Spanish Andalusian designer and Central Saint Martins knitwear graduate Silvia Acién Parrilla. Using techniques she learned from her grandmother, she makes garments from pineapple and nettle-certified organic yarns, and hand dyes them with a blend of natural dyes sourced from bacteria and invasive plants in collaboration with fellow CSM graduate Xue Chen.

“With each stitch, I am not just creating a garment, but a symbol of my connection to my ancestors, my community, and the earth,” she says. “Through my collection, I aim to inspire a deeper appreciation for the natural world and the importance of preserving our heritage for future generations.”

Helsinki-based artist and designer Priss Niinikoski has a background in fashion and textiles but has shifted her focus to explore sculpture, three-dimensional textiles, and spatial design. As part of an artistic research residency, New Order of Fashion commissioned Priss to explore the potential of floral waste. “I chose to extract fibers from leftovers such as the cutting waste and unsalable cut flowers which I gathered from flower shops,” she says. “I used the outer layer of [rose] stems, which I peeled several times to reveal a translucent layer with a flexible nature for further processing. From the gathered fibers I twined by hand a thin cordage with some water to give more elasticity.”

“My idea of regeneration extends to the tangible and the non-physical,” says Jude Hinojosa. “I create menswear from a non-binary perspective. My pieces offer alternative choices in the traditional by embracing masculinity’s emotional side.” Jude uses upcycled menswear as the foundation of their collections, revamping them to offer choice, familiarity, and comfort, and embodying the “softness, beauty, and desire for expression” that is a less often seen part of masculinity. “It’s the mustard seed of change,” they say.

The next part of the exhibition was entitled People Care and explored a focus on non-material wellbeing as a route to creating systems that meet human needs and support social equity and community resilience. CSM graduate Ivan Delogu (top image) presents different aspects of womanhood in his work to showcase the diversity and complexity in women’s experiences in Sardinia – both throughout history and today. While Tales Told in Tangles (above) Icelandic designer Ása Bríet Brattaberg builds on craft skills passed down from her grandmothers to “re-weave memories from the past.” The piece in the exhibition has been woven with a zero waste weaving technique from Icelandic wool and old shirts that belonged to her late grandfather. “I can still remember him sitting by the kitchen table in the sky blue shirt,” she says. “I was making a memory tangible.”

The Fair Share portion of the exhibition explored the use of resources in ways that are equitable to both people – both present and future generations – and to the planet, using “less” as a starting point. Moving Pigment (above) is part of Charlotte Werth’s ongoing research into co-designing textile patterns with pigment-producing bacteria. “It intends to enlarge and make visible a reality that is usually hidden from sight, showing us the incredible beauty of this parallel microscopic world,” she says.

Vót’tetèsj (“back pocket of a pair of trousers”) explores Bastiaan Reijnen’s Limburgian family heritage, by combining the essence in quality of workwear and handwork with the aim of creating a new category of luxury clothing that will last for a lifetime. “Even if the final garments are imperfect or wear out, there will be a sense of pride and joy in repairing them,” he says. “These handmade qualities give life and character to the garments that can’t be reproduced.”

Usually we weave fabric and then make fabric into clothes, but Kelly Konings is pioneering “whole garment weaving” in her project Hybrid Forms of Dressing. “I’ve created 2D jacquard woven textiles that hold the possibility of being worn as 3D garments,” she says. “Draped and folded onto the body, these whole-garment woven textiles urge the viewer to rethink the interdependent relationship between a textile and a garment.”

Photography by Katie Treggiden.

DDW23: Design Academy Eindhoven Graduates at the Heart of Dutch Design (Design Milk)

The Design Academy Eindhoven graduate show is always a highlight of Dutch Design Week – and is in some ways the beating heart of the city’s creative scene, as many graduates choose to base their studios here after they have completed their studies.

The installation above is a typically thought-provoking piece called Gaia, How Are You Today? by Yufel Gao. He 3D-printed 92 terracotta pots, each designed using a day’s worth of weather data – the further from average the temperature, humidity, and wind speed, the more distorted the form to remind us that nature is not submissive or static, but chaotic and unyielding.

The Popping Sound of Bubble Wrap by Ilaria Cavaglia is made using discarded bubblewrap, styrofoam, and newspapers, drawing inspiration from the grotto aesthetic, to blur the line between the organic and the synthetic.

Ben van Kemenade designed Regenerated to house the timber collection of 86-year-old carpenter Riky van Dullerman. A freshly cut tree trunk provides the necessary humidity to prevent the older pieces from warping or cracking. The project reflects on caretaking, preserving the old while the young matures, and the transfer of knowledge between generations.

Michelle Akki Jonker’s The Mutuba Spirit is a mask made from traditional Ugandan bark cloth, a popular material before British colonialists demonized it in favor of cotton, creating a stigma that exists to this day. Michelle plays with iconography from the two cultures, using horns that, in European countries often symbolize the devil, but within her Ugandan heritage represent protection.

The Trunk Bunk by Henry K Wein is a portable tree house that can be towed along behind a bicycle enabling city folk to escape into nature and get some respite from the “always-on” world that so many of us now inhabit.

Paul Schaffer explored the symbiotic relationships between different organisms in The Warp of Symbiogenesis – in each piece, the warp represents one species and the weft another. There are five sections each representing the different types of symbiotic relationships in nature. Competition is defined as “harm-harm,” amensalism as “no effect-harm,” parasitism as “benefit–harm,” commensalism as “benefit-no effect,” and mutualism as “benefit-benefit.” The intention of the piece is to remind us of the interconnectedness of nature – and to include ourselves in that.

“Trash for you is treasure for me,” says Dario Erkelens. Abandoned Treasures is his collection of sculptural furniture made of abandoned material to explore the creative potential of what we throw away. Having grown up in rural Switzerland, where resources were carefully conserved and reused, he was shocked by what city dwellers routinely discard, and created this work to raise awareness of the wastefulness of our contemporary throwaway culture.

In Unsettling by Tanay Kandpal is a series of sculptures designed to celebrate the material culture of Jugaad – a Hindi term that refers to quick and improvised solutions – and explore the practice as a critique of Western industrial design’s failure to accommodate the unexpected.

The Swarm Shepherd was created by Pablo Bolumar Plata as the outcome of a collaborative design research methodology exploring an experimental approach to beekeeping. The hybrid device above incorporates wax canvas with substances that attract swarming bees to guide them to apiaries. Once a colony nests inside, the cork outer layer provides protection for their honeycomb.

Sien Entius’ Couture Objects explores her conflicted sense of identity as she transitioned from her background as a furniture maker into a design degree at Design Academy Eindhoven. She compared the craftsmanship in furniture making with tailoring by making outfits for cabinetry. They were displayed in front of posters advocating for the role of craft in design.

The Beauty of Time Passing by Toshihito Endo uses smart technology to mimic the way Japanese architecture plays with natural light, inviting a sense of nature into spaces without direct access to it – you can even match the light patterns to the weather outside.

Fedora Boonaert created a speculative archeological site that draws attention to the forgotten and knowingly marginalized oral knowledge of 16th-century midwives and “wise women” – particularly regarding female health and wellbeing – in the Low Countries. As male physicians replaced them, traditional women’s remedies were condemned as “witch-crafts” and wise women as witches, resulting in persecution and even death. Fedora hopes to address this historical injustice, the ramifications of which pervade modern-day medicine, through lectures and archeological expeditions of her site, as part of her project An Archeology of Women’s Wisdom.

In/Outside included a set of ephemeral domestic objects by Lison Guéguen made in accordance with the natural life cycles of the materials from which they are made. The installation explores the notion of mutually beneficial relationships with the more-than-human world and Lison talks about “borrowing” resources from the Earth, which immediately suggests a different approach than if we “take” them.

Photography by Katie Treggiden.

DDW23: Raw Color Celebrates Award Win With Vibrant Show (Design Milk)

Eindhoven-based Raw Color is a multi-disciplinary design studio specializing in color across objects, textiles, photography, graphic design, and installations. For Dutch Design Week 2023, co-founders Daniera ter Haar and Christoph Brach curated an appropriately vibrant exhibition called Multiply to celebrate winning the 2023 Limburg Design Award and showcased 15 years of self-initiated and collaborative projects. The Limburg Design Award is presented every two years to a well-known designer who focuses on contemporary interior design.

Photo: Katie Treggiden

The mouth-blown, balloon-like lamp Globo utilizes the beauty of opaque glass, generating different tones depending on whether it is switched off and lit from the outside only, switched on during daylight hours as above and lit from both inside and outside, or switched on in darker hours when it is mostly lit from the inside. “The balloon-like glass volume rests on a cylindrical base,’ says Christoph. “The high quality and heavy mouth-blown glass contrasts the seemingly lightweight appearance.”

Photo: Katie Treggiden

Grid Objects explore different qualities of color, such as density, proportion, shade, translucency, and blending, through different interactions such as stacking, turning, nesting, and composing. They are produced locally in The Netherlands and are available in a limited edition of 10.

Photo: Raw Color

Raw Color was then approached by a furniture company called Pode to turn this idea into a set of coffee and occasional tables and Mesh was born (seen through the screen above) by inverting the forms and making the mesh strong enough to support the tabletop and anything that might be placed on it. “The graphic character of the Mesh coffee table and the Mesh occasional table create an interesting shadow effect on the floor,” says Christophe. “Open and closed alternate in the perforation grid. The design reflects our working method, in which the color effect of the volume forms the starting point, in this case for the interplay of densities and material combinations.”

Photo: Raw Color

Parts of the exhibition were interactive and these fans whizzed into action whenever somebody got close to them – showing three distinct colors when static, they blended into one color when spinning. The installation was originally created for an exhibition at LYNfabrikken Box in Aarhus, Denmark, in 2014.

Photo: Katie Treggiden

Another interaction installation was Chromatology – an installation based on paper shredders, each connected with a motion sensor at ground level and fed by paper rolls in six different colors. The movement of people throughout the space therefore dictated the color mix beneath.

Photo: Raw Color

The installation was developed as part of an exhibition called The Vincent Affair (curated by Edhv and Wendy Plomp) and was intended as a contemporary counterpoint to represent aspects of Vincent van Gogh’s work – in this case. his experimental approach to mixing color in the field. The exhibition was located in the former house of Van Gogh’s lover Margot Begemann in Nuenen.

Photo: Raw Color

Not wanting to create unnecessary waste, the shredded paper is collected and sold for use as confetti in little bags in the Raw Color shop.

Photo: Katie Treggiden

The Index Collection is a series of tea towels and blankets, made from merino wool and organic cotton, inspired by the weaving process –  each series follows the same process as the “index” translates the amount of color within each surface, using squares representing 10% to 100%. The collection was developed at TextielLab in Tilburg and was made possible with support from the Eindhoven Municipality and Stichting Stokroos.

Photo: Katie Treggiden

The same principle has been translated into a series of tea towels available in three different colorways, each including monotone, duotone, and multi-tone options – the perfect holiday gift for the dish-drying data nerds in your life!

Photo: Katie Treggiden

A more serious application of the ability to visualize data through color, the Temperature Scarf is part of the Temperature Textiles Collection which uses weaving techniques and colored yarn to raise awareness of climate change. Using data from the climate report of IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the vertical pink lines represent the predicted surface temperature change in degrees Celsius of even years from 2000 until 2100. The orange surface indicates 0 – 4ºC. To help counter this prediction, 10% of sales are donated to Trees For All, a Dutch NGO that is planning trees in The Netherlands and abroad in a bid to counter CO2 emissions.

Photo: Katie Treggiden

In a similar vein, the Sea Level Socks, visualize predicted rising sea levels – the four pale green lines represent the predicted rise of 7 cm in 2020, 12 cm in 2030, 17 cm in 2040, and 22 cm in 2050 – as well as all the integers in between. These numbers are based on the most ideal emission scenario according to the Paris Climate Agreement – and again use the data from IPCC climate reports.

Photo: Raw Colour

And finally, Red Stack is Raw Color’s first digital stack using animation software typically used in film production – the studio has created many “stacks” on physical photosets, and this was their first attempt to create that digitally. “It’s great to have the ability to let the stack balance and actually move,” says Christoph.

DDW23: The Perpetual Motion that Drives Kiki Van Eijk and Joost Van Bleiswijk (Design Milk)

Kiki Van Eijk and Joost Van Bleiswijk, otherwise known as Kiki and Joost, opened up their workshop during Dutch Design Week 2023 for an exhibition entitled Perpetuum Mobile, Latin for “perpetual motion.” It’s a nod to the prolific, dynamic, and ever-evolving output from the design duo – separately, as a team, and in collaboration with others. Work from the past two decades was showcased in the expansive space that lies at the heart of their creative expression – a voluminous space that they had purpose-built entirely from wood, without the use of any glues, nails, or screws.

Kiki: Carpet Special, 2000 \\\ Photo: Katie Treggiden

Handmade from 100% felted wool, this rug was inspired by the strange proportions seen within 19th-century dolls’ houses. Kiki developed the technique herself to mimic a giant embroidery stitch, and the giant rose is a nod to the archetypical image of 19th-century English doll house carpets. This piece was part of Kiki’s graduate collection “We’re Living in a Doll’s House,” and marked the rehabilitation of 100% wool felt carpets into the Dutch design scene, which until then, had been written off as old-fashioned.

Kiki x Ikonic Toys: Kiki’s Dollhouse, Prototype, 2023

23 years after developing the Carpet Special, inspired by the proportions of a dolls’ house, Kiki has designed the house they might furnish – a modern update to the traditional Victorian model and prototype for Ikonic, a Dutch designer toy brand.

Joost x Ice Carpet: Sketch Carpet, 2014, Sketch Carpet, 2020, Sketch Stool, 2019 \\\ Photo: Katie Treggiden

Joost’s Sketch Collection, pictured above on the Sketch Carpet, was inspired by his knowledge and passion for abstract expressionist paintings. Made using a spontaneous and expressive approach to cutting, bending, shaping, and welding in the workshop, this gestural way of working lends itself to powerful shapes.

Kiki x Spectrum: PUK SZ 19 2019, Raku Knit Fragments, 2022 \\\ Photo: Katie Treggiden

Designed in collaboration with Borre Akkersdijk, the co-founder of the Dutch textile innovation studio of clothing brand ByborreRaku Knit Fragments is a wall hanging inspired by the Japanese technique of raku, in which ceramics are fired; removed from the kiln resulting in cracks in the glaze; and then submerged in smoke. Kiki wanted to translate this ancient ceramic process into sensory textile pieces which emulate the spontaneity of raku in a softer medium.

Kiki: Raku Knits, 2022 \\\ Photo: Katie Treggiden

Another piece in the same series, also created in collaboration with Borre Akkersdijk, expands on her extensive research into the 16th-century Japanese tradition and is inspired by the colors, shapes, and textures of her own raku-fired ceramic collection.

Joost: Beam Sketch Collection, 2023 \\\ Photo: Katie Treggiden

The construction of a new exhibition space – an addition to the current workshop, which had to be cleared for this show – inspired Joost to develop Beam Sketch – this new sculptural shelving unit. Wooden beams are often marked with neon pink spray paint during the construction process – Joost applied the idea of “form follows construction” to create this bold collection.

Joost: Tinkered Collection, 2023 \\\ Photo: Katie Treggiden

Tinkered is a series of sculptural pieces that Joost has created to explore and embrace the dynamics of a world that is becoming more abstract and unpredictable by the day, with “known social and political structures and systems giving way to spontaneous experiments and new archetypes.”

Kiki x Cor Unum: Soft Candy Bag, 2023 \\\ Photo: Katie Treggiden

Inspired by the soft lines of a bag of candy bag, these are actually ceramic vases. The idea came from childhood memories of visiting fairs in her hometown of Tegelen and Kiki began the conception of Soft Candy Bag with a carefully stitched textile, then cast it in clay, giving it the playful appearance that is her trademark.

Kiki x Weef: College Cushions, 2023 \\\ Photo: Katie Treggiden

Cutting, pasting, layering, and patching different elements created a vibrant and colorful composition in the Collage Cushions for Weeef. “As we expand this patchwork onto a larger canvas, we weave a series of playful, textured cushions that breathe life into the space,” says Kiki. “Each cushion tells a unique story, a fusion of diverse textiles that harmonize into a visual and tactile object.”

Kiki & Joost x Singer Laren: The Line of Beauty and Grace, 2022 \\\ Photo: Katie Treggiden

When the Dutch museum Singer-Laren commissioned Kiki and Joost to create an outdoor bench for its new extension, they reached for the 18th-century text The Analysis of Beauty by William Hogarth for inspiration. In it, he refers to a “serpentine” line – a wavy or winding line as opposed to one that is either straight or simply curved – as “the line of beauty” or “the line of grace.” “According to the theory, S-shaped curved lines indicate liveliness and activity as opposed to straight lines, parallel lines or right-angled intersecting lines, which signify stillness, death or inanimate objects,” say the designers. “The town of Lauren, in North Holland, is already known for a lively artist community, so The Line of Beauty and Grace is a homage to the artistic frenzy of the area and its unique museum.”

Kiki: Structuring Chaos \\\ Photo: Katie Treggiden

Structuring Chaos is Kiki’s exploration of the tension between order and chaos and the tension between them – sailing knots that are held together with raku-fired ceramic elements. “These ceramic elements symbolize anchoring ourselves in life and the ropes are meticulously crafted by hand – a process as time-consuming as it is meditative,” says Kiki. “These colorful ropes act as conductors of harmony, emerging from the friction – Structuring Chaos resonates with the human desire for control and order in an unpredictable world.”

Kiki: Ko Tinker Sculpture, 2023 \\\ Photo: Katie Treggiden

Inspired by the Friedrich Fröbel quote, “Play is not mere playfulness; it possesses a high seriousness and deep significance,” Kiki turned to her 6-year-old son Ko for inspiration for her Ko Tinker Sculpture – hence its name. Her aim was to capture the freedom children experience when they play without constraints, allowing their minds – and hers – to wander into previously unexplored territories. “This body of work celebrates the art of play, discovery, and following one’s emotions to create freely,” she says. “Fear has no place here. It is a world of openness and purity, characterized by a delightful flow.”

Joost: Brassbars \\\ Photo: Katie Treggiden

Exploring the creative potential of left-over brass components, Joost tapped into a wellspring of inspiration that evolved into the Brassbars series of wall lamps. “These lamps capture the reflections and treatments of this precious material,” he says. “A slender strip of light enhances the overall aesthetics, casting a gentle glow that accentuates the brass’s exquisite features, making these lamps both a source of illumination and works of art.”

DDW23: Kazerne Is Intertwining Hope and Design (Design Milk)

Kazerne is a 2,500-square-meter combined meeting, exhibition, and hospitality space housed in a former military police barracks (and adjoining warehouses) dating back to the early 19th century. When Design Milk last visited in 2015, the renovation was only a year in – now it is complete and diners can eat surrounded by powerful design installations. For Dutch Design Week 2023, a show called Evolving Harmony: Intertwining Hope and Design has been curated by Annemoon Geurts exploring a “radically different” way to “live, produce, and consume together.”

The space adjacent to the main dining area was given over to three large sculptural pieces, two of which were by Eindhoven-based designer Grietje Schepers, who graduated from Design Academy Eindhoven in 2008. Ellipt 007 (above) is made from natural Dutch wool felt – the light and shadows it casts were conceived to create “mesmerizing patterns” and “alter the sensory perception” of the space. The three-dimensional form was created using an intricate pattern cut into flat felt with no waste.

“The Crawling objects capture your attention with their insect-like composure,” said the wall text explaining Crawling (above). “The creatures seem to come towards you while they are obviously too heavy to walk.” In keeping with Schepers’ low-waste approach, they are largely made from thrifted materials and objects.

The third piece is by a more recent DAE graduate, artistic researcher, and designer Ori Orisun MerhavMade by Insects is part of an ongoing research project into the natural polymer lac (more commonly known as Shellac and used as a coating) which is made from the secretions of female lac bugs. What started with a research project in Thailand to study the insects has evolved into a library of new techniques for working with this material in new and innovative ways and a body of work that demonstrates those techniques.

Fragments N21C and N21H (above and top) by Nanette de Kool are a collage of memories captured in photographs, video stills, and fragments of conversations, that are then screen-printed onto used and reconstructed textiles to evoke your own stories and memories. The Illinois Institute of Art graduate has a background in fashion design and styling.

Selyn was founded in 1991 when Sandra Wanduragala set out to create a sustainable income source for 15 women in Sri Lanka by reviving the dying art of handloom weaving in her home garage. Today it is a fair-trade certified company employing more than 1,000 female artisans across rural Sri Lanka.

As well as traditional crafts, Selyn uses cutting-edge technology to provide transparency into its supply chain. By simply scanning the button attached to the top of this bag, you can see who made it and when they were last paid, verified by the maker herself, as well as information about materials, dyeing methods, and environmental impact.

In September 2022, the company was commissioned by the ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Colombia to collaborate with interior architect Nicole van der Velden, to renovate his office and residence in line with his circular economy principles. Alongside reupholstered furniture, this quilt (above) was produced to tell the story of the project through its scanable buttons.

With support from Creative Industries Fund NLIsaac Monté has 3D-printed three giant clams – representing different stages of a stone mason’s apprenticeship – from Stone Paper made from byproducts from the limestone industry, such as calcium. Due to its unique viscosity, this necessitated the development of novel extrusion techniques. Through his work, Monté pays homage to the ancient craft of stonemasonry while redefining it for the modern era.

Everyday Paradise (above) was co-curated by Lili Tedde and Lidewij Edelkoort to enable visitors to “search for beauty, soothe our soul, and heal our mind; to recompose our battered being” in a climate of “ongoing war, endless waste, accelerated climate change, and our loss of agency to AI.” Edelkoort is quoted as saying “The selection of these exotic masterpieces was done with the expert eye and experience of Lili Tedde, passionate about helping others discover her beloved Brazil through multiple publications and exhibitions,” however, I found the decision to credit everybody involved apart from the designers and makers of these pieces, plus the use of terms such as “exotic” and “outsider,” problematic and perhaps symptomatic of some of the problems the exhibition was designed to soothe if not solve.

House of Dreams explored the bedroom of the future with a “bedstead made of only responsible and locally harvested materials, a safe place to close your eyes, take a nap, refresh your mind, and dream a dream that stays your own.” The project was conceived by ConverseArchitects, made from reused Velux window frames, and filled with a specially made mattress, futon, topper, and pillows containing only materials from Dutch soil made by Futon Factorij. 

“Since we want to showcase a simple bedroom, it seemed appropriate to us to exclusively pick real and tangible materials and products,” say the architects. “By staying close to the origin of the products we want to show the simplicity of our basal installation. Our goal is to pick our materials from Dutch soil and work together with real craftsmen.”

Finally, the gourmet circular farm Vaderland hosted a pop-up restaurant for the duration of Dutch Design Week. Designer and farmer’s daughter Lianne van Genugten and chef Joep Brekelmans are building the farm using “an iterative design process, in collaboration with nature” they say. “This means perpetual movement, fine-tuning, balancing, and optimization, again and again. With respect and attention for what the earth asks and gives, they are developing a nature-inclusive farm.”

Photography by Katie Treggiden.

Lucy Ralph Uses Visible Repairs to Promote the Longevity of Clothing (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

Repair specialist Lucy Ralph describes herself as “a future-focused designer who loves to experiment and play.” A recent graduate, she studied surface pattern and textiles at Swansea College of Art, and is now continuing her practice within fashion, exploring concepts of visible repair and reworking garments.

Tell me about your childhood, education, background, and how you first became interested in repair.

I think my mum should get the credit – she is a farmer, so is out working in all weathers and regularly catching her clothes on fences and things – she is quite a frugal lady, so will just patch them back up using scrap materials – either from other damaged clothing, or our old school t-shirts and pillow cases. So seeing that as I grew up forged my attitudes – I really never viewed anything as waste, always finding a second life for things, and instead of buying new, making things out of what I already had. This translated into my interest in fashion, and I began upcycling and reworking my existing clothing, which developed into my creative practice today as I learned about the impact the fashion industry has on the environment, driven by the quick turnaround of clothing, and how much is just sitting in landfill having barely been worn. Repair became my specific focus when I discovered the concept of visible repair, following an internship with Hiut Denim in West Wales, where I experimented with Sashiko embroidery. Even the phrase “visible repair” I find really lovely – I love that when you wear a visible repair, you’re not only extending the life of the garment, but you are promoting an alternative fashion future. It becomes a conversation-starter that can influence and inspire others.

What appeals to you about repairing existing objects versus creating something new?

You are putting your imprint on the item and, with clothing especially, there is a big disconnect emotionally as we no longer see the value in it and how it’s made, so we heartlessly dispose of it or lose interest in it so quickly. When you repair clothing to add to its story, and it becomes a richer item you are more emotionally connected to.

There are many words for repair with slight nuances in their meaning – mending, fixing, hacking, restoring, repurposing… which do you prefer in relation to your work and why?

I say “repurposing” because nowadays many people dispose of their clothing before it’s even worn enough to become damaged so, through repurposing the item, you are (hopefully) repairing the relationship between the clothing and the wearer. I think it also depends on who your audience is, because there are some items of clothing that are really loved for how they first existed, so an invisible “fix” would be required, likewise with workwear..

How would you describe this project or body of work?

Playful, experimental, and hopeful.

What is the inspiration behind it – where did the idea come from?

It came from me recognizing my responsibility as a designer to, not only lower the impact of the pieces I was creating, but to also educate and facilitate change through connecting with consumers, so they are able to lower the impact, with the idea of visible repair being a conversation starter, as well as something to be taught in workshops. At the Green Grads hub in Heals during the London Design Festival recently, I collaborated with fellow Green Grad Lucianne Canavan, to host a repair and patchwork workshop, with an outcome of “The Green Jean” which was a second-hand pair of jeans adorned in patches made from scrap materials, by participants in the workshop.

Which repair techniques are you using and why? 

Sashiko, because it’s simple but beautiful, and also because the history behind it connected to the ideas of visible repair, and seeing the value in our clothing. And patchwork because it is a good way of highlighting that even the smallest of scrap fabrics can be utilized, and not thrown away. I also love to create collages, so I view patchwork as a sort of textile collage, and therefore a way to put art on your clothing – or make the clothing into art.

How did you learn the techniques you use in your work?

Practice and experimentation, but also from books, online, and in workshops – Restoration London do some great ones.

How do your repairs change the function or story of the object?

You can transform your clothing however you like with repairs, you can make it more jazzy, or keep it smart. One of my lecturers informed me of the word “palimpsest” – something that has been reused or altered but still bears visible traces of its earlier form – when repaired clothing becomes a palimpsest, it adds layers of richness and value and it becomes a conversation-starter.

How visible or invisible is the repair and why is that important?

I like to work with visible repairs, mainly because I recognize that people lose interest in their clothing before it has even become damaged, and are always seeking newness – through visible repairs, you can create novelty, and communicate the idea that clothing is non-disposable, and we should be utilizing what we’ve already got.

How have people reacted to this project or body of work? 

Really positively! I’ve been told by a few people that it’s good to see a more contemporary “designed” approach to repair and patchwork and that it’s not just tartan squares, opening people’s eyes to what it is and can be.

How do you feel opinions towards mending and repair are changing?

I start thinking that they are really changing in a positive direction, but then I realize that I’m mainly surrounded by people with similar mindsets to my own, and outside of my bubble it is business as usual. I think it is going to take a lot more noise, but also for bigger businesses and designers to start exploring concepts of repair and repurposing, and collaborating with consumers to facilitate it.

What do you think the future holds for repair?

I think we will get there eventually – sustainability is already the buzzword of the moment, with circularity starting to gain traction as well, but it’s going to require big businesses to really adapt and make honest changes. As people begin to explore circularity more, it is really going to breed innovation and great design, which is really exciting – starting to see “haute repair” on the runway would be sick!

You can find out more about Lucy Ralph and her work here

LDF23: The Second Iteration of Material Matters Steals The Show (Design Milk)

Material Matters is one the newest and most exciting additions to the London Design Festival. Only in its second year, it is held at The Barge House on London’s Southbank, making it a bit of a destination location, but well worth the trip. It has been co-founded by industry heavy-weights former editor of Crafts Magazine and BlueprintGrant Gibson, and former deputy director of the London Design Festival itself and director of both 100% Design and Clerkenwell Design WeekWilliam Knight, so you know you’re in safe hands.

The tempo is set from the moment you walk into the industrial atrium that waits behind the front doors. Likened by Grant to a magazine’s front cover, Planted, an installation by Danish designer Tanja Kirst comprises 10 textile pieces — made from hemp and yarn spun from oranges, seaweed, and pineapple — suspended from the double-height ceiling, inviting visitors ‘to experience new degradable and circular materials through experimental processes.’

Inside the exhibits range from the materially adventurous to more commercially applied examples, but this was a favorite – the This is Grown Shoe Upper by designer and creative researcher Jen Keane is fabricated using a process she calls ‘microbial weaving’ in which k. rhaeticus bacteria are encouraged to ‘weave’ a high-performance hybrid material that gives its plastic counterparts a run for their money.

MOD+ by Lima-based furniture design studio Retablo is a modular shelving system made from 100% recycled plastic and turned wood, native to where it is made in Peru. The whole thing is shipped flat and can be reconfigured as required.

Symposium of Gods and Spirits: Part 1 is London-based Ultramar Studio’s debut collection, inspired by ancient Greek gatherings for intellectual discussion. Hand-crafted by Hong Kong born Ewan Lamm as a response to both global crises and his own personal experiences, ‘as a haven for where Gods and spirits collaborate for global betterment.’ Positioned opposite the bar within Material Matters as it was, that might have been a lofty aspiration, but there were at least a few conversations aiming to put the world to rights. The Torii Stool (above) was inspired by the Japanese mythological structure and constructed with two arched legs joining with two beams to form the seat.

Wicker story is an off-shoot of Prelab Design Studio, an architecture and design practice based in Hyderabad, India. It was founded in 2019 by Priyanka Narula in response to a personal quest to define the future of design in the Indian context.

‘Our work involves the translation of digital processes for complex designing for easy adaptability to Indian craft and material systems,’ she says. ‘Wicker story, apart from being an effective tool to realize customized and complex geometries, also transcends scale and geometry and defines new protocols for design. Our products are 100% sustainable  and offer a zero waste production methodology.’

Made entirely from London-based waste, the curiously titled Growing Up I Never Wanted To Be An Office Chair was designed by Byron to challenge the monotony of conventional seating design and offer a playful alternative that might awake the childlike sense of fun in all of us.

One of the most touching pieces showcased at Material Matters was a reimagining of the cremation urn entitled Americano & Newspaper by Simon Frend. Handmade from recycled materials, these ‘ephemeral eco cremation vessels’ are designed to completely biodegrade into the earth when they are buried along with a loved one’s remains.

Solidwool has been around for a while. The idea behing the brand is to capture wool from Herdwick sheep – the iconic breed that was historically used in the UK carpet industry, but has fallen out of favor and is now considered an almost worthless byproduct of sheep farming – in eco-resin to create high-value furniture and accessories. The brand has recently been acquired by Roger Oates Design and a process of re-engineering the material, developing production and re-designing the Hembury Chair (above) undertaken. It was good to see that the results felt true to the original intent.

Mycelium feels like the material of the moment, so it wouldn’t be a show about materials without at least a couple of examples and fumo panels were one – wall covering panels comprising of fungal mycelium and agricultural waste like hemp and sawdust. ‘We allow biology to create highly sustainable material while transforming natural waste into solid biocomposites using fungi mycelium,’ they say.

Material Magic was a showcase from the Minerva Art Academy led by Jack Brandsma into alternative natural binders such as magnesium and potato starch. ‘Natural fibers like hemp are often used as reinforcement in combination with a synthetic binder, which makes the composite material hard to recycle,’ says Jack.

Perhaps the most surprising waste material on display was the use of the display lenses that eye doctors pop out of spectacle frames when they put your prescription lenses in. London-based designer and entrepreneur Yair Neuman has a long-running collaboration with British eyewear brand Cubbits, which started with a series of lights he designed for their stores.

He has now developed Delerex®, an innovative material made from discarded lenses, without the use of glues or bonding agents, which is used exclusively in his work. In the most beautifully circular move, he has now developed Fused, a collection of glasses frames that you can buy from Cubbits stores across London.

British designer Gareth Neal has collaborated with Dutch design studio The New Raw to pioneer a new 3D-printing method that uses three-times-recycled plastic and prints in intentionally imperfect loops rather than layers to mimic craft techniques and reduce errors. The result is a collection called Digitally Woven.

Interior leatherwork studio Bill Amberg exhibited the furniture that came out of its collaboration with the Knepp Estate, renowned for its ground-breaking ‘wilding’ project, the driving principle of which was to establish a ‘functioning ecosystem where nature is given as much freedom as possible.’ The collection uses leather from the estate’s English longhorn cattle. ‘We’re delighted to be collaborating with Bill Amberg Studio to honor our animals, in the way our ancestors would have done, by using their skins – with care, craft, and gratitude,’ says Knepp’s Isabella Tree.

And finally, one of the absolute highlights of the show was a mini-exhibition called Material Change by London-based design studio Pearson Lloyd. Reflecting on the changes they have made to their own practice over recent years, they explored themes such as ‘design with data,’ ‘design with waste materials’ and ‘design for circularity’ with honesty, pragmatism and clarity – qualities that are all-too-often missing from the environmental debate.

Photography by Katie Treggiden.

LDF23: A Celebration of the Creative Industries in Shoreditch Design Triangle (Design Milk)

Shoreditch Design Triangle was established in 2008 to celebrate the creative industries in East London, and is hosted by the companies who live and work there. “Blending together product launches, exhibitions, installations, workshops, talks, tours, and culinary delights – the event gives visitors the opportunity to spend the day wandering around the East End on foot and still not see everything there is to see,” say the organizers. I did my best…!

Dan Tobin Smith’s Letter C – Collapse (above) is a new piece as part of his ongoing Alphabetical Series. “Inspired by the Bell inequality test, Dirac’s three polarizers experiment with the hidden nature of materials and perception, the sculpture exploits the strange phenomenon of polarization and material,” he says. “The typographical form, concealed in plain sight, is then revealed by the materials’ previously unseen characteristics.”

Inside, a series of tiny models of playgrounds by Tobin’s Optical Arts Studio cast dynamic shadows as they spun alongside films and stills that found typographic forms within the playground structures.

Just down the road Lee Broom, who opened his Shoreditch showroom in 2010, has recently expanded by taking on the space next door. Design Milk has been following his career since day one, so it was wonderful to see this new expansion and to see so many of the pieces launched in Milan ’22.

Just down the road Lee Broom, who opened his Shoreditch showroom in 2010, has recently expanded by taking on the space next door. Design Milk has been following his career since day one, so it was wonderful to see this new expansion and to see so many of the pieces launched in Milan ’22.

B Corp-certified lighting brand Tala launched the Mantle Portable Lamp (shown above in cobalt blue), which comes apart so the bulb, battery, and interior circuitry can all be replaced. I love the use of portable lights for, not only outdoor spaces, but also indoor nooks where a trailing cable would be problematic.

Shoreditch stalwart SCP worked with Carl Clerkin and friends to bring some much-need levity to proceedings with its tongue-in-cheek Federation of Furniture Fanciers SCPeep Show hosted by the Closed Curtain Club which riffed on Victorian sensibilities around the female form, but applied to furniture and accessories. The Doorknob Feeler Theatre (above) invited visitors to “have a good feel” of this cast aluminum Jasper Morrison FSB Doorknob.

The Confession Bucket by Poppy Booth is made of galvanized steel with confession grill holes and invited visitors to “pull bucket over head and confess, release slowly after use.” Its gentle and silly humor was so very welcome as LDF returns to form after some very serious world events.

On a more sensible note, SCP was also presenting a new collection of WonderGlass pieces by British architect and designer John Pawson including Berg, a glass coffee table that creates mesmerizing shadows underneath.

Carl Clerkin was also presenting Sons of Beasley with designer and colleague Alex Hellum. Alongside a new collection of chairs, there was a fully equipped live workshop where Carl, Alex, and friends were be making things by hand from offcuts, components, and materials donated by local cabinet maker Plykea – makers of door fronts and worktops for IKEA kitchens.

Upstairs SCP was showcasing its new foam-free method of upholstering furniture that comprises all natural materials including burlap, latex, and coconut fibers, recycled wool, latex, needled wool, multi-density wool, feathers, solid beech, birch and poplar plywood, webbing, and metal springs – upholstery foam is horrible for both the environment and the people who make, work with and use it, so this is a really important development.

This approach is now used across all of SCP’s sofas – including the low-lying Peonia by Wilkinson & Riveria, which they describe as a “family and friends sized sitting space.”

Element by Philippe Malouin is a modular “sofa system” that can be arranged perfectly traditionally, or into this playful “enclosed conversation pit” for the “ultimate comfort, conversation, and conviviality.”

If SCP is a Shoreditch Design Triangle stalwart, The Collective is the new kid in town. Designed by Studio Cass, its new Charlotte Road home is housed in a former button factory, and instead of looking like a showroom comprising a series of spaces – a kitchen, a bar, meeting rooms – that enable it to showcase the products, expertise, and quality behind The Collective and its associated brands.

One of those brands is EchoPanel® – acoustic panels made from PET offcuts – and even as the drinks started flowing and the evening’s party moved into full swing, the quality of sound in the space was palpable.

Photography by Katie Treggiden.

LDF23: 2LG Studio + British Craft Shine at the 2023 London Design Fair (Design Milk)

“London’s favorite design fair is back” reads the London Design Fair’s website – and it is and it isn’t. The show, formerly known as Tent, is under new ownership, much smaller than in its pre-COVID heyday, and less tightly curated, but nonetheless it did contain some absolute gems. One of the highlights, not just of the London Design Fair but of the whole festival, was ‘You CAN Sit With Us’ curated by 2LG Studio, a London-based interior design and styling consultancy, founded by creative duo, Jordan Cluroe and Russell Whitehead (below left).

Photo: Megan Taylor

US Congress member Shirley Chisholm is credited with coining the oft-quoted expression, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring in a folding chair.” But with Russell and Jordan about, you won’t be needing one. You CAN Sit With Us (emphasis on “can” and referencing the 2004 movie Mean Girls) is a curation that responds to prejudice they have felt and still feel from the industry. They placed a long dining table at the heart of an installation designed to explore inclusivity and asked emerging designers to each design one chair, giving them a platform so they wouldn’t experience the same barriers.

The project also included a collaboration with Granite + Smoke (pictured above with Jordan and Russell) whose colorful blankets featured the words from the exhibition title and with Custhom (immediately above). Other designers featured in the space include Ercol, Helen Kirkum, Wilkinson & Rivera, Sam Klemick, and Amechi Mandi.

The other part of the fair that really shone was the British Craft Pavilion and the first stand through the door belonged to furniture maker Nick James. Nick describes himself as “a highly skilled craftsman and tree lover.” He’s an advocate of traditional woodworking techniques, uses British-grown wood, making everything by hand in his Newcastle-upon-Tyne workshop, and feeds his creativity by spending every Wednesday in his local woodland.

Pamela Print spent 14 years in the fashion textiles industry and now relishes the slow pace of natural dying and hand weaving. Her Kantha III artwork (above) is hand-dyed using indigo and logwood plant dyes. As well as artworks, she also makes scarves, cushions, throws, and weaving kits.

Will James runs Knot Design from a small studio and workshop in central London, making to order and celebrating the natural imperfections of wood. Like many of his products, the Dickens Wall Shelf (above) can be completely customized by size, timber, and number of shelves, so it’s just as perfect for a tiny nook as it is to provide “a sprawling display for your cherished collectibles.”

Woven Memories cushions’ unique designs are created with an online tool that can turn any typed message into binary code and therefore a visual pattern. They are made from locally sourced and deadstock yarn to ensure their sustainability message is as embodied as the message coded into their designs.

Barbara Gittings is a Brighton-based ceramicist, specializing in Nerikomi techniques. Inspired by a former career in textiles, these involve adding oxides or stains to the clay to color it and then joining, slicing, and rejoining layers of colors to build up patterns through the clay, which she then slab-builds, biscuit-fires, and sands down before a final smoke firing and polish. The result evokes the multi-layered effects of nature, such as the laying down of strata, weathering, and erosion.

Pointing out negative spaces in the doorway opposite her stand that she is already convinced will inspire future work, Jane Cairns explains that her work (above) “is about finding beauty in the ordinary; about recognizing the accidental poetry in the unnoticed and overlooked,” she says. “Living in the city, this is often found in apparently insignificant visual details of the built environment – the space on a wall where something has been removed, a juxtaposition of materials, the sculptural qualities of found forms.”

Each lamp by Margate-based Lux Pottery is a slab-built stoneware artwork in its own right, brought to life with a vintage-style lightbulb. She also makes wall hangings inspired by her surroundings in referencing mid-century design motifs.

Photo: Courtesy of Spark & Bell

Outside of the British Craft Pavilion, a couple of stands really stood out, one of which was Brighton-based Spark & Bell – a sustainable lighting company that is even creating its own sheet materials from recycled plastic.

Another sustainable exhibitor of note was Studio Lia Karras, all the way from Winnipeg, Canada. Lia specializes in custom handwoven textile art for architectural spaces made with reclaimed and reimagined materials – often taken from the very buildings the resulting pieces are commissioned for.

“I believe that abundance could look different,” she says. “I believe in living and working gently and leading a lifestyle and practice where beauty, quality, and sustainability are in balance. In all of my work, I strive to contribute without taking; to make the best possible use of the resources available to me by thoughtfully re-imagining the materials at hand. I strive to create something beautiful, functional, subtle, and tactile.”n for circularity’ with honesty, pragmatism and clarity – qualities that are all-too-often missing from the environmental debate.

All other photography by Katie Treggiden.

LDF23: Mother Goddess of the Three Realms Celebrates British + Vietnamese Heritage (Design Milk)

Mother Goddess of the Three Realms: Cross Encounters, Joining Threads was the title of “a celebration of UK and Vietnam’s cross-cultural and shared design heritage” curated by WAX Atelier (London) in collaboration with Blue H’mong craftswomen of Po Co village (Mai Chau Province) and KILOMET109 (Hanoi) as part of both London Design Festival and Vietnam Design Week.

The same group collaborated on Mother Goddess Rope (top and above), which is made from collectively sourced hemp, linen, nettle, silk, and wild yam root and bound together in song and dance.

Using rope as both medium and metaphor, the exhibition explores cross-cultural ideas from a wide range of practitioners whom the curators describe as “a collection of individuals and organizations who are contributing to the preservation and proliferation of ancient material knowledge for one of humankind’s greatest technological inventions.” Above a selection of bast fibers show the ropes and cords that can be made from materials such as nettle, bramble, and raspberry.

A film screening area featured theater curtains and a backdrop made from naturally fire-retardant hemp, wool, and bast by British textile brand Camira and a pink theater rope made from cotton and silk by Brian Turner Trimmings Ltd, commissioned especially for the occasion. Two films were shown – Domestic Spinner by Yibing Chen, which explored the connections between spinning and women’s identities, and Mother Goddess of the Three Realms by Rocio Chacon and Yesenia Thibault Picazo (co-founder of WAX Atelier), which gave the exhibition its title and follows three groups of women as they create a 20-meter-long braided rope as an offering to the Mother Goddess to represent heaven, water, and forest.

The Nine Lives Shoe by Jennifer Duong and Natasha Hicks is made from recycled rubber, cotton, and nylon 4-stranded braided Caliga. It was designed for the “urban explorer” during Walking the City – a free summer school program led by STORE Projects to address the social imbalance in the creative industries.

Aimee Betts is an embroidery and textile artist specializing in traditional forms of stitching, knotting, and fabric manipulation, which she translates into contemporary designs. For this exhibition, she was showing ash batons, crapped and overhand stitched with wax cotton cord, leather cord, jute cord, and ceramic coated cord as well as samples made from the same types of cord and soutache cord, brass, tassel mould, dowel, rope, and vintage linen, combining traditional stitches with ones she has conceived herself.

Designed and made by Nice Projects, the simply titled Bench is made from hemp rope and wood to provide visitors to the exhibition with a place to rest, “converge and commune.”

Rope in Action is a sculptural structure running through the space that uses ubiquitous hardware items to showcase the rope strung and knotted through space.

Studio Raw Origins showcased Hemp, Earth + Politics – a demonstration of UK hemp decomposition processes into yarn, fiber, nutritional protein, and hemp seed oil – a small selection of their ongoing research into the thousands of uses for this carbon sequestering, zero waste, soil regenerating crop.

A Study in Bamboo by artist and molecular scientist Cynthia Fan is made from bamboo harvested over the summer from a garden in the area of London where the exhibition took place and is one of a series of compositions that enable an opportunity to gather field notes about the plant’s strength.

Sanne Visser, better known for her ropes made from human hair, was running rope-making workshops throughout the exhibition to demonstrate the process and offer visitors the chance to try it for themselves. She also had a dog lead made from human hair on display – part of her ongoing project, The New Age of Trichology, that connects hairdressers with spinners to promote this regenerative, non-extractive material for rope-making.

WAX Atelier collaborated with Brian Turner Trimmings Ltd to repurpose rope used for the recent British royal wedding into a temple decoration simply named Temple Tassel.

The Bee Skep Hut by Lyson MarchessaultJesse Beagle, and Hayatsu Architects comprises a coppiced chestnut frame and a hazel and corrugated hemp fiber roof, wattle and daubed with London clay, hemp, and sand.

LDF23: UK’s GREEN GRADS Is Set to Change the World (Design Milk)

GREEN GRADS is a UK initiative founded and curated by design journalist, Barbara Chandler, to platform UK graduates who are engaging with environmental issues, such as climate change, the circular economy, and biodiversity. Barbara talks about the work she chooses to feature as “running the gamut from art to engineering” and Roberta Schreyer’s Dreamstones (above) are firmly in the former camp. Her soft sculptures draw attention to the climate crisis and our broken relationship with nature. “My work exhorts humans and nature to live in balance on a beautiful Earth,” she says.

Now in its third year, this fledging initiative has flown the nest taking over the entire floor third floor of the building that houses iconic British department store Heal’s, and showcasing more than 50 of the most innovative and important projects at the London Design Festival.

Christopher Fronebner presented “Fishing for Nets” to tackle “ghost gear” – dumped fishing equipment that comprises the majority of plastic pollution in the ocean. Working with experts and using his own first-hand experience, he has developed a tool that makes clearing old nets from beaches easy and fun. He is making it available on an open-source basis, and it can be 3D printed from filament made from discarded nets.

Caroline LA Wheeler is an artist, researcher, and jeweler and her project for GREEN GRADS, “Grains and Chains,” uses a historic Gunter’s chain to raise awareness of the depletion of the second-most used resource on Earth – sand – and its impact on the landscapes and habitats it is extracted from. A series of short texts and images tell the story, while the 66-foot-long surveyors tool she deploys as a metaphor dates back to the 1600s and would have been used to measure out both the British Empire and the American wilderness as it was turned into early settlements.

Jessica Kirkpatrick is seeking to establish the contribution textile designers can make to reducing the pollution and waste currently inherent in the printing process. “Sustainability and circularity are a constant in my work as I evolve my practice to support our planet’s growth rather than hinder it,” she says. Her detailed research involves experiments to extract the most vivid of colors from local plants in her home county of Lancashire.

Elena Branch presented The Climate Collection, a collection of illustrative designs for wallpaper and upholstery textiles inspired by Russian Constructivism that speak directly to the perils that face us if we don’t act. “I’m using illustration and prints to raise vital awareness of the current climate crisis,” she says.

Dùthchas is a Gaelic word that is difficult to translate directly, but Maisie Keery sees it as “the intersection between landscape, nature, culture, and community – a place of home” and chose it as the name for her collection. Inspired by her Shen (grandfather)’s village of Cromor in the Isle of Lewis, and traditional crofters’ wear. She collected wool off fences and hand-dyed it with materials collected from the village such as food waste. “A village once rich with textiles is now being slowly forgotten,” she says. ” As a statement, I worked in the same way my ancestors would have done.”

Lucianne Canavan (above) describes herself as a multi-disciplinary artist-designer not wanting to be pinned down to a single material or approach, and it’s to her a credit. She collaborated with Lucy Ralph (below) to create a Repair Hub offering live mends throughout GREEN GRADS as well as showcasing her own work – for which she combines traditional repair techniques with her own unique combinations of patching, darning, and felting.

Lucy Ralph, aka “Lucy Trousers,” is the other half of this dynamic duo and her work explores the idea that we often discard clothes, not because they are damaged, but simply because we have grown tired of them. Her bold brand of visible mending seeks to both bring a sense of newness back to older garments and to communicate how long clothes can – and should – last.

Irish-born, London-based Royal College of Art graduate Joanne Lamb specializes in creating almost impossibly delicate woven baskets that represent the seasons, with the aim of inspiring people to appreciate nature more and to create “using their human instincts or drawing on their own cultural heritage.” The Imbolc Collection, her first, is named for the ancient Celtic holiday celebrating the earliest stirrings of spring. “I’m sharing my everyday urban experiences, bringing together art, nature and joy and pointing the way to a fairer and greener world,” she says, and has further collections inspired by summer, fall, and winter planned.

“It’s firewood at best” were the words Brighton University design and craft graduate Sholto Murray wanted to challenge. “We should be using timber that is otherwise wasted,” he says. He has sourced discarded wood from across Sussex to make vessels that retain their imperfections and irregularities. “Using local timber, felled to increase biodiversity or decrease the spread of disease, I will continue developing a style of my own. I’ll use What3Words to help increase the traceability of my material and engage the public with my craft.”

A textile artist who specializes in working with offcuts and waste fabric, Isabel Fletcher recently returned to university to study for a Master’s in textiles at the Royal College of Art. “For me, the way something was made leaves traces on otherwise disregarded offcuts,” she says. “Waste is often an extension of skilled hands and old craft. Let us value it, learn its stories, and see its beauty.”

“Industrial Offcut Studies: Hard and Soft” (above) is a series of sculptural pieces Isabel created especially for GREEN GRADS using the waste from the show’s sponsors, Benchmark, Naturalmat, and SCP. These sort of pieces would usually emerge as part of her research and development process – “thinking in three dimensions” – and this is the first time she has shared anything like these as finished objects in their own right.

Interdisciplinary designer and algal research artist, Emma Money, has come up with Cyanoskin – a “living paint” that transforms buildings into carbon-absorbing structures, in collaboration with biologist Holly Souza-Newman and business expert Antionette Nothomb with support from Carbon 13, Barclays Eagle Labs, and UKGBC. It needs care and maintenance once painted, but for as long as it stays alive, a detached house covered in the paint could absorb as much CO2 as 95 mature trees.

Henry Davison’s Frond is a leather-like material made from kelp – an incredibly fast-growing seaweed that absorbs more CO2 than trees – he found a way to stop it from rotting and has made a wallet as well as the seat and back of this chair (above) to demonstrate its strength and durability. He won the Design Council award when he exhibited at New Designers this summer.

Linnéa Duckworth grew up in rural Dartmoor in the southwest of the UK and has a background as a dancer – now, inspired by her childhood, she creates naturally dyed and pleated fabrics, designed to fade and unfold over time. “I focus on the beauty and joy of the natural world as a catalyst for change, inviting a reawakening in the body and an emotional connection with the environment,” she says.

Photography by Katie Treggiden.

LDF23: Conviviality – The Art of Living Together in Brompton Design District (Design Milk)

Among a design week that now boasts 13 separate design districts (count ’em!), Brompton Design District is the OG – London Design Festival’s first and oldest design district established in 2007 to “foster a space where new design can flourish.” 16 years on, Jane Withers’ curation explores the theme of “Conviviality – The Art of Living Together” and how design can not only flourish but forge positive relationships between people, the spaces they inhabit, and the wider world. And it delivers on that brief in spades.

Guan Lee introduces The Farm Shop
Guan Lee introduces The Farm Shop. \\\ Photo: by Katie Treggiden

‘Fels presents The Farm Shop’ (top and above) is a curatorial project that brings together 22 artists, designers, and architects to create a playful experience drawing from Grymsdyke Farm – a research facility, experimental fabrication workshop, and live-work space located in rural Buckinghamshire, in the UK. Curated by Marco Campardo, Guan Lee (above), and Luca Lo Pinto, the project includes site-specific dining homeware created over the summer of 2023 and brought together into an immersive space that uses food to explore the concept of “conviviality.”

Second Nature: Vessels of Habitation, Livelihood, and Politics by Shivangi Gupta \\\ Photo: Studio Stagg

Cromwell Place, with its 14 gallery spaces across five Grade II listed townhouses – and brand new cafe – plays host to the “hub” of the district and a number of key exhibitions. Gallery 6 provides a home away from home for graduates from the MA Design Products course at the Royal College of Art. Shivangi Gupta’s “Second Nature: Vessels of Habitation, Livelihood, and Politics” (above) examines the relationships between craft and technology, maker and designer, and material and hand, with the aim of uncovering new methods of collaboration and practice.

Contained 2.0 by Kamea Devons \\\ Photo: Katie Treggiden.

Meanwhile “Contained 2.0” by Kamea Devons features Coca-Cola glass bottles re-blown into shapes inspired by the historical glass-blowing artist Ennion, as an exploration of the intertwined nature of globalization, design, technology, the economy, and society at large.

Back of House by MA Design Products course at the Royal College of Art \\\ Photo: Studio Stagg

The partner exhibition to the gallery showcase within Cromwell Place was in a garage on nearby Cromwell Mews and extended the theme of “back of house” by demonstrating making processes and works in progress.

Objects by Ash & Plumb, Darren Appiagyei, Takahashi McGil, Alex Walshaw, and Studio AMOS \\\ Photo: Studio Stagg

Back at Cromwell House, The New Craftsmen returns to its pop-up roots under the stewardship of internationally renowned gallery owner Sarah Myerscough and former product director Kathy Lacour, with a showcase of British craft entitled “Join, Assemble, Hold” across two rooms conceived as a kitchen and a drawing room. The Kitchen (above) features “crafted pieces that are connected or joined and conjure a sense of conviviality and togetherness.” The Nailed Pantry “overflows” with turned wood vessels and hand-wrought natural objects from Ash & Plumb, Darren Appiagyei, Takahashi McGil, Alex Walshaw, and Studio AMOS. The suspended installation of regional baskets behind it highlights rare and endangered basketry techniques, some of which rely on British woods that are at risk of extinction. The hand-turned bowls on the mantlepiece are by one-half of Forest & Found, Max Bainbridge.

Welcome Drinks Cabinet by ceramicist Matthew Raw. Glass objects by Jochen Holz.\\\ Photo: Studio Stagg

The centerpiece in the “drawing room” is the tiled Welcome Drinks Cabinet by ceramicist Matthew Raw, complemented by iridescent glass objects by Jochen Holz. “His innovative and unique pieces draw us into his world of the playful and sublime,” says The New Craftsmen.

Fish Table: Fatty Tuna by Rio Kobayashi and James Hague, 2019 \\\ Photo: James Harris

What do you do when you get invited to do your first solo show and the theme is “conviviality?” Rio Kobayashi understood the assignment, invited all his pals to take part, and turned it into a collaborative effort. Calling the show “One Hand Washes The Other,” he collaborated on every piece and brought them together into a space that “co-exists” as a living room for people to enjoy the company of design objects and designers, much like they might do in his own living room at home. His motto of “bringing people together and having fun” epitomizes conviviality and demonstrates his belief that “happiness is achievable by creating a life of quality both in the materialistic world and in our inner world.”

Exhibition poster by Tilmann S. Wendelstein, 2023 \\\ Photo: Katie Treggiden

Kobayashi was born in Japan, trained in Austria, has lived all over Europe, and is now based in East London. His work reflects his journey, the relationships he has forged along the way, and his life story so far. Here’s to the next chapter!

All Together Installation by All In Awe \\\ Photo: Studio Stagg

All in Awe has created All Together – an on-street installation supporting the work of a mental health charity and volunteer center in the London borough of Kensington & Chelsea – a reflection on the subject of loneliness, inspired by the startling fact that this area of London has one of the highest numbers of single-person households in the country and one of the most profound economic disparities across the UK, reminding us that loneliness is universal, affecting people from all walks of life.

All Together Installation by All In Awe \\\ Photo: Katie Treggiden

“Our mission is to bring together people who create change with designers to support their mission and vision through the power of design,” says Eva Feldkamp of All in Awe. “We know that design has a higher purpose and possesses the capacity to tackle social issues. Through our workshops, we shared practical tools and concepts of visual design, giving people a voice to express their thoughts collectively.” The flags (above) were designed as an output of one of those workshops to visualize different emotions.

United Ties by Shanince Palmer \\\ Photo: Studio Stagg

Powershift, is a group exhibition curated by POor Collective, featuring the work of emerging artists, designers, and architects, to celebrate their collective power to create change when people work together. It won the London Design Festival’s “emerging design medal.” United Ties (above) by Shanince Palmer is a visual sculpture made, as part of a community workshop entitled A New Narrative, using braiding, knotting, and tying as a catalyst to “bring unheard voices together and express, imagine, and create a united future.”

Interplay by Giles Nartey \\\ Photo: Katie Treggiden

Designer Giles Nartey created Interplay (above) – a daybed that doubles up a board for playing the West African game of Oware, which he learnt from his grandparents in Ghana as a child.

Interplay by Giles Nartey \\\ Photo: Katie Treggiden

Designed not only for lounging on, but also for two people to sit opposite one another, it forms part of his research at London’s Bartlett School of Architecture, where he is exploring the ways in which African craft cultures can be used to embed rituals into objects.

Gonzo’s Underground Mix Vol 7 by Yumura Teruhiko

Gonzo’s Underground Mix Vol 7 by Yumura TeruhikoInspired by an annual exhibition in Tokyo of the same name, WAVE: Currents in Japanese Graphic Arts, was curated for Japan House by artists Hiro Sugiyama and Takahashi Kintarō, to present the work of 60 of Japan’s most significant graphic artists, introducing many of them to the UK for the first time. Pop art, surrealism, and illustration appear alongside pieces representative of the concept of heta-uma, which translates as “bad, but good,” and refers to apparently unskilled art which reveals greater merit upon close inspection – challenging our perspectives of what is “ugly” or “beautiful.”

Bridget Harvey Talks the Exploration of Repair (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

Bridget Harvey is a maker and practice-based researcher who has been examining repair, hope, and activism since 2012, through practices such as working as a repairer and maker, exhibitions, a practice-based PhD, an artist residency at the Victoria and Albert Museum, public speaking, and repair workshops.

Tell me about your childhood, education, background, and how you first became interested in repair.

In a lot of ways it was all very ordinary. However, I was always encouraged to make things, to tinker with things and to fix things. This might be making ideas that I had, or tie-dying clothes with my Gran, or helping maintain the house. While I was always encouraged to care for my things, repair them, re-use, and repurpose materials, I didn’t consciously notice my interest in repair until much later. I left school at 16, did a screen printing apprenticeship in Philadelphia and some other bits and pieces, then I settled in to a job at Waterstones bookshop for a few years, making and fixing things in my spare time. It was when I had been there for a few years that I decided to go back to studying, first at Morley College in Southwark, and eventually completing my PhD (on repair as practice) at University of the Arts London.

What appeals to you about repairing existing objects versus creating something new?

I guess I do a bit of both now – I make objects from materials from broken things, and I repair things. I do not like waste, and I want to explore and show how we can reduce our environmental impact by approaching making in different ways. In my making, I am really interested in individual agency – how we can use making to interact with and prolong the life of the precious materials we have around us. This can also bounce up the making scale – if enough individuals come together to ask how their things are made and why they can’t fix or adapt them, then hopefully manufacturing practices will change. I also think that the hands-on interaction with materials and stuff is good for us, we can do it alone, together, watching videos, or reading forums, whichever way – but touching the real things around us and understanding them is important.

There are many words for repair with slight nuances in their meaning – mending, fixing, hacking, restoring, repurposing… which do you prefer in relation to your work and why?

I prefer repair, for me this has both the clear direct meaning and also the flexibility. To repair something is to take it to a state that suits the way you want it – so not necessarily the way it was designed to be used, but how you want it to work. I often use the term repair-maker as well, to emphasize the link between the acts of repairing and making something new.

How would you describe this project or body of work?

I actually work with a lot of different materials, but one thing I have been doing now for about eight years is exploring ways of repairing ceramics. I call the series Sides to Middle, which is actually a textile phrase (you would cut your old, worn bedsheet down the middle, and sew the edges together to create a new, stronger middle area to sleep on). I like this phrase because to me, it also riffs on writer Rebecca Solnit’s suggestion that hope can help bring ideas in from the fringes to the conspicuous center ground, make them more noticeable. So with this body of work I have been trying to show that we can repair all sorts of things, to show different methods (not always practical ceramic methods) and aesthetics, in objects that we are all familiar with – plates and bowls.

What is the inspiration behind it – where did the idea come from?

I was reading a book called Waste and Want by Susan Strasser – it’s a social history of trash, and in it she spoke briefly about old household approaches to ceramic repair. I started to look more into it, trying out ideas I found in my studio, and through that looking into and testing conservation methods. It really just grew form there.

Which repair techniques are you using and why? 

I am a bit nomadic – I have always taken a multidisciplinary approach to my practice, using different materials and drawing techniques from different areas. I am really interested in combining different materials so metals and woods with ceramics, testing out different glues, constructive ways of using plastics, and so on. I also always go back to textiles and textile techniques – darning, patching, binding, stitching.

How did you learn the techniques you use in your work?

Some I learnt at home growing up, particularly the textile techniques and also making and using jigs to support my work. Others I have learnt through workshops and other lessons. But most I have taught myself. I was lucky enough to do a residency at the V&A Museum, where I watched and spoke to a lot of conservators – observing the practices and the objects. I learnt a lot there and came across a lot of techniques I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

How do your repairs change the function or story of the object?

Sometimes they don’t – they just return it to form, and I like that. Other times the object becomes the carrier of the repair story, it is almost more about the repair than the original object (that is particularly true of my museum/exhibition displays). Ideally, we see the object back in some form of use, with its repair in dialogue with and part of its use story.

How visible or invisible is the repair and why is that important?

I am not intent on my work always being visible. For me invisible or as-invisible-as-possible repairs fit better with post-modern and late-neo-liberal ideas around perfection and aesthetics of commercial goods and clothing. However, this often depends on design. That said, I also really like visible repairs and a lot of my work is visible. I like the discussions they provoke, the stories they tell, and the authorship/signature they provide. I also think visibility helps with overall acceptance of repair as necessary, and it can be a political statement about how or when we chose to discard things. I am really interested in care, and visible repairs make visible the care applied to that object.

How have people reacted to this project or body of work? 

Overall positively, although I have had questions about the necessity of it when it can be cheaper to replace things. This is a really good discussion to have – one thing that is often overlooked in repair work is the idea of privilege – having things which are repairable, having the time/materials/tools to do the work, ideas around aspiration and social acceptance.

How do you feel opinions towards mending and repair are changing?

Slowly! But they are changing. I think there is a long way to go before it is a truly mainstream culture though.

What do you think the future holds for repair?

Hopefully lots of it. I think we will see more legislation around repair and waste. France has just shown one pathway by introducing a bonus scheme for people paying to have clothes repaired. And I hope we will see more education schemes around repair – training, apprenticeships, expansion of the conservation discourse, etc. This is starting through ideas like Team Repair who send out kits and tools for kids to learn about repair, but ideally it will also be present in schools, higher ed and so on too. I love mending things and I love seeing others enjoying it too.

You can find out more about Bridget Harvey and her work here

Spoke: TAKT’s 1st Sofa by Anderssen & Voll Is Designed for Repair (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

Danish furniture brand TAKT has released its first sofa – Spoke – a collaboration with Anderssen & Voll. It’s designed specifically with repair in mind to be a long-life, low-waste, and entirely recyclable entry to the notoriously unsustainable furniture category. Design Milk caught up with Anderssen & Voll co-founder Torbjørn Anderssen to find out more.

Tell me about your childhood, education, background, and how you first became interested in repair.

We both come from creative homes. I’m the son of a musician and teacher, and Espen is the son of a ceramicist and architect. In our childhoods, we were always interested in making things, which led us to study design.

When I was younger, I would make patchwork clothes out of found materials, because I couldn’t find what I wanted in the shops. It wasn’t repair exactly, but it was being resourceful and bringing my ideas into the world. Also, my dad made the sofa that we lived with for decades, so that probably influenced me in some way.

Later, at Norway Says, our first Milan exhibition 23 years ago, we exhibited furniture made with our own hands. It traveled to the Design Museum in London. That’s where it all began for us.

What appeals to you about repairing existing objects versus creating something new?

The rotation time of objects in the home is so fast nowadays. In the past interiors were not led by trends as they are now. We even have a “color of the year,” which is a bit ridiculous. We believe in the longevity of color – when you use color in a design it needs to be carefully considered to not go out of fashion in a few years’ time.

When something does break or needs repairing, it feels good to solve the problem yourself. It makes you feel like you have agency in your life. It’s something we teach our children to do – to take care of things. When you repair something you develop a personal connection with the artifact. When you understand the connection of each part to the whole, you see it in a different light.

With our in-house brand, Nedre Foss, Espen and I talk about “The Century Product.” Our goal is that our objects should last at least a hundred years.

There are many words for repair with slight nuances in their meaning – mending, fixing, hacking, restoring, repurposing… which do you prefer in relation to your work and why?

Repair to us means a design which is clearly fragmented into parts made from good, clean, and solid materials that could either be reinforced or easily exchanged. It is a very different design approach to the one we started out with 25 years ago where the unified, “covered-up” look was the aesthetic ideal.

We like repairing, fixing, and mending as they imply that the user is striving to revive the original design intent of the object. I think of hacking as something very different. Hacking alters objects, which is a more creative act that moves beyond the original design, so we prefer the term “repair.”

How would you describe this project?

Espen and I are different, so when we design we bring independent viewpoints and find a compromise that is stronger. This often means our designs have a duality to them, which we celebrate.

Spoke certainly has a Danish flavor to it, which is appropriate for TAKT, but also something about the no-nonsense woodwork that makes us think about Japan. So it’s in between those two design cultures, creating something familiar but new.

What is the inspiration behind it – where did the idea come from?

The scope of Spoke Sofa was to design a flat-pack modular sofa that once assembled would look like a solid whole – a sofa to fit the TAKT philosophy of transparency.

The design and aesthetics really derive from the functionality and manufacturing parameters. TAKT sells directly to customers and ships the furniture in flat boxes to their door, so the design comprises a number of individual components that can be made with a high level of accuracy. This is important as most furniture is glued together at the factory, when the manufacturer can approve its final form; Spoke is built by the customer at home, and could be repaired in a decade’s time, so it requires another level of detail to ensure all the components are interchangeable. This was a big factor in its design.

We’re very happy with how it’s come out. It proves that this level of quality within this model is possible.

Which repair techniques are you using and why? 

Spoke was designed for disassembly which means a composition of separated mono materials: a wooden structure and loose foam cushions. So each component can be replaced, repairing the whole via components. If the solid wood gets nicked or scratched it can be repaired with TAKT’s wood oils, so you don’t need to repair everything if you’re happy to display the scrapes and scratches from everyday life at home.

How did you learn the techniques you use in your work?

Espen’s mother was a ceramicist and father an architect, so he picked up handicrafts and ideas about design at home, but our skills and techniques really developed at the Bergen Academy of Art and Design and the Oslo National Academy of Art, where we studied.

Subsequently, we really invested time in going to design fairs when we graduated. We would go to Milan to see what other designers presented and note how people reacted to the work. We had our eyes open. That’s how we developed our own voice.

Around that time Espen was partly living in California as his wife was doing a PhD at the University of Santa Cruz. So we had that West Coast influence coming into our work, too.

We developed a global outlook, from our home in Norway.

How do your repairs change the function or story of the object?

We see repair as restoring the original function of our design rather than a way to change it, but the process of repairing develops an emotional connection with the furniture and embeds memories into the object.

At home, I have a rug in our living room that is really worn out from family life with two young kids. We love the rug but it hasn’t lasted as well as we hoped. So that could be the end of the story; we could throw it out. But I’ve started to patch it with some Norwegian wool yarn that I bought a couple of weeks ago. I was inspired by the Japanese technique of Sashiko mending. It’s been on my list to fix it for a long time and I’m enjoying creating new beauty and stories in this way. Now I have a hand in it, I’m sure I will keep it for a very long time.

How visible or invisible is the repair and why is that important?

We think you should always do your best to make the repair as beautiful as possible. A messy repair is to us an uninteresting fashion statement.

In Japanese culture, repairing is always adding value and beauty. Objects should not degrade as they are repaired, they should be improved and become more desirable. We need this cultural shift in Western cultures.

How have people reacted to this project or body of work? 

We are pleased with the positive reaction to both the form and the function of Spoke Sofa. It’s important that furniture that is demountable and modular is still beautiful and desirable. We are happy to have achieved both with TAKT.

A lot of people say they love the spokes in the backrest. I think they enjoy seeing the structure and, from a distance, understanding how it works and how they could put it together or repair it. It’s more open.

How do you feel opinions towards mending and repair are changing?

It was a big topic at 3daysofdesign this year, so it seems like they are being accepted. But it’s easy to assume that because people around us are talking about it that everyone is – the global market is huge and it will take time for everyone to understand and adopt it.

It’s funny because our parents and grandparents had all of the sustainability and circularity values that we are trying to introduce now, but they didn’t have the words for them because they were simply common sense. To some extent, we are trying to return to how they lived, but in the modern day. It should be quite simple really.

In the professional market, it’s demanded much more. The wear rate is much higher than in the home, so contract furniture does need to be repairable and brands do need to stock spare parts, but in the home, people throw a lot more away.

We feel that if something allows itself to be repaired, this is a sign of quality.

What do you think the future holds for repair?

More designs with the principles embedded within Spoke, which was designed for disassembly with a composition of separated mono materials: a wooden structure and loose cushions.

Design for repair should evolve new aesthetics. The principles allow us to return to familiar aesthetics, but I believe in the future we will retain the values but find new material and structural combinations that will look different.

For all of this to become more ingrained in design culture it needs legislation, which would force manufacturers to operate in more responsible ways.

You can find out more about TAKT here and the Spoke Sofa

TOAST Launches Collection of Creatively Repaired Garments + Home Accessories (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

British brand TOAST is leading the way in bringing repair culture into clothing, homewares, and accessories and now employs as many repair specialists (six) as designers. As well as offering a repair service for customers (3,579 mends and counting), the brand has recently launched TOAST Renewed – a collection of creatively repaired pieces. Design Milk spoke to one the very first members of the repair team, Emily Mae Martin, to find out more.

Tell me about your childhood, education, background, and how you first became interested in repair.

I was always a creative child. From a young age, I was drawing and painting, acting, dancing, and singing. Sewing was a much later addition to these hobbies – apart from learning to hand stitch my name tags into school uniforms, I wasn’t doing a lot of sewing at all.

I grew up in a working-class town in the early years of fast fashion and that meant there was a stigma associated with wearing old looking and/or repaired clothes. My parents encouraged us to look clean and presentable (I was never allowed white clothes as a messy child!), to balance out the fact that our clothes were cheap – kids would get picked on if they had unbranded clothing, never mind if it was patched together. I never thought about it much at the time, but I look back and think what a huge and interesting change this has been in my lifetime.

I completed my art foundation in my hometown and focused on costume design (combining my love of clothing and acting), I then moved to Musselburgh and studied costume design for the first semester, but decided it wasn’t for me, mostly due to the technical aspects of garment construction. I reapplied for more creatively open textile courses and began studying at Edinburgh College of Art the following September. I completed both my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in textiles there, with my postgrad being the gateway to my interest in repair.

My master’s was all about sustainable fashion, mostly looking at new production methods using natural dyes, patchwork, and bespoke clothing. Mending often popped up in my research but I didn’t get much time to explore it during my studies as I was making things from scratch. I took some time in between my master’s years to teach myself a little and mend some items of my own, and I actually wore the first sweater I had mended at my degree show opening night.

What appeals to you about repairing objects versus creating something new?

The initial appeal of repair was from a sustainability angle – extending the life of a garment rather than discarding and buying new. Over time, my appreciation of repair has grown. As a maker and someone who loves clothing and textiles, it’s amazing to see a garment constantly evolving. It becomes more than an inanimate object, it is part of someone’s everyday life and holds within it human-made marks.

From a creative perspective, I am often overwhelmed when making something new, the endless options, and the pressure for it to be worthy of existing and not taking from our precious resources will do that! So working with existing items not only eliminates that guilt but also means that there’s something to respond to and be inspired by. I often include elements of the original garment into my repairs as I love how it looks.

I find that mending as a process is such an act of deliberate care that it can be healing for the garment and for yourself. It allows you to focus on one thing with minimal equipment, which is helpful for someone as easily distracted as me. This reduction of stimulus is great for my – and many people’s – anxiety, which is very different when creating something new, with ideas flying around everywhere.

There are many words for repair with slight nuances in their meaning – mending, fixing, hacking, restoring, repurposing… which do you prefer in relation to your work and why?

I find that mending as a process is such an act of deliberate care that it can be healing for the garment and for yourself. It allows you to focus on one thing with minimal equipment, which is helpful for someone as easily distracted as me. This reduction of stimulus is great for my – and many people’s – anxiety, which is very different when creating something new, with ideas flying around everywhere.

How would you describe TOAST Renewed – the collection of repaired garments recently launched by the brand, that you have been very involved in?

TOAST Renewed is a collection of previously damaged and/or faulty stock that has been creatively repaired by the team of six repair specialists working for TOAST.

Connecting back to the previous question, I would use different mending terms for the TOAST Renewed project. I mean I think the project title says a lot – to renew these pieces; to revitalize them is absolutely the goal. With customer repairs, it’s down to what is right for that particular customer and their lifestyle, whereas the Renewed pieces have to have a broader appeal and excitement to them. Without an already established personal connection, we have the opportunity to repair unused, but damaged stock and create a feature worthy of someone’s investment.

There’s definitely more design thinking that goes into these pieces, and I often use the TOAST current collections as inspiration for the items I work on.

What is the inspiration behind it – where did the idea come from?

Our TOAST Renewed collection extends our long-standing approach to cherishing materials and honoring the hands that make our pieces. It is the most recent addition to TOAST Circle, a space for us to foster longevity, celebrate the art of repair, and connect with our community over treasured pieces.

With each one-of-a-kind item, we demonstrate how mending can give clothing and soft textiles a new lease of life. We hope to shift perspectives that tears, holes, and other flaws diminish the beauty of well-crafted pieces. By renewing instead of replacing, we get to cherish items for a lifetime.

Which repair techniques are you using and why? 

I mostly use woven and Swiss darning, and sashiko-inspired patch repairs as that is what most of our garments call for. A handful of times I have used embroidery – mostly when covering stains, pen marks, etc.

There are multiple factors that go into which technique to use where, the two types of darning mentioned are typically used for knitwear repairs, but you can use woven darning on almost anything. I tend to darn the most as I love the process, and I’m a big fan of woven fabric but have never been able to weave on a large scale. It’s great to be able to be playful with color like that on a small scale.

A patch repair with reinforcement stitching is mostly used to repair holes or tears, especially when the surrounding fabric is wearing thin too. More recently I have taken to using simple patch repairs with whip-stitched edges as I love the look of these, especially on our workwear items.

How did you learn the techniques you use in your work?

I’ve been doing a lot of hand stitching, embroidery, and quilting in my textile work for a few years now, so just a few visuals online allowed me to pick up patch repair techniques quite quickly. For the darning side of things, I did a few online workshops and did a fair bit of research too. That all feels like a long time ago now though and I have developed these skills immeasurably while working at TOAST. I’ve been working in the repair specialist role for around two and a half years now, I’m working on approximately 9–15 items a week, so it’s almost become second nature to me – it feels very intuitive.

Having said that, I am definitely still learning all the time, and it’s exciting to get something challenging, whether it is working with delicate fabric, damage in a tricky area of the garment, or really anything new! Also, the online community of menders is endlessly inspiring and I see new tips and tricks and approaches to repair all the time.

How do your repairs change the function or story of the object?

I feel like with customer repairs it’s varied whether the function changes or not, plus we don’t always get to hear about the garment’s life once it is back with the wearer. I do find that most people are excited to just be able to wear the garment again without fear of further damage. There is such joy and relief in customers who can get an item repaired that they have become very connected to. It seems that often people don’t truly notice the value in some of their clothes until they might not get to wear them again.

One definite function change I do remember is that I had to do a very large patch repair on the seat of some beautiful silk trousers, which turned out to have been damaged by the owner wearing them to cycle in! I did advise her to maybe not do that in the future and use them for less active pursuits!

 

How visible or invisible is the repair and why is that important?

For the Renewed collection all items are repaired visibly in order to celebrate the craft of repair and allow customers to purchase a unique item. Having a repair be visible embraces aging, change, and imperfection, and this message imbued in something worn so close to the body can be a powerful one.

 

Practically I think that having a repair already visible on a garment will encourage future repairs or will at least make them less daunting. The pieces in the collection also provide a great resource for inspiration for our customers, especially those who are new to visible repairs and aren’t always sure what they’re asking for.

Having said that, the option for our customers to have invisible, or at least discreet, repairs is also important. Not everyone enjoys the aesthetic of repair work, and it isn’t always suitable for the garment and how or where it is worn. For example, clothes worn in corporate professional settings provide this challenge.

How have people reacted to this project or body of work? 

It seems to have been very positive from the feedback I’ve heard and the items are selling well too. I’ve had a few customers who are seeing visible mending like this for the first time and are then really encouraged to use our repair service.

How do you feel opinions towards mending and repair are changing?

People definitely seem to be embracing it more as an option for them, whereas previously they just saw it as something their parents or grandparents did. I feel like the wartime connection of the “make do and mend” era is slowly dissolving and people are seeing how it can be applied in our modern wardrobes. It is increasingly being seen as a viable way to add newness and individuality to their clothing without investing in a whole new garment. I would say this is largely thanks to the growing bunch of incredible repairers out there that have such a variety of styles and great craftsmanship. It does seem to be creeping away from something shameful and into being aspirational.

Working at TOAST in this role over the past few years, I have seen the popularity of the repair service grow and grow. To then see other larger brands begin to offer a similar service is incredible. It feels as though it is slowly developing into something that is part and parcel of the consumer experience – hopefully anyway!

What do you think the future holds for repair?

Hopefully just more of it. I always say “the more the merrier” when it comes to repairers – there’s plenty more to textiles to be mended (even just in my personal pile!). It would be great to see basic sewing and repair skills being taught to younger people, both for the planet and for themselves. Most people I’ve had the pleasure to teach have spoken of how relaxing and meditative mending is, and how empowering and rewarding it can be. No one loses in the art of repair, and an “art” it is. I hope that more people come to learn this in years to come.

You can find out more about TOAST Renewed here.

skinflint Restores 1920s–1970s Lighting for Homes, Restaurants + Shops (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

“We don’t make lights, we find them,” says British lighting brand skinflint. They have been giving new lives to vintage lights for more than a decade – and in that time they have saved more than 50,000 lights from landfill. They rescue lighting from all over the world, from abandoned glassworks in Budapest to old Navy ships in shipbreakers’ yards in Gujarat, restoring every light to modern electrical standards without compromising character. Design Milk speaks to co-founder Chris Miller to find out more.

Tell me about your childhood, education, background, and how you first became interested in repair.

Repairing, restoring, fixing, mending – they were all the norm in my household growing up. We didn’t just throw things away. But it wasn’t until I got a little older that I realized my mindset differed from the predominantly throwaway culture elsewhere. When I look back, I realize it’s this that led me towards restoration as a career path – skinflint was founded on a mission to stop vintage lights from going to landfill; repairing vintage lights has always been an act of care for our planet and our people.

What appeals to you about repairing objects versus creating something new?

A triple-bottom-line approach underpins everything we do. As a Certified B Corp, we will always prioritize people and the planet over profit. And restoring and repairing vintage lights is how we achieve this. Our vision is to buck ‘fast furniture’ fashion trends, so it wouldn’t make sense for us to design and manufacture new lights and add to the waste pile. Vintage lights were made to last, designed before the notion of ‘planned obsolescence’. That’s why we often find them in amazing locations around the world, outliving the buildings they exist within. The ceilings may be falling down but the lights are still standing!

 

There are many words for repair with slight nuances in their meaning – mending, fixing, hacking, restoring, repurposing… which do you prefer in relation to your work and why?

‘Restoration’ is the word that best sums up what we get up to at skinflint. To us, it means working with each vintage light to preserve as much of the original character as possible. We ensure each light meets modern-day technological standards but also preserve signs of age and patina; they’re the bits that tell the story of where the lights have been – everywhere from churches in the UK to private residences in Prague and factories in the Eastern Bloc.

What is the inspiration behind it – where did the idea come from?

We’ve always wanted to challenge the status quo; why can’t modern-day homes, hotels, shops, and restaurants be fitted with salvaged and restored vintage lights? In 2009, we put the theory to the test in a Victorian home in North London, and with that, skinflint was born. Fourteen years later we’ve grown, but always stayed true to our founding mission. Our ethos means we continue to make business a force for good and ensure we give back through initiatives like 1% for the Planet every year.

Which repair techniques are you using and why? How did you learn the techniques you’re using and why?

We treat each vintage light differently, there is no one-size-fits-all approach! Some lights are soda-blasted to remove old paint, some are polished, some are lacquered – restoration is a slow and steady process. But regardless of the intricacies, we will always work sustainably and prioritize the environment in our processes.

How do your repairs change the function or story of the object?

The aim of the game is to preserve. We never want to change the function of salvaged vintage lights, just ensure that they’re able to live on to tell their story. That’s part of the beauty of what we do at skinflint – the first chapter in a light’s life might be illuminating old mine shafts, but the possibilities of where it could go next are endless. We work closely with other B Corps like Aesop and Patagonia, who now have skinflint lights that once lit 1940s factories suspended from their ceilings!

 

How visible or invisible is the repair and why is that important?

We talk a lot about never compromising character. Signs of patina are an added bonus; it’s these little details that all add to the story of each individual light. They’re great conversation starters above dining room tables! But we will always ensure that the electrical components meet modern-day technological standards. As a proud member of the UK Lighting Industry Association, we’re independently audited, approved, and verified at every stage to ensure that all of our lights are expertly restored to modern standards for faultless functionality.

 

How have people reacted to this project or body of work? How do you feel opinions towards mending and repair are changing?

Consumer behavior is definitely changing. As individuals, we’re all a lot more aware of our impact on the environment and the proof is in the questions our clients are asking. They want to know we’re working sustainably and that we’re kept in check. And we are! Our B Corp Certification means that we’re legally obligated to consider our impact – and to report on it. It’s the little reminder we need to continue to evolve our ways of working, and making sure the work we do is truly circular. That’s why we recently introduced Full Circle, our product buy-back scheme. It means our clients can return their skinflint vintage lights for a 50% credit towards a future purchase. It keeps vintage lights in existence for longer and we also offer a lifetime guarantee, meaning we’ll repair any lights that need a little extra TLC.

What do you think the future holds for repair and restoration?

We’re proud to be the first vintage lighting company to introduce a product buy-back scheme and we like to think of ourselves as a game-changer in the industry. What we’ve done is demonstrate that a fully circular approach to vintage lighting is absolutely possible. And we hope that others in the industry will follow suit, bringing change to the sector as a whole. We’re excited to see what the future holds.

You can find out more about skinflint here.

Native Trails Turns Reclaimed Wine-Making Materials Into Bath Vanities (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

Naomi Neilson founded Native Trails in 1996 and for more than 25 years, the sustainable kitchen and bath manufacturer has collaborated with hundreds of highly-skilled artisans in places such as Mexico, California, Vietnam, and Italy. Naomi is one of the few female leaders in the sustainable kitchen and bathroom industry, an industry that is heavily reliant on female consumers. In 2019, the company earned its B Corp Certification, joining a community of leaders helping to drive a global movement of people using business as a force for good. The company’s Vintner’s Collection is made from reclaimed wine-making materials.

Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education, and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design, and sustainability.

I grew up around the restoration of Craftsman and Victorian homes – my dad was the engineer and my stepmother the artist, so they complemented each other perfectly in their home restoration endeavors. I was inspired not only by the inherent grace of the classic structures but also by how thoughtful design and attention to detail could completely transform those aged homes even beyond their former glory. The outdoors was also a big part of my childhood, and I’ve always had a great respect for nature. Resourcefulness evolved into a stronger sense of sustainability and personal responsibility to protect our natural world.

How would you describe the Vintner’s Collection? 

Giving reclaimed materials a second life has been a longstanding practice – and passion – for Native Trails. Our Vintner’s Collection reuses wine-making materials from the heart of California’s wine country. We reincarnate straight, flat wine-stained oak staves that were used to flavor wine during the fermenting process into elegant bath vanities and mirrors with a unique history. The oak staves are soaking for months at a time, which enriches the exceptional character and grain of the oak, and then is further enhanced and protected with a low VOC finish. The collection is offered in several finishes including Blanc – a versatile, go-to white, Grigio – a cool gray wash, Noir – an opaque black, and Chardonnay – a well-loved light blonde finish. The Vintner’s Collection is a great example of how we work creatively to lessen our impact on the environment by giving new life to materials that already exist, while creating products with aesthetic appeal, function, and durability.

What inspired the Vintner’s Collection?

Native Trails is surrounded by wineries, and during our never-ending search for sustainable materials for our products, we realized that these oak staves were typically incinerated or dumped after use in the winemaking process. It is a lot of work to clean them up but we found that the unique character of the wood makes it worthwhile, and it is work that we feel good about doing.

What waste (and other) materials are you using, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them? 

We started working with recycled copper with some incredibly skilled artisans in Mexico about 25 years ago. Our first kitchen and bath products were our hammered copper sinks, which are still made from 100% recycled copper. The copper is sourced from all over central Mexico in the form of old wires, pipes, and other scrap. It is melted down, purified, and turned into brick-sized ingots, which are flattened into sheets and then hand hammered, bent, welded, and formed into beautiful sinks and bathtubs. We also repurpose fencing and barn wood when old structures are torn down, and we turn them into our Americana Collection of bath vanities and mirrors. With farmland all around us, we found that by restoring the high-quality wood after it had served its initial purpose for many decades, we could eliminate waste, highlight the beautifully textured wood, and really create something special. Each finished piece has a rich history and truly a soulful presence.

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision? 

I do think it goes back to seeing my parents restoring old homes – they were resourceful by choice, and they had huge respect for well-made antiques and found items. They taught me to appreciate both historical objects and structures as well as to be conscious about resources. After starting Native Trails in 1996, I realized how much material is consumed in the fabrication of most items and I started searching out alternative ways to build our products.

 

What processes do the materials have to undergo to become the finished product? 

Depending upon the finish, we often lay the oak staves to dry and lighten under direct sunlight. We pass each piece of wood by hand through a sander to remove any encrusted sugars and residue from the winemaking process. The finishing process is also a multi-step endeavor – a combination of stains, paints, and waxes. The process for all products ends with a low VOC finish for enhancement and protection.

What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy? 

We believe these products will live much longer than any of us. Possibly the most critical part of sustainability is building products to last, so that is our goal. However, all of our products are recyclable or even candidates for repurposing.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype? 

Absolutely ecstatic. Actually, that never really changes. It’s like a new family member being born – we really are emotionally connected to everything we make.

How have people reacted to this project? 

Very positively. I think we all need as much human connection as we can get, and these pieces truly have soul. And though made from reclaimed wood, their styling is very transitional, so they can soften and enhance just about any design style.

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing? 

When we began, it was not yet in vogue to reclaim materials for furniture or other goods, and that has changed dramatically. Today, people are much more appreciative of the aesthetic and environmental value of repurposing materials. Yet, we have a long way to go. There is so much more that can be done.

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material? 

I think that as our planet’s resources diminish, it will have to be seen as a necessity. I see the upcoming generation as much more progressive about creating systems to capture and repurpose used materials – there is a lot of hope with the youth who are growing up increasingly environmentally aware.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Naomi Neilson from Native Trails here.

Ella Doran Turns Leftover Household Paint Into a One-Off Art Piece (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

Artist and surface pattern designer Ella Doran has created a one-off artwork piece called “Paint Drop.” The piece took form during the COVID-19 pandemic, inspired by the idea of using leftover house paint as part of Ella’s on-going commitment and passion for the circular economy. The call to action went out via Instagram – “Waste paint wanted!” – and she created the artwork on a reused canvas without a single brush. “Paint Drop” was exhibited in The Barge House over four days and then sold with 10% of the proceeds going to not-for-profit arts organization Core Arts in Hackney, the area of London Ella has always lived and worked in. The piece has since inspired a range of roller blinds.

Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education, and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design, and sustainability.

I was born in London and spent the first six years of my life moving between various towns and cities because my Dad was at medical school. We then settled in Bristol and I attended a Steiner School until I was 14. Every week we had practical lessons in the arts integrated with our academic work, from needlework to pottery, from woodwork and painting to music – this gave me a very strong foundation and confidence in my own creativity and in making things from a young age. Until I was 18, I mostly lived with my Mum in a community surrounded by creative people. I had the best year of college life on my foundation course and from there I went on to study printed textiles at Middlesex University (then a polytechnic). I quickly learned that I preferred designing for interiors, rather than for fashion and the course focused on developing our own design language. In terms of sustainability in my own business, the size of my company has ebbed and flowed to remain viable, but the values I espouse and the materials I use have not changed – even though the communication and focus of what and how I design has developed over time.

How would you describe your project/product? 

It’s an artwork piece called “Paint Drop” measuring just over 24 square feet made using waste paint collected from a call out to the public for their leftover paint!

What inspired this project/product?

It was during lockdown in early 2021 when I was still able to work in my studio as no one else was there. I was searching for a new project and I had already set myself the challenge that anything I created had to be working with old materials that I already owned, or that might be lying around waiting to be reused that I could get from others.

What waste (and other) materials are you using, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them? 

I had a large dismantled wooden canvas frame in my studio, along with its original promotional canvas that I’d had made for a trade show. It had been collecting dust for more than 5 years, so I built it, primed it, and then rather spontaneously I put a call out on Instagram “Waste Paint wanted!” The response was immediate! Donations ranged from small pots of paint to much larger surpluses – the amount and variety of colors and types of paint handed over, from matte and gloss to vinyls and emulsions, was  overwhelming!

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision? 

I’ve been an advocate of the circular economy since I first heard the phrase, but when I look back, I have been passionate about working with materials to give them new form my whole life. I have worked on several projects – notably a live exhibition at the V&A in collaboration with the upholstery brand Galapagos and The Great Recovery Project.  We ran live workshops during the design festival back in 2014, inviting the public to engage with making, and to see with their own eyes and make a connection with the materials that go in and come out of the chairs in the process of renewal. I have since run many workshops and live events around furniture pieces: one Design Milk featured before the Clean Up Camo Chair.

The phrase “take, make, use, lose” coined by one of my circular economy heroes, Kate Raworth author of the Doughnut Economics rings true. We are indeed all losers if we stick to the linear economic model, we need to be reminded every day that we are living in a climate emergency!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What processes do the materials have to undergo to become the finished product? 

The process in my case has been creativity and – the most precious commodity that we all have – time. I gave myself one rule… no brushes! And during lockdown I would just lose myself in the highly organic process of applying the paint by pouring, scraping, and dripping, a kind of meditation in motion.

What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy? 

This is an interesting question; I’d like to hope this stays as one artwork for a long time. The canvas could be cut up into new smaller pieces or stretched onto new smaller frames, a smaller section could go under a glass-topped table. The possibilities are endless. The wooden frame is of good quality so in its present form it could be reused, again and again, if someone tires of the art.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype? 

It’s taken over a year to evolve in between my teaching and interiors projects, it was a highly meditative and healing process for me, particularly during the lockdown months. I’ve gone through many emotions throughout its creation, questioning whether I should stop at certain times… then I’d drop another color and knock it all out, which meant waiting a good few days or sometimes weeks for me to change my mood, and pick up a new color and slowly bring back the balance. I knew a week or so before I finished that I was getting close … so my color decisions became even more poignant and finite until finally, the piece told me it was done.

How have people reacted to this project? 

I’ve been thrilled with the reaction – in order to install it at the Material Matters Fair here in London during the London Design Festival, I had to dismantle it just to get it out of the door of my studio, and remount on site. And there is serendipity in the painting being here at the Oxo tower, as I had collected a lot of waste paint from some designer friends of mine, who had literally left it in a doorway under the Bargehouse for me to collect over a year and a half ago!

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing? 

We are at such a critical time in history, with the climate, social and economic crises, with finite materials running out. It’s important for us all to feel part of the change that is required, to feel connected. And to do all we can in the re-use and value of our materials, through repair and restoration, with the last resort being to recycle. There is a much greater awareness now, a regenerative mindset is spreading, and new models are emerging. I’m personally excited about the momentum I’m witnessing from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to the 15-minute city concept and local initiatives like ReLondon and etsaW here in London.

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material? 

It’s a necessity… and I think it will grow and grow – collaboration will be key for example,  biochemists and anthropologists with the artists and designers to push the boundaries of possibilities – talking of which I see myself as a “Possibilist,” coined by Sarah Ichioka and Michael Pawlyn in their brilliant book Flourish, where they give a whole chapter to what it is to be a possibilist. If there is one book, I would recommend for every designer of any stripe to read right now, it’s theirs – Flourish – Design Paradigms for our Planetary Emergency.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Ella Doran here.

Genette Dibsdall Makes Luxury Garments From Discarded Festival Tents (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

Horrified by the abandoned tents left after UK music festival Boardmasters in 2018, Genette Dibsdall conceived The Maverick – a transformable luxury garment that can be variously used as a cape, a nap sack, and a tree tent – made from the waste tents and named after the campsite in which she found them.

Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education, and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design, and sustainability.

My maternal DNA link to the Reebok founder Joe Foster has played a leading influence in my choice to study craft and design throughout my career. I focused on fashion and textiles design through school, college, and university. In 2008 I was awarded a first class honors degree from Liverpool John Moores University. On graduating, my first apparel and accessories design role was with a global fashion brand where I quickly found that my dreamy university experience didn’t set me up for industry employment! The process for mass fashion design and production was linear, restrictive, and repetitive with a focus on bestsellers, minimum order quantities, and product costs. I missed being creative and learning – and I also became aware of harmful dyes, material sourcing methods, discarded waste, and the mass burning of samples. The role didn’t align with my values and this was the start of my sustainability journey.

How would you describe your project/product? 

The Anthropocene project is a critique of our current epoch; which marks the dominant influence of humans on our planet with the purpose of provoking change by producing a luxury garment from waste. The Maverick is a transformable luxury garment, remade using local discarded tents. The name comes from the original waste site, namely the Maverick Field campsite at Boardmasters Festival in Cornwall. The Maverick is a multi-use garment that can be transformed into a cape, a nap sack, and a tree tent. Its functional and sculptural approach throws out the rulebook on traditional fashion practices; highlighting the value of waste resources and how we can use what we have. This project isn’t a revolution, but it has the potential to reach people, provoke change, engage, and stimulate beliefs and values – creating a space for a human connection. It takes fashion from being a material object and turns it into a powerful tool with purpose and attitude, allowing material objects to play a vital role, and giving them responsibility and value.

What inspired this project/product?

My research into the Anthropocene weaved with the Cradle to Cradle manufacturing model and the Chang-Pa Tribe’s lifestyle of ‘leave no trace.’ My big idea originated from my primary and secondary focused research of The Anthropocene. “Anthropocene, the ‘human epoch,’ is a term that has been widely adopted to describe the geological period since humans began to significantly influence the world around them. According to Szymanska and Laughlin, the term implies that humanity now has such a pervasive influence on the Earth that it has become a force of nature.

What waste (and other) materials are you using, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them? 

Through my creative practice, I’ve used discarded outerwear garments, adventure tent waste, heirloom smocks, vintage life jackets, and material swatches. I would like to continue the exploration of discarded tents as a raw material and develop new bio-future fabrics. Each project involves a deep dive rigorous research process across empirical research methodologies starting with a question, this is how I select particular materials for each project. I volunteered to clean up the mass waste on the camping grounds for the Boardmasters festival and managed to source a mass collection of waste tent material. I also used waste materials from my father-in-law’s garage!

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision? 

My research and creative practice for my Master’s Degree project first sparked my interest in waste as a raw material. This was motivated by influences from my research into my family tree, psychology, philosophy, ideology, and personal outdoor and adventure passions. I created an artifact talisman, in response to my research question “How might I celebrate my unique creative voice?” namely a handmade recycled roaming blanket, designed to be durable, functional, and upcycled from outerwear filled with natural alpaca fleece, with performance and technical finishes for use when traveling. I sourced 12 pieces of outerwear to craft the roaming blanket, which were all second or third-hand. Each piece carried its own story, adventure, color, texture, and material. I sourced alpaca fleece from a small local family farm where every alpaca had a name, personality, and story. This would normally be a waste for the small family farm, but it was premium insulation for my roaming blanket. My journey of waste material for product design started here.

What processes do the materials have to undergo to become the finished product? 

My waste material process involved three key stages: material research and compositions (I keep the material as raw as it can be to avoid extra pollutants but to ensure longevity); quality tests, cleaning, and treating; and deconstruction for sample pattern cutting, before stitching, fitting, and testing.

What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy? 

I’m extending the life of tent waste as a provocation concept, so these repurposed products could continue their life by avoiding landfill. If I sell my products I will have a trade (send me back for another garment), rent (don’t buy me, just rent me), reskin (preloved), reuse (patterns to reuse me in another way), and inherit systems (pass me down) to provide a circular product system and avoid landfill. The compositions of each material affect how they can be treated at the end of their life. Man-made synthetic materials are used to keep tents light for carrying, quick-drying, cheap to produce, and low maintenance and need to have 100% composition of nylon, for example, to create the best fiber for secondary raw materials. However, often tents have mixed compositions making it harder for the synthetic materials to be created as a secondary raw material, but it can be done. Brands and manufacturers do not take responsibility for the end of life of their products, especially in camping tents, I would love to help change policies to place more weight and responsibility on the brands for these catastrophic one-time-use products.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype? 

This transformation from waste material into a provocation allowed me to communicate issues to a wider audience. I felt the power of this purposeful tool, allowing material objects to play a vital role in responsibility.

How have people reacted to this project? 

This project raised questions among my audience about their values and beliefs, enabling interaction, engagement, and education. It reached people, provoked change, and stimulated a form of awareness that they were disconnected from. Overall, my audience was inspired and influenced by this fashion activism perspective and I would love to continue sharing these ideas with more people.

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing? 

Opinions and relationships are shifting, as interest and curiosity increase through disruptive designers, material research, innovation, technology, and science within circular design demonstrating the endless possibilities and value of waste as a raw material. I am excited for the future of sustainable and regenerative material as it develops and unfolds over the next decade.

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material? 

I feel the future of waste as a raw material holds an abundant, innovative, and influential catalyst for change. The world cannot evolve in its current state and humankind needs to innovate, challenge, and create change as waste is set to reach 148m tons annually by 2030. There is a great need to convert zero-value textiles and waste into high-value textile fibers, thereby realizing the sustainable use of textile resources. Humans don’t connect to objects with no value to them, this is evident from my Boardmasters Festival cleanup and research. Value can come from a product’s story, transparency, and beliefs. Storytelling is really powerful. It’s memorable and it resonates with people more than statistics. It is human nature to put ourselves first, so how can we change this? Using shock tactics can be ineffective, but giving people a sense that their behavior matters and sharing what they can do to help can be very powerful. We need to remake in new ways, to imagine, improve, and evolve our current destructive system for the future of our planet. Raw material has the potential to become more accessible and a more desirable alternative. But I feel waste as a raw material needs science, design, and communications working together to make a big impact of substantial change.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Genette Dibsdall here.

Smile Plastics Turns Yogurt Pots Into Terrazzo-Like Surface Panels (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

Smile Plastics is a materials design and manufacturing house creating hand-crafted, supersized panels for retail, architecture, interiors, and product design – from waste. Based in the UK, they describe themselves as a ‘micro-factory’ making sustainable materials from waste plastics collected from a variety of post-consumer and post-industrial sources. The company has a long history of plastic recycling, but was established in its current form in 2015 by Adam Fairweather and Rosalie McMillan. We spoke to Rosalie to find out more…

Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education, and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design, and sustainability.

Adam has been a designer since his childhood in mid-Wales, when he would make things from the natural materials he found around him, whereas I came to it later, having first trained as a psychologist at UCL and Goldsmiths. Adam studied Industrial Design at Brighton University and started focusing on creating products and materials that were made from waste soon after he graduated in 2005, while I turned to design after initially starting my career in business and management. I set up a business designing jewelry from recycled and Fairtrade materials, including coffee grounds, which Adam was also exploring in his material-design practice, creating wide-ranging circular solutions for coffee waste and plastics. We saw the synergy between what we ourselves were doing and Colin Williamson and Jane Atfield’s dormant Smile Plastics company. With their blessing, we were able to revive the business and relaunch it at the London Design Festival in 2015.

How would you describe your project/product? 

We transform would-be waste into 100% recycled, 100% recyclable panels for use in commercial interiors. We have chosen to tell a material’s story through its surface. The panels in our Classics collection and custom pieces literally wear their lifecycle on their sleeve. This means celebrating every unique detail, whether it’s the glimmer of a yogurt pot foil or the monochromatic flash of a barcode, it’s all a visual reminder of how plastic continues to play a part in responsible material selection now and into the future. Our latest material, Heron, repurposes would-be discarded white goods – the unique color palette of which translates aesthetically into layered, feathery soft grey tones, a smattering of yellow hues, warm ochre flecks, black, and blizzard white.

What inspired this project/product?

The spark that ignited the Smile Plastics of today was the desire to create the most beautiful, circular plastics in the world. In the process of doing this, we have worked to challenge peoples’ perceptions about ‘waste’ and the system that creates it. Heron is a great example of this in practice. A humble material – the kitchen fixtures we use every day – has been elevated from waste to wonder. Its material makeup is celebrated through remnants of its previous life being visible on its surface. And this provides a subtle and creative nod to the part it plays in the circular lifecycle that our built environment’s future crucially relies on.

What waste (and other) materials are you using, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them? 

We’ve worked with a range of materials, but our real passion is for plastics. We source post-industrial, commercial and single-use consumer plastics – often from food and medical packaging. Plastics such as these are typically low value for the waste-management industry and may end up in landfill or incineration plants. However, through design, we flip the value category on its head, creating high-value materials that people want to keep around. Adam always likens our approach to that of a whisky blender, selecting individual spirits to create the product they want. I think that’s a good comparison; our model is a lot like a craft distiller or blender – a ‘micro-factory’ system working with local supply chains to source our ingredients/materials. For Heron, the materials used are white goods from the kitchen manufacturing industry.

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision? 

Both of us have worked with waste for most of our careers in design – Adam in particular had spent a decade developing circular-design solutions for waste, before we re-established Smile Plastics in 2015 (it was originally set-up in the 1990s). We began focusing on new technology and industrial ecosystems, evolving the design function and growing Smiles’ product range.

What processes do the materials have to undergo to become the finished product? 

Our process is based on craftsmanship and high-quality engineering. Whether it’s the sourcing and sorting of raw materials or the manufacturing of panels and finished products, everything is handled with care and much of what we do is by hand. To keep our carbon footprint low, Smile Plastics equipment uses a fraction of the energy that traditional plastics processing machinery uses – and we’re constantly improving too. We also try to source our supplies as close as possible to our micro-factory in South Wales. We keep the processing of the materials as low-intensity as possible. Not only do we have a lower carbon footprint, the plastic compounds also don’t become denatured. This allows us to repurpose them over and over again.

What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy? 

Our materials are designed to last, but at the end of their life, they can be recycled repeatedly both through local recyclers, as well as through our buy-back schemes, so that the plastics are constantly regenerated. We can take back offcuts plus any end-of-life Smile Plastics materials. We re-work them into new panels, closing the loop and ensuring the plastics continue to support a true full-circle ecosystem.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype? 

The first time that I saw Adam’s original coffee-panel material made from recycled coffee waste and plastics I felt a sense of wonder and joy. I am hugely excited about unleashing the potential of waste materials in their transformation into characterful decorative surfaces and look forward to launching new products in 2023 that can spark joy in others.

How have people reacted to this project? 

We’ve had a fantastic reaction to our new Heron material so far, with lots of interest for use in commercial schemes, including a development in the heart of London that serves as a landmark project for energy-positive, zero-waste housing. The subtle color palette and textural effect of the material makes it incredibly versatile for a range of different environments, ranging from retail to hospitality. 

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing? 

We’re seeing a huge shift in the way customers are approaching us about custom projects. Whereas before, aesthetic details such as color palettes and patterning were guided by client briefs, now, we’re seeing a lot more openness in being led by the attributes of the waste that’s available. This is reassuring as it shows that, just as we do with the natural world, we are willing to work with what’s available instead of contributing to yet more landfill.

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material? 

The future for waste as a raw material is extremely bright! We’ve recently collaborated with some fantastic brands such as MONC eyewear – a sustainably conscious retail concept that’s garnering a lot of attention in the industry awards – to produce materials that are as functional as they are beautiful, and all from waste. And this is but one of many projects that has prioritized the use of repurposed waste or naturally abundant materials in its design. Elsewhere, we’re seeing larger manufacturers launch buy-back schemes to ensure potential waste is captured and reused before it enters unhealthy streams. Here at Smile Plastics, a sustained increase in demand has led to us securing larger factory premises to allow us to offer more scale and choice for our customers from 2023 onwards. Watch this space!

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Smile Plastics here.

Juliane Fink Makes Edible Dog Food Bowls From Pig Bladders (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

Juliane Fink studied literature and linguistics and worked as a linguist before starting to study Industrial Design at the University for Applied Arts Vienna in her late twenties. She now works as a graphic and industrial designer in Vienna – and has created a collection of single-use dog bowls from pig bladders that the dogs can eat as part of their meal.

Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education, and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design, and sustainability.

I grew up in the Austrian countryside, with an extended family that’s been working in and around small-scale agriculture for generations, so becoming a designer occurred to me relatively late. I started to study industrial design in my late 20s and finished in my early 30s (after working as a linguist for a couple of years). I think growing up around hands-on, practical people has shaped my work as a designer considerably; I learned a lot about finding practical (and creative) solutions for concrete problems and I really enjoy being in a workshop and building prototypes myself. Where I grew up also really shaped my view on sustainability, especially regarding food: regionality and food quality have always been important in my social environment.

How would you describe your project/product? 

The product is a single-use dog bowl made from pig bladders. It utilizes a waste product from meat production that’s naturally waterproof and foldable to make a bowl that’s lightweight and robust and can be easily carried around in your pocket. After its use as a dog bowl, the product can simply be eaten by the dog – leaving no waste behind.

What inspired this project/product?

I’ve always struggled with the ethical and environmental problems around raising animals for meat and I strongly believe that if we, as a culture, consume meat, we should at least use every part of the animal and not waste anything. This led me to think about undesirable parts of the animals that are usually thrown away and one of those is the animal’s bladder. Bladders are a typical waste product of meat “production,” but if you look at them as a material, they are pretty versatile: they are naturally waterproof, making them ideal for food/water bowls, they can be molded like leather and easily dyed. They also taste delicious to dogs, which makes them the ideal material for a dog bowl that can be eaten after use.

What waste (and other) materials are you using, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them? 

I source the pig bladders for the dog bowls from a butcher and an agricultural school. I selected them for several reasons: I like using something that’s considered “dirty” and unappealing and making it something interesting and new. I like showing that it’s worth working with these materials and seeing their value. Even though they are unfamiliar to us today, animal bladders have been used historically for a wide array of objects, from footballs to waterproof document containers. On a more technical note, I used pig bladders rather than cow bladders, for example, for two reasons: firstly, their size is ideal; when molded, they are around the size of an average dog bowl. Secondly, pigs are one of the most slaughtered animals in Europe and I wanted to demonstrate the huge quantity of waste we could be reusing.

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision? 

I have always struggled with my role in the production of waste as a designer, and within the last few years have focused on using waste as a raw material wherever possible. I think the sustainability of products is one of our core responsibilities as designers. I also find it extremely gratifying and fun to turn something “useless” into something useful again.

What processes do the materials have to undergo to become the finished product? 

I get the bladders in their raw state, unwashed and with the ureter still attached, so the very first step is to wash and clean them of any excess parts right away. As long as the bladders are fresh, they only smell a little, but it’s definitely important to process them quickly, because they tend to get an unpleasant smell after a couple of days if they are not processed further. I wouldn’t call them dirty, but it definitely took a while for me to get used to handling raw animal parts. It’s something humans are not used to anymore, especially the parts that are not commonly used as food. After washing, the bladders are dyed, either with food coloring or with natural dyes. After that, the bladders are stretched over molds, in a similar way to how leather or wool is typically molded. As soon as they are dry, they are taken off the molds and ready to be used as bowls. When they are dry, they have a parchment-like quality. They are pleasant to touch and can be folded.

What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy? 

The dog bowl is designed to be eaten by the dog after its use, so it leaves no waste behind. One of my favorite aspects of the project is that, for the dogs, it’s just an additional snack and after a couple of bites the bowl is gone. In my tests, the dogs always ate the bowls completely!

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype? 

I loved it!! It was extremely exciting and gratifying because the raw material is something we consider dirty and view with disgust, so to make that into something useful and beautiful felt great. When I started out, I sometimes thought to myself “Why did you choose this unpleasant material?” so to see it transformed into something beautiful made it all worthwhile. One of the highlights of the project was also every time a dog reacted excitedly to the product and when a veterinarian told me she loved the product.

How have people reacted to this project? 

I think the first reactions to the project were mostly surprise mixed with either curiosity or disgust at the raw material. It’s interesting how the different points of processing elicit different emotions: Most people were fascinated with the finished product and liked its look and feel, but the raw material sometimes weirds people out. But most people are really open to it and were interested in examining it more closely – sometimes even giving it a sniff!

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing? 

I think they have been changing for a while, and no one thinks it’s strange anymore if you show them something you made from waste. Even with a relatively controversial waste product like pig bladders, people see why it makes sense to make new products out of it. Many people struggle a lot with the ethics of meat “production” and agree that that’s even more of a reason to use absolutely every part of an animal and let nothing go to waste.

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material? 

I’m convinced waste as a raw material will play a huge part in the future; it already does today. On the one hand, simply out of necessity and for economic reasons, on the other hand, because it’s such a joy to transform something that’s considered waste into something useful and beautiful. I see so many designers and consumers around me who care about what resources are used for their products, so I think using waste as a raw material will be a completely normal way of making products.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Juliane Fink here.

Síofra Caherty Turns Tarps, Waste Leather, and Airplane Straps Into Bags (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

Jump The Hedges is an award-winning sustainable design studio based in Belfast and founded by former adidas designer Síofra Caherty. The studio has a material- and waste-led approach to product creation that ensures waste material is fully utilized to create valuable and long-lasting products. Bags are created from reclaimed truck tarpaulin, airplane seat parts, and waste leather. Alongside creating bags, the studio leads workshops on sustainability with local schools and communities.

Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education, and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design, and sustainability.

I am the youngest of five kids brought up in the countryside right on the Irish border. As a large family, sustainability was at the core of everything we did – however I didn’t recognize this at the time. I assumed all families composted, reused, and repaired! My family are all tradespeople or teachers, so my creativity, problem-solving, and ability to work with my hands came from them. I worked as a fashion designer for several years for smaller Irish brands and then for adidas in Germany. It was while I was at adidas that I saw an opportunity to combine fashion and sustainability. Up until that point, I had felt that my love for fashion and the environment was conflicting. I decided to leave adidas, move back home, and set up my own business with sustainability at its core.

How would you describe your project/product? 

My products are material-led in that I use whatever material I can get my hands on. I enjoy working within constraints and I believe that this is where the most creative work is born. I use my work as a platform for sustainable awareness and alongside creating bags, I lecture on sustainable design and teach community outreach workshops.

What waste (and other) materials are you using, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them?

I started off using the banner cloth that you see on the side of museums and building works hoardings. I noticed piles of them being replaced frequently around Belfast. While cycling home one day I spotted a trailer carrying a pile of them and at the traffic lights, I convinced the driver to drop some in my back garden. I made my MFA graduate collection from these banners. However, after a lot of use, I noticed that the banner cloth was not durable enough. At this point, I decided to try truck tarpaulin and started cold-calling haulage companies for waste tarps. I have now built up a supply chain of people I can call on when I need waste material. I source the waste leather from a local chair company and the airplane straps are industrial waste from the aerospace industry in Belfast.

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision?

I noticed the abundance of waste materials around the city and how durable it was. I thought there had to be a way to use this material and it just seemed ridiculous to buy ‘recycled’ material when there was so much material already in existence. I studied an MFA in Multidisciplinary Design at Belfast School of Art and this acted as an incubation unit for me to explore different waste materials and a way to figure out how to start a business using these materials.

What processes do the materials have to undergo to become the finished product? 

After sourcing the materials, I collect them, which means either borrowing a van or squeezing them into my own car – I managed to fit a 40-foot tarp into a Toyota Yaris once, believe it or not. Then I spread the tarp out and strip all the hardware off – all the metal can be recycled. After this, I cut it into smaller parts being careful to save interesting shapes and letters. Then I bring it to an industrial washer who washes it in collected rainwater.

What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy? 

Both the problem and benefit with truck tarpaulin is that it is super durable and lasts for many years on the road. Unfortunately, it can only be repaired to a point and it eventually goes to landfill. My work is diverting it from landfill and keeping it away from there for a much longer period of time. Unfortunately, this material is not recyclable which makes it even more necessary to use it up!

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype? 

I felt really excited the first time I managed to successfully create something useful from waste material. There is so much opportunity in using waste material, we just need to adjust our mindset and approach when working with it.

How have people reacted to this project? 

I began working with recycled materials six years ago when the upcycling and sustainability movement didn’t have the same traction it does now, so people were not fully on board at the beginning. In fairness, I don’t think I had gotten the cleaning quite right at the beginning either! I spent a lot of time with my products at market stalls explaining the material and the process. Slowly but surely I got some media attention and during COVID-19 everything took off as I was able to sell directly from my website.

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing? 

I lecture part-time at NCAD in Dublin and every single fashion student I work with is either using waste or sustainable materials. There needs to be an emphasis in education on using waste materials, particularly hard-to-use ones like truck tarpaulins. Young designers need to be challenged and made to think outside the traditional way of designing as this is no longer a relevant approach. We have an abundance of waste material and we need to prioritize using this before using new material.

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material? 

Perspectives have really changed over the past few years and people are much more open to and interested in products made from waste material. Increasingly consumers want to be more individual and there is nothing more unique than having an item made from waste material.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Síofra & Jump The Hedge here.

Spared Turns Waste Coat Hangers + Sugar Cane Into the XOU Light (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

Spared is a start-up from the team behind design studio and creative agency Volume Creative – it’s a creative service that works with businesses to turn their waste into beautiful objects and they’ve just launched their first product which is available to consumers – the XOU Light. We spoke to co-founder Callie Tedder-Hares (below, second from right) to find out more…

Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education, and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design, and sustainability.

I grew up surrounded by trees on a lake in rural New Jersey in a small two-bedroom bungalow built by my grandfather. I shared a tiny bedroom with my two sisters, complete with a triple bunk bed, designed and built by my dad.  My parents grew all our vegetables and I spent my childhood planting, weeding, and harvesting our food. They instilled in me a deep respect for nature from an early age and this has influenced my approach to responsible design and, in particular, biophilic design.

Our family home is laced from floor to ceiling with eclectic objects, all carefully curated by my mother. I have fond memories of dipping my hands into jars of antique buttons, inspecting them one at a time – their patterns, their shapes – and then organizing them into color-coded piles. I am captivated by objects; I love how each one holds wonder, history, and stories… both real and make-believe.

I was part of the first generation in my family to go to university, so my parents encouraged me to study a subject that had longevity and would excite me throughout life. Intrigued by the role that art has on wellbeing and mental health, I began a course in therapeutic art, which then led me to an interest in spatial design and a final degree in interior design.

How would you describe your project/product? 

Spared® is a start-up by me and my partners at Volume Creative. We set it up to support brands and individuals who want to take responsibility for their own waste or by-products. We celebrate our first anniversary this month. We have had some really exciting commissions, but the XOU light, our collaboration with Houseof, is really special to us as it’s our first product that is available to purchase.

It’s been a truly collaborative project with manufacturing partners all based in the UK. The light is made from two intersecting materials, the first a 3D-printed bioplastic printed by Batchworks, and the second a unique waste terrazzo composite developed by us. We love that the XOU is accessible and affordable, making it an important and urgent project for us. Together with Houseof, we are driven by making great, responsible designs that doesn’t cost the earth, which is easier said than done. The XOU took two years to develop and to find the right UK manufacturing partners for, but it was worth the wait.

What inspired this project/product?

We designed the XOU during the Covid 19 lockdown of 2020. Like most people, we were missing the small interactions between people in real life, so we translated this feeling through graphic forms into the design: the X-shaped base of two interlocked ‘U’ shapes, one inverted, has a spherical ‘O’ bulb nestled in one quadrant. The ‘X’ ‘O’ and ‘U’ shapes are the ‘hug and a kiss’ (XO) for you (U).

What waste (and other) materials are you using, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them? 

The XOU is a composite made from waste plastic coat hangers, solvent-free gypsum, and 3D-printed plastic made from sugar cane.

Outside of the XOU light project, we’ve explored a plethora of waste from masonry, eggshells, coffee grinds, shells from seafood, and plastics. We are also kicking off an R&D project in textile waste later this year. Plastics, however, still tend to be the most common waste product we receive from clients to develop into products and surfaces.

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision? 

We started experimenting with waste materials in 2018, and in 2019 we launched a series of vases made from broken plastic coat hangers. We called the project Achromatic. Achromatic was a self-funded project that was in response to our impact on landfill and climate change. It started as a small R&D project and ended up becoming the catalyst that changed how I viewed waste and its possibilities in the built environment. Two years later,  in partnership with Emma, Kate, and Francesca, Spared® was born.

What processes do the materials have to undergo to become the finished product? 

The XOU went through a series of testing with different types of plastic, as some plastic floats and gets lost in the composite, making it invisible in the final product. We also tested sealants for durability, and are thrilled to have ended up with natural beeswax.

What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy? 

Houseof offers customers the option of offsetting all the usage emissions from the light source at the checkout. The carbon credits are invested in projects in partnership with South Pole, which leads in this industry. Customers can return the lamp at the end of its life, and receive a 20% discount on their next purchase, up to 10 years from now.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype? 

It is hard to describe in words…it was so satisfyingly beautiful and unexpected that it changed my thinking entirely. I realize that’s quite a big statement, but it truly altered my perspective and approach to interiors and product design. It also made me bolder and more able to approach our clients with conviction (and proof!) of the value, beauty, and importance of waste in design.

How have people reacted to this project? 

The response to the XOU light has been wonderful and we have recently been long-listed for a Dezeen award, which we are all thrilled about.

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing? 

I like to think that by re-imagining waste, we have created an opportunity to define a new luxury – a luxury that has deep-rooted purpose and evokes curiosity and conversation. If the sheer amount of enquires we are currently receiving for R&D projects is a reflection of how opinions are changing, then I feel really hopeful. I think designers and brands are beginning to embrace waste’s importance in building and raw materials.

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material? 

Waste material is undoubtedly the future and I hope that innovation in this field continues to grow and develop. Our expanding landfills are a problem for us all. We have an abundance of waste at our fingertips and its possibilities are endless. But first and foremost, we must make strides in reducing waste at the outset. We have enough waste to work with, without creating anymore!

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Spared here.

Monostudio Associati Makes Tiles From Marble Waste, Coffee Grounds, and Eggshells (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

Elisa Evaso founded the interior design firm Monostudio Associati with her husband Luca Guglieri in 2005 with a mission to create spaces designed for the well-being of the people who would use them. That focus, combined with the growing urgency to change the way we work towards a more circular and sustainable practice led the pair to start the Monoferments Project in 2020 and to start developing interior finishes from waste materials.

Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education, and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design, and sustainability.

Spending endless summers in my parent’s “cascina” surrounded by wild countryside and little else was the beginning of my relationship with nature. One of my grandfathers was a painter and the other was a constructor. My father, an engineer, took me to sites ever since I was a little child. This exposure to architecture and design from such a young age inspired me to pursue a creative career, so I become an architect and almost twenty years ago I opened an interior design firm in Milan with my husband Luca.

How would you describe your project/product? 

Semplicemente Circolare is a collection of floor and wall tiles (20 cm x 20 cm x 1cm) produced with ground marble salvaged from various dark-toned remains of sacks in combination with eggshells, light-toned marble granules, and spent coffee grounds. Different combinations and ratios of those waste materials result in different colors, patterns, and textures.

What inspired this project/product?

Two years ago we started to research the circular products available on the Italian market for interior design and we realized there were few, and aesthetically there was much more to say. After one year of research, I luckily ended up in Waste: A Masterclass with the brilliant Katie Treggiden and these impressive workshops about waste streams gave me the courage to knock on doors and start to bring together the palette of materials that we had in mind.

What waste (and other) materials are you using, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them? 

Our Semplicemente Circolari tiles are the first prototype material of the palette. They are made from 80% of waste sourced from the tile maker MIPA who shared marble powder and chips that, as leftovers from their production, would have gone to the landfill, combined with shells from the Michelin-starred restaurant Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy.

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision? 

We love playing with natural materials in our projects, and we started brainstorming about all the valuable materials wasted and lost for different reasons by material producers.

The idea to start searching for marble waste was due to our intense love for that material and our curiosity about testing its reactions with eggshells which are mostly made of calcium carbonate as well.

We had used marble as a raw material several times in our projects before but the idea of marble powder 100% recycled from marble extraction and upcycled from the production waste was magic.

Coffee grounds were chosen for the idea of giving an aroma to the tiles and with an interest in discovering the behavior of that acid wasted material with marble.

The period of experimentation, production, and sharing of ideas with Antonio and Davide Benedet owners of MIPA spanned eight months and while we experimented with different percentages of marble, coffee, and eggshells using 20% of cement as binder.

What processes do the materials have to undergo to become the finished product? 

Eggshells are boiled and then dried, spent coffee is only dried.

What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy? 

All the tiles from this first material can become gravel used both for construction or put to other uses in their third life.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype? 

The first time MIPA invited us to see the first prototypes, we were incredibly excited and could not believe how beautiful those tiles were, the work they had done starting from our idea was really great. We could not have been happier with the aesthetic result achieved.

How have people reacted to this project? 

When we show the tiles to colleagues, the reaction is so exciting and poetic in some ways, I think it’s because of the reuse of waste but also for the biophilic message in them. We cannot wait to use them in a project for our own clients.

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing? 

We are announcing an open call to Italian factories to collaborate with us in the exciting endeavor to develop prototypes for a paint, a wallpaper, a wood parquet flooring, a textile, and a glass panel we are working on – so hopefully, they will be receptive!

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material? 

The future of waste is radiant and the possibilities for its use are endless!

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Monostudio Associati here.

Claire Ellis Makes Vessels From Waste Clay, Eggshells, Glass, and More (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

Claire Ellis is a Canadian-born ceramic artist and designer based in Naarm (Melbourne). While working as a chef at one of the world’s best restaurants in Naarm, Attica, Claire began making tableware for the tasting menu and created a ceramics studio within the restaurant. Claire left Attica to focus on ceramics full-time in April 2021.

Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education, and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design, and sustainability. 

I grew up alternating between Ottawa and Winnipeg in Canada as part of a creative family. At various points in time, my mom had her own sewing company and worked as an artist using oil pastels. My dad built a lot of interesting things as a hobby. Most memorably, after taking a welding course, he built my younger brother a go-kart out of parts from a treadmill he found at the side of the road. My stepmom is a cellist and my sister studied architecture before becoming an art teacher. After graduating high school, I studied culinary arts and later moved to Australia for more experience. I was shocked by the amount of waste in many restaurants. I ended up at Attica in Melbourne where my informal ceramics studies on my days off alongside my involvement in menu planning meetings led me to create custom tableware for the tasting menu. My experiments using waste materials in ceramics began with eggshells and glass from the restaurant.

How would you describe your project/product? 

Solace Containers are wheel-thrown recycled clay vessels, glazed using eggshells as the source of calcium, lined with pools of recycled glass and finished with lids made from recycled plastic clay bags. The lids on the minimalist forms feature swirls of color which come from the colored print on the plastic bags which are kneaded, twisted, and stretched like pulled candy before being pressed into sheets.

What inspired this project/product?

Solace Containers were inspired by my experiments using waste in my two workplaces; kitchens and ceramics studios. I wanted to figure out how to use materials available in my environment that would otherwise get thrown away or shipped somewhere else. Partly out of a feeling of responsibility but also because I find it exciting to use local materials that have significance for me. The name of the containers came from my experience with climate grief and my desire to focus on solutions.

What waste (and other) materials are you using, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them? 

The clay for the containers is reclaimed from my practice. I collect clay bags from my local ceramics community, the plastic adds up quickly and ceramicists are very happy for me to take it. I source wine bottles and eggshells from restaurants. Glass is made of a similar recipe to ceramic glazes and eggshells are calcium carbonate which is the same chemical compound as one of the common (mined) raw materials in glazes. The other glaze materials used for the Solace Containers are talc, kaolin, and nepheline syenite which are all mined derivatives of rocks. With more testing, I intend to replace those virgin materials with waste from other industries.

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision? 

The first waste I became interested in using was food waste while I was working in kitchens. I saw bins overflowing with the best produce in the country in some places, but in other places, I saw how awareness and creativity could solve these problems and change the way people looked at off-cuts or by-products. I’m inspired to do the same. In my ceramics practice working with waste requires a lot of extra monotonous and time-consuming physical labor to process the materials, but because the work feels meaningful, I find it easier than doing more straightforward jobs that don’t align with my values.

What processes do the materials have to undergo to become the finished product? 

 The eggshells are dried, fired in my kiln to purify the calcium carbonate, ground in a pestle and mortar, and then passed through a fine sieve. The glass is smashed with a hammer after the labels have been removed and the shards are placed in the base of the raw-glazed containers before firing. To make the lids, the clay bags are washed and dried and any tape is removed. The labels are then cut off and separated by color. Bundles of the plastic bags are melted in an oven, kneaded, stretched, and twisted before being pressed into sheets. The lids and handles are laser-cut, polished, and attached together.

What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy? 

I offer repair and recycling services encouraged by discounts for products at the end of their life. The recycled plastic lids can be polished or recycled into new lids. Broken ceramic components can be repaired using Japanese kintsugi methods, and ceramic pieces beyond repair can be crushed into grog that I use to make clocks.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype? 

I was so excited. I didn’t know if any of my material tests would end up being successful. In particular, the tests with eggshells and plastic took a lot of tweaking and troubleshooting which made it so rewarding when I saw everything come together for the first time. The Solace Containers have come about from slowly putting together pieces of a puzzle one by one. Finding each piece has been a thrill.

How have people reacted to this project? 

When people see the Solace Containers for the first time, they’re surprised about the materials and curious about the processes. They expect the lids to be made of resin or stone. I’ve had some really encouraging responses, especially from other ceramicists who are grateful and delighted to see something creative being done with the clay bags. A bonus for me has been meeting other makers through the bag collections, which have turned into a lovely community-building opportunity.

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing? 

I think opinions are changing a lot through conversations that suggest that we find a better word for waste and what that implies, for example your thought-provoking podcast episode with Seetal Solanki. It’s exciting to imagine a time when we all see waste as a resource and it gets called something else because we stop wasting it. Hopefully, we get to that place quickly.

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material? 

I think waste will eventually get a name change and will become a more mainstream material. I think there will be regulations in the future on using unsustainable raw materials and it will become the norm to use waste or biodegradable materials. I think younger generations especially will focus more on solving these problems and over time recycling and upcycling will keep getting easier, more efficient are more accessible. I also think there will be more BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ people in leadership positions who will accelerate positive change in this space.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Claire Ellis here.

Henry Swanzy Makes Acoustic Wall Tiles From Wood + Chocolate Waste (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

Henry Swanzy is the founder of Less is Better and an award-winning British designer with a passion for creating beautiful, functional alternatives to mass-produced products. He has recently started investigating his own waste streams as well as those of local businesses as a source of raw materials for new products. We caught up with him to find out more.

Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education, and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design, and sustainability.

Creativity began with tinkering around in a home garage/workshop with my dad. I was lucky enough to go to a school that placed importance on craft – it all started with the making. Sustainability has also been with me for a very long time. Asking what sowed the seed is a pretty profound sort of a question that I am not sure I have an answer to, but I can be sure that my thoughts and opinions were cemented by having an older sister who was an animal behaviorist and research scientist. It gave me a bigger picture awareness of our impact as a species.

How would you describe your project/product? 

HexBix are humble things – acoustic wall tiles. Pleasing in form, especially en masse, but I see their role more in the message they bring and the conversations they will hopefully provoke.

What inspired this project/product?

Looking at our own waste stream as a producer of wooden furniture, and literally asking myself what I could do with that lot!

What waste (and other) materials are you using, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them?

Processing timber from ‘rough sawn’ to ‘prepared’ (which means flat, and of an even thickness) unavoidably produces significant and bulky waste. It is specifically the shavings off this machine (the planer/thicknesser) which are suitable. I looked at a number of other local businesses and the cocoa husks from Chocolarder (a bean to bar manufacturer two miles up the road from me in Falmouth, Cornwall) are added into the mix for some of the tiles.

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision?

It has been gnawing away at me for some time. I then read a very interesting book called Wasted: When Trash Becomes Treasure and did a rather inspiring masterclass that is now part of Making Design Circular – that was just the catalyst I needed.

What processes do the materials have to undergo to become the finished product? 

Minimal. Filtering is the first process – by removing the smaller ‘dustier’ particles, it is possible to capitalize on the structural integrity of the waste material, and therefore minimize the amount of bonding agent required. That has always been paramount to my process: pushing the percentage of waste to the absolute maximum, and any additions to a minimum. The pure wood tiles are (by volume) 93% waste, the cocoa husks need a little more bonding and they are 89% waste. I’m pretty proud of those numbers!

What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy? 

In a word, no – I haven’t found a route for them back into the circular economy yet. The bonding agent used is PVA. This is regarded environmentally as a pretty ‘good’ glue, and under the right conditions, it does fully biodegrade. The chemistry around it is complicated and finding alternatives is definitely something I am looking to explore. I started my research using natural starches, which it would be wonderful to use – I am optimistic that in different (hotter, drier) climates there is real potential in this idea. With further research, momentum and commercial interest, I believe it will be possible to do better.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype? 

Oh, it’s exciting alright – the sense that you are doing anything that perhaps nobody has done quite the way you are doing it before is what motivates me as a designer generally. Developing something from what was previously deemed waste – well, it’s a thrill!

How have people reacted to this project? 

They have only just launched – at London’s Clerkenwell Design Week in May and the response has already been enormously positive. Interest came from across the board but specifically architects and interior designers within the workplace, hospitality and retail sectors. In the days since the show, we have had a number of architect enquiries relating to specific existing projects. There has been very strong interest from a significant nationwide retailer, and the Hive installation itself is looking like it is heading to a new restaurant in Reading. As launches go, we couldn’t be more encouraged!

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing? 

Waste is now viewed with eagerly curious open eyes!

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material? 

Well, a changing relationship that’s for sure. The more that is done with waste and the better it is, the more the producers will become attuned to it, and perhaps view it as ‘raw material in a different form’. If value can be added, then the more the whole cycle will be scrutinized, and it is intercepting waste, and potentially looking after it/segregating it before it gets labelled as such which is key to our maturing perception of all raw materials.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Henry & Less is Better here.

Henry Swanzy Makes Acoustic Wall Tiles From Wood + Chocolate Waste (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

Henry Swanzy is the founder of Less is Better and an award-winning British designer with a passion for creating beautiful, functional alternatives to mass-produced products. He has recently started investigating his own waste streams as well as those of local businesses as a source of raw materials for new products. We caught up with him to find out more.

Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education, and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design and sustainability.

Creativity began with tinkering around in a home garage/workshop with my dad. I was lucky enough to go to a school that placed importance on craft – it all started with the making. Sustainability has also been with me for a very long time. Asking what sowed the seed is a pretty profound sort of a question that I am not sure I have an answer to, but I can be sure that my thoughts and opinions were cemented by having an older sister who was an animal behaviorist and research scientist. It gave me a bigger picture awareness of our impact as a species.

How would you describe your project/product?

HexBix are humble things – acoustic wall tiles. Pleasing in form, especially en masse, but I see their role more in the message they bring and the conversations they will hopefully provoke.

What inspired this project/product?

Looking at our own waste stream as a producer of wooden furniture, and literally asking myself what I could do with that lot!

What waste (and other) materials are you using, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them?

Processing timber from ‘rough sawn’ to ‘prepared’ (which means flat, and of an even thickness) unavoidably produces significant and bulky waste. It is specifically the shavings off this machine (the planer/thicknesser) which are suitable. I looked at a number of other local businesses and the cocoa husks from Chocolarder (a bean to bar manufacturer two miles up the road from me in Falmouth, Cornwall) are added into the mix for some of the tiles.

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision?

It has been gnawing away at me for some time. I then read a very interesting book called Wasted: When Trash Becomes Treasure and did a rather inspiring masterclass that is now part of Making Design Circular – that was just the catalyst I needed.

What processes do the materials have to undergo to become the finished product?

Minimal. Filtering is the first process – by removing the smaller ‘dustier’ particles, it is possible to capitalize on the structural integrity of the waste material, and therefore minimize the amount of bonding agent required. That has always been paramount to my process: pushing the percentage of waste to the absolute maximum, and any additions to a minimum. The pure wood tiles are (by volume) 93% waste, the cocoa husks need a little more bonding and they are 89% waste. I’m pretty proud of those numbers!

What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy?

In a word, no – I haven’t found a route for them back into the circular economy yet. The bonding agent used is PVA. This is regarded environmentally as a pretty ‘good’ glue, and under the right conditions, it does fully biodegrade. The chemistry around it is complicated and finding alternatives is definitely something I am looking to explore. I started my research using natural starches, which it would be wonderful to use – I am optimistic that in different (hotter, drier) climates there is real potential in this idea. With further research, momentum and commercial interest, I believe it will be possible to do better.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype?

Oh, it’s exciting alright – the sense that you are doing anything that perhaps nobody has done quite the way you are doing it before is what motivates me as a designer generally. Developing something from what was previously deemed waste – well, it’s a thrill!

How have people reacted to this project?

They have only just launched – at London’s Clerkenwell Design Week in May and the response has already been enormously positive. Interest came from across the board but specifically architects and interior designers within the workplace, hospitality and retail sectors. In the days since the show, we have had a number of architect enquiries relating to specific existing projects. There has been very strong interest from a significant nationwide retailer, and the Hive installation itself is looking like it is heading to a new restaurant in Reading. As launches go, we couldn’t be more encouraged!

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing?

Waste is now viewed with eagerly curious open eyes!

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material?

Well, a changing relationship that’s for sure. The more that is done with waste and the better it is, the more the producers will become attuned to it, and perhaps view it as ‘raw material in a different form’. If value can be added, then the more the whole cycle will be scrutinized, and it is intercepting waste, and potentially looking after it/segregating it before it gets labelled as such which is key to our maturing perception of all raw materials.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Henry Swanzy and Less is Better here.

Sarah Christensen Makes Home Accessories From Used Coffee Grounds (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

Sarah Christensen is a Welsh designer who had often felt a disconnect between her work as a furniture designer-maker and her personal values, so she decided to bring them closer together, by working with waste to create home accessories. She uses all the coffee waste from a local café and turns it into products that she sells back to them to offer alongside their drinks and snacks.

Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education, and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design, and sustainability.

I’m originally from Swansea and grew up spending time in The Gower, eating gritty sandy sandwiches during the summer and sledging in the Brecon Beacons during the winter. I spent a lot of time outdoors and was usually really into something – like my skateboard, which came with an inbuilt am/fm radio or my pogo stick, which for a while was how I got around, including taking it on coastal walks with my family. I was also a sea cadet for most of my childhood, so I developed a love of the ocean and camping. I suppose there wasn’t a huge amount of creativity in the traditional sense, but I was always quite good at art in school, which I then pursued in college as part of the International Baccalaureate. I took a year out before I went to university, partly to save and partly to decide what I wanted to do. I started studying interior design, but left with a degree in Fine Art. I also have a diploma in furniture design and making.

How would you describe your project/product?

Homeware is quite a broad product area, but homeware is what I make. I have focused on plant pots because, as well as it being beneficial to do some indoor gardening, plants help to purify the air in our homes. I make other products too such as soap dishes and candle holders which are intended to encourage us to switch off the lights and enjoy a soak in the tub. I really believe that living in a nice environment is important for our wellbeing and I suppose I am trying to reflect that in the products I make. As well as looking good, they are also intended to slow us down.

What inspired this project/product?

I have always been concerned about the environment. I love animals and the outdoors and I wanted to do something that wouldn’t make me feel guilty for existing. I got to a point where I felt that the things that I was doing in my personal life to be more sustainable weren’t enough. I wanted my job to be sustainable too.

What waste (and other) materials are you using, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them? 

At the moment, the waste material that I am using is used coffee grounds from By The River cafe in Glasbury, which is near to where I live and work. I targeted coffee grounds, because as far as waste is concerned, I think it’s quite a clean and acceptable material. I feel like there’s a sliding scale of acceptability when it comes to waste, that’s shifting all the time… human hair probably isn’t for everyone! I felt confident that I would be able to turn them into something with the help of Jesmonite, which is an eco and VOC-free alternative to other traditional resin-based products. It was also something that I could do now and not at some point in the future. The products I make consist of 40% used coffee grounds and 60% Jesmonite. Continuing to experiment with other materials is an important part of my creative practice and I hope to continue to research and develop new products based on the principles of the circular economy.

What processes do the materials have to undergo to become the finished product?

I spent quite a lot of time surrounded by moldy coffee grounds before I figured out that I could cast the coffee immediately into sheets, which once set can be stored until needed. These sheets are then broken up into chips and used as a type of terrazzo.

What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy?

All of the products can go back into the circular economy and be broken down and then re-made into something else. I’m currently working on a way to ensure that products come back to me if they get broken, or even if they’re no longer wanted. They can also be repurposed in the same way a terracotta pot can be used as crocs in plant pots, or they could be recycled as building rubble.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype?

The first prototype that actually worked felt like a huge breakthrough but, in all honesty, it was a really unappealing color! It felt like I’d achieved a lot, but I was still a long way away from having a product that I could sell.

How have people reacted to this project?

I’ve had a really great response. I launched it at the Christmas markets because I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to get some feedback and then continue to develop the products. I didn’t expect to sell much, but products were flying off the shelves. It was important to me that the products look good in their own right and that it’s just an added bonus for customers that they follow the principles of the circular economy. Buying sustainably shouldn’t have to mean a compromise on aesthetics or practicality; it’s possible to have nice things that are made from waste.

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing?

I think most people now feel that using waste as a raw material is the change that needs to happen. People are definitely changing how they choose to spend their money.

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material?

The future is certainly looking bright! I think there are endless possibilities and seeing the amazing things that people are creating is really exciting.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Sarah Christensen here.

Jamie Norris Green Turns Scallop and Oyster Shells Into Lighting (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

With a background in lighting design consultancy, Jamie Norris Green is an award-winning designer who makes contemporary lighting, art, and furniture. Drawing on his experience working with architects and designers all over the world, he has created a small collection of products that are “digitally handmade.” This may sound like a contradiction in terms but by combining traditional handcrafting with digital technology and machinery, Jamie creates one-off or small runs of unique pieces that are often infinitely customizable. They are 3D printed on demand to reduce waste and made from a bio-degradable polymer that includes waste oyster and scallop shells.

Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education, and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design, and sustainability.

I grew up with creativity in the family. My mother was a teacher and my father was a woodworker. Both had studied art at university and were keen painters and illustrators. As a child, I was obsessed with getting out my dad’s tools and trying to create things from bits of wood and various bits and bobs lying around the garage. My grandad was also a keen painter but turned his hand to everything from pottery to house building. Having lived through the war and served as a radio technician, he instilled a zero-waste mentality in the family that stuck with me. He fixed everything and threw nothing away. I can’t say I would eat some of the moldy food he used to though!

I initially studied graphic design at college, but soon found myself making sculptures and models to photograph and turn into graphics. I then enrolled in a 3D design degree at university. I spent most of my time in the workshop making rather than sketching, much to the annoyance of my tutors who wanted to see more sketches to tick their assessment boxes! I was also fascinated with digital 3D modeling. In my final year, I won an external luminaire design competition and was lured into the world of lighting design after exhibiting at New Designers.

My designs are a mixture of handmade and digitally created/machine-made. I like the term “digital handmade” which doesn’t seem to have caught on yet, but describes the process of combining traditional hand-crafting with digital technology and machinery. The process is a long way from mass production. Pieces are made to order and take time to produce. It’s very low waste. One of the processes I turn to the most is 3D printing, sometimes to make molds and sometimes to make the finished product.

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision?

It’s only been the last couple of years that I have been actively looking to use waste as a raw material. At the same time, I had also been on the hunt for more sustainable materials to 3D print with. Most of my printing is done with a bio-degradable polymer derived from corn starch (PLA) and is more sustainable than petro-chemical plastics, but I wanted to find something better. I discovered that there are several companies now combining waste products with PLA to 3D print with! I tried quite a few different materials with various waste products added: wheat offcuts, spent grains of beer and coffee grounds, mussel shells, oysters, and scallops. I quickly found a favorite. The ground scallop and oyster shell materials possess a beautiful natural warmth and translucency that is revealed once the light is switched on and a slightly pearly cool white when unlit.

What processes do the materials have to undergo to become the finished product?

The PLA bioplastic is melted and infused with very small particles or ground scallop and oyster shells reclaimed from restaurant waste streams in Normandy, France. It is then extruded into filament that can be 3D printed. Because there are no industrial dyes or additives like a lot of other 3D printing filaments the material has a very natural appearance. I wanted to preserve this natural look and convey the digitally handmade ethos. The digital 3D design uses iterative algorithms which make each piece subtly unique in form and texture. Every single 3D form I send to the printer is different. This adds a little time but creates unique pieces. The “misshapen” globes are then fixed to a jute-covered cord with raw brass fittings. An efficient low voltage dimmable LED lamp and transformer is provided with the luminaires.

What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy?

I design the products to last a long time and hopefully be timeless, however, interior design is like fashion. Should our products be un-installed, I will take them back at end of life and recycle them – I have recently started to use a local 3D printed waste company to recycle PLA for me. I am also planning to invest in machinery to re-grind and extrude any waste plastic back to 3D printing filament in-house, so I can use it again. This option means the oyster- and scallop-shell-infused material from the Aspera Sphera fittings could be directly recycled to re-print. The brass fittings can all be re-used too.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype?

The first time I saw the oyster and scallop shell infused material I was excited. I couldn’t wait to start printing with it. It has such a different appearance to standard PLA – much more natural looking with a subtle opulence. The fact that this came partially from waste products that restaurants were just throwing away really surprised me and has inspired me to find more waste products that can become beautiful things.

How have people reacted to this project?

Everyone who has seen it is surprised to find out it’s 3D printed. The natural color and translucency along with an imperfect form and surface texture make it seem like it has been organically created somehow.

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing?

My opinions have certainly changed! A few years ago, I would have probably seen it as something limited to PR stunts. Now I think it absolutely must happen. We can’t go on with the way we consume and discard.

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material?

I’m very optimistic that it will become widespread and permeate into most industries. In 100 years, I think it might just be taken for granted and people will look back at this time and struggle to understand why there was ever a time when we didn’t use waste.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Jamie Norris Green here.

Green&Blue Turns Clay Waste Into Habitats for Birds, Bees, and Bats (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

UK-based Green&Blue is on a mission to make homes and havens for wildlife. As a certified B Corp, they’re committed to doing this with consideration for people and the planet at the heart of what they do. From their Cornish workshop, they design and make a range of habitat products for different species with the Bee Brick, their innovative home for solitary bees, becoming a planning requirement within new builds in three counties across the UK – Cornwall, Brighton, and Dorset. We spoke to co-founder Gavin Christman to find out more…

Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education, and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design, and sustainability.

I grew up on the edge of the industrial Midlands surrounded by glass foundries, metal fabricators, and ceramics factories. Though it was our industrial heartland, it’s woven together with stunning wild places, canals, and rivers, forging a lasting connection with nature. Growing up where I did, design and engineering are in my blood, as they are for so many from that area. Art college and then a design degree from Brighton followed before joining Dyson for what I thought would be my dream job.

How would you describe your project/product? And What inspired this project/product?

In 2005 I cofounded Green&Blue with my wife Kate and we set off to follow our dream of living and working in Cornwall. Our ambition was to manufacture wildlife products that would be made in the UK and designed to last a lifetime. As designers, our products are created in response to the challenges we see in the natural world. For example, the Bee Brick, a nesting site for solitary bees, is inspired by the way solitary bees have nested in brickwork or crumbling mortar for hundreds of years. Bee Brick seeks to replicate this for modern construction. As a company, our mission is to make homes and havens for wildlife, and to reconnect people with nature.

What waste (and other) materials are you using, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them?

We make the Green&Blue range from locally sourced aggregates which are a byproduct of the China Clay industry here in Cornwall. Much of the stone extracted is used in industry but certain grades have very little commercial use. The concrete mix we have designed makes use of those aggregates, turning a waste material from a quarry just up the road from us into homes for wildlife.

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision?

The innovation behind products like the Bee Brick lies in the fact that they can be used in place of standard bricks or blocks to make space for nature. Being designed for construction means the range needs to be strong, durable and trusted by the construction industry. This led us to concrete as a material, however we couldn’t ignore the environmental impact of cement. Knowing we had an incredibly strong and durable material in abundance on our doorstep allowed us to mitigate for this and create our own concrete mix using 75% recycled material.

What processes do the materials have to undergo to become the finished product?

Each day in our workshop, waste aggregates are combined with a cement binder, they’re mixed and poured into product moulds, vibrated and then cured overnight before being removed from the moulds the following day and processed, ready to be packed into boxes or onto pallets for delivery to construction sites.

What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy?

Our products are designed to last at least as long as the building they are installed in. I believe sustainability is primarily about making products that last as long as possible and have the least amount of impact during their manufacturing process. Should a building with our products reach the end of its life the brick and stone elements will be reclaimed, crushed and turned into recycled aggregates for further use in construction.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype?

The first Green&Blue product that used the waste aggregate concrete was the Bee Brick. However it took many prototypes before we had a product that worked, perseverance is key to product innovation! There’s a degree of magic and alchemy involved in creating the concrete mix, but as a team, we are motivated by these challenges, by problem-solving, and by trying to reduce our impact on the planet at every turn.

How have people reacted to this project?

The response to products like the Bee Brick and our other integrated nesting sites like Bat and Swift Blocks has been really positive and is only growing. As we become increasingly aware of the crisis in the natural world we need solutions like these to halt our biodiversity loss. Once common birds like swifts, sparrows and house martins have been added to the red list for birds of conservation concern and with the amount of construction happening, we have to rethink those spaces and ensure they provide for wildlife as well as humans. We have to remember to exist within nature rather than separately.

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing?

I believe people’s opinion of waste materials is changing but far too slowly, we seem reluctant to shift our lives away from consumer products that have little or no consideration for recycling. However, movements like B corporation and 1% for the planet are encouraging businesses to do better and to lead the way, we’re proud to be a part of that.

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material?

I think a fundamental shift from using virgin materials is critical to our future. We should aim to judge a product’s success by how much waste material is contained, by how little it takes from the earth’s resources. This is one of the biggest challenges we set ourselves at Green&Blue, to consider impact within every part of what we do.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Green and Blue here.

Corrie Williamson Makes Jewelry + Mobiles From Offcuts of Other Makers’ Work (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

London-based jeweler Corrie Williamson makes jewelry and hanging mobiles – which she describes as ‘jewelry for the home’ – from wooden and metal offcuts leftover from the work of other designer-makers, usually of larger objects such as furniture and musical instruments. She has collaborated with brands such as Jigsaw, Toast, Amnesty, Tate Modern, and Selfridges, and works from a studio in her garden nestled between the hustle and bustle of East London and the serenity of Hackney Marshes.

Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education, and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design, and sustainability.

As a child, I was always making things and I have many memories of all the household materials and equipment I would use for my creative projects. My mum let me use her sewing machine all the time, the iron for making wax paintings, and the food processor for recycling paper into pulp. I was chopping up candles and using the kitchen pans to melt them down and remold them into things. She was a really supportive mum like that – I was and still am really lucky! I liked to work with whatever was around me in the house. As a kid, your world is a little more limited in that way and so I think working with waste materials has just become an extension of that. I did an Art Foundation course in Brighton and then had a brief change of plan and started an academic degree in Visual Culture at the University of Brighton. During the second year, we got to do a project for one term in the textiles studio and I got hooked back in. Luckily, the university allowed me to transfer onto the Textiles BA course so I ended up back where I was happiest; experimenting with materials, processes, and making things again.

I would often use found objects in my designs and as starting points for projects so I think the seeds were sown from an early age. While I was studying for my degree, I became interested in jewelry making and the scrap dealer I bought silver from would save me bags of broken watch faces which I used to turn into jewelry. I serendipitously got myself a jewelry agent in Japan, so by the time I finished my textiles degree I was already selling pieces of jewelry. It felt right to carry on with this after I finished and no longer had the access to the workshop facilities that came with being in education. After graduating I got a studio space with a whole collection of other artists, makers, and craftspeople and that really informed where my work would go after that.

How would you describe your project/product?

They vary, but the main thread is the materials I use. I make jewelry and mobiles mainly at the moment using a combination of metals and wood. The designs are paired back and minimal but they come from an experimental making process and I hope there is an element of playfulness in the work.

What inspired this project/product?

The mobiles I have been making lately were originally made for my daughter Pearl when she was a baby and they were an extension of my jewelry-making process. I use similar materials and techniques in both. The creation of the mobiles felt like a natural progression from the jewelry – movement was already playing a small part in my designs but because of the scale and limitations with jewelry, it wasn’t until I took it off the body that new ideas with movement and shadow could come through. I like the idea of creating jewelry for your home.

What waste (and other) materials are you using, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them?

The wood I use is a waste material – I source scraps and small pieces from the offcut bins of furniture makers. Originally I had a friend whose Dad is a furniture maker who makes a lot of beautiful pieces from bog oak. I asked him if I could use scraps of his for making jewelry and he started to save me pieces that were of no use to his work but were perfect for what I needed. I found this way of connecting with other makers really enjoyable and it is a great excuse to have a look at what people are doing in their workshops and see what they are making and how! Now I have a few different furniture makers saving things for me, and at times I have had instrument makers saving me bits and bobs too. I try to build up a little stock of woods in my workshop so I always have pieces to choose from when I am making new designs rather than having an idea of what I want and trying to go out and find that piece.

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision?

It has been something I feel has happened very subconsciously at first, but as I have progressed through different materials, the world has changed and awareness for creating things that have a lower impact on the planet has become much more to the forefront of lots of people’s minds. So for someone who feels very intrinsically linked to the materials I am working with, looking at their impact on the world is a really important part of this.

What processes do the materials have to undergo to become the finished product?

The materials are mainly processed by me in my workshop, through cutting, sanding, and finishing, and then assembling – all by hand.

What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy?

I only use natural finishing oils that come directly from nature. I join the materials together and I have developed techniques for this that don’t involve any chemical glues so I am looking at the end of life of the product as well and if all parts can either biodegrade or be recycled.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype?

I actually don’t think I was aware that I was using a “waste product” as such until after I had been working in this way for a while. It came so naturally that it’s only on reflection that I have seen my work in this way.

How have people reacted to this project?

People have been really engaged with where the materials come from and the fact that no two pieces can be exactly the same. I have had customers send me pieces of wood from trees in their garden to use in the work. It is so brilliant to have customers so invested and engaged in the materials.

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing?

I think opinions are changing in a positive way, but there is also a difficulty particularly where larger companies can use their use of waste recycled materials in a superficial way to tick sustainability boxes rather than engaging authentically.

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material?

I think it is a very exciting field in terms of what we will see developing. There are so many innovative people out there coming up with ways to use up waste materials and it is these collective small changes that excite me.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Corrie here.

Darren Appiagyei Turns Wood From Fallen Trees Into Hand-turned Vessels (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

Darren Appiagyei is a London UK-based woodturner. He graduated from UAL Camberwell College of The Arts, where he studied 3D design in 2016. Darren’s work is about highlighting the intrinsic beauty of the wood and celebrating features such as knots, cracks, bark, or distinctive grain, which are often seen as flaws. He works only with wood from fallen trees that would otherwise be chopped up for firewood. We caught up with Darren to find out more…

Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education, and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design, and sustainability.

I was born in London to Ghanaian parents, who were very invested in the Ghanaian culture, so my childhood home was adjourned with traditional Ghanaian objects such as the Ashanti stool and the neem wood sculpture. I was very much a creative person in my own little way, I would endlessly draw for hours patiently shading and dotting away. I continued to be creative into my GCSEs and A-levels. It was at University where I developed a sense of direction; I studied 3D design at UAL Camberwell College of the Arts – in my second year we had a unit where we had to learn a new skill and I gravitated towards the lathe, which was hardly used. Learning how to turn was a gradual process of learning and developing with the help of YouTube and the university technicians. Through trial and error, I slowly gained a real appreciation for wood and its grains and textures. I fell in love with the material – I was absolutely spellbound as the wood revealed itself to me as I carved. My interest in sustainability developed as I researched a variety of woods further and understood their properties, depending on where the wood was sourced as well as the difference between trees that had naturally fallen and trees that have deliberately been cut. Once I graduated, I won The Worshipful Company of Turners and Cockpit Arts Awards in 2017 and started to develop a sustainable practice. I was introduced to Woodlands Farm in Shooters Hill, from which I source my wood, only using wood from fallen trees.

How would you describe your project/product?

Making with wood is a collaboration between me and the material. It’s an honoring of the intrinsic beauty of the wood; it’s all about allowing the wood to speak for itself rather than refining and polishing it into something it’s not. Enhancing the imperfections of the wood, my approach is simply about allowing the organic beauty of the wood to shine, whether it be a grain, a knot or just the texture of the wood. Every vessel is a representation of the beauty of wood in its natural state. I like to think of my work like people – everyone is different in their own way, with unique experiences and this is what makes both people and wood so special, every piece is so different even if it’s the same species. I work with a variety of woods; from oak burr – which is a diseased part that has to be cut off oak trees so it won’t cause the whole tree to rot – to spalted beech which has a highlighted element caused by fungi.

What inspired this project/product?

Being a lover of nature inspires me. Growing up in Greenwich, I was fortunate enough to have Greenwich Park just around the corner from home. The park has always been a peaceful haven for me – there is something about walking, thinking, talking with friends, living in the present moment and appreciating my surroundings. I find nature quite magical – can you imagine if trees could talk? The stories they would tell, the history they have lived through…

My cultural identity is another strong influence on my work – it has enabled me to be bold, to dare to break the mold, and to be authentic in my work. I also hope my audience can see the influence of African art in my work aesthetically.

What waste (and other) materials are you using, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them?

The majority of the wood I used is sourced from Woodlands Farm in Shooters Hill. They have tree surgeons who remove wood that has naturally fallen. It’s a magical moment when I rummage through the woodpile and wait for the wood to speak to me, as I try to imagine what I could do with each piece and the shapes I could make to accentuate certain aspects of the wood. It’s a patient approach as I forage through the wood logs, which are most likely to be cut down into square logs and used as firewood otherwise.

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision

We live in the ‘Amazon era.’ We order things and they come straight away without a thought. Going to the woodlands farm instead of going to a timber shop where the timber has been seasoned and cleaned up – seeing the raw wood in its natural state really made an impression on me; this wood has the potential to have a second life and deserves to be used effectively, rather than merely being used as firewood which eventually diminishing into ashes.

What processes do the materials have to undergo to become the finished product?

My making process starts from the moment I am at the Woodlands Farm, when I envisage the shapes I could create as I observe the natural features of the wood. The making process proper ultimately begins when I start to carve into the wood and it reveals itself to me, it’s like an egg hatching – it’s a delicate and slow process. It’s a collaboration between me and the wood as I use bowl gouges and chisels. It’s a therapeutic process as I carve on my lathe (a union graduate lathe) and the wood reveals itself to me; it could be a detail, a knot, or a transition in tone that catches my attention. Instinctively, I allow the detail of the wood to dictate my design as I simply aim to enhance features. Once I am satisfied with the shape of the wood, I hollow out the inside. It can be an intense process as I thin the walls to my vessel – it’s a bit like grinding into concrete if it’s seasoned wood, whereas it’s like carving into clay if it’s green wood which has been freshly cut. The sanding stage is a slow and gradual process. I see sanding as quality control it’s a time to observe and remove scratches and mistakes. Depending on what I am doing, I may burn the surface of the wood or just leave it as it is. The most frequent question I get is ‘how do I know when to stop?’. It’s intuition, you just know. It’s like in Forrest Gump. Forrest starts running after his heartache with Jenny, he keeps running and gets to the point where people jog along with him, and then suddenly he just stops jogging; he is satisfied and knows he’s done enough. It’s a similar feeling when it comes to my work, once I am satisfied, I add a couple of coatings of Danish oil and it’s finished.

What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy?

The great thing about wood is that it’s quite a tactile material, especially if it’s hardwood. Of course, it is biodegradable, but I do romanticize the idea that my work could become a family heirloom, passed down from one generation to the next. I like to think it’s part of my legacy, that when I die a part of me lives on through my work. I have also been looking into how I can close the circle – my aim is that with every vessel I make, I will plant a tree to leave something for the future generations of wood makers.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype?

I was amazed by the details of the wood. It made me see the wood in a whole different light and I had an eagerness to work with the material again to explore further and push its limits. I was quite excited and I spent a lot of time observing the wood – touching it like a child who receives a toy for the first time, just playing with the material.

How have people reacted to this project?

I love it when people react to my work and understand the origins of the material, they compare it to certain details they may have seen on trees and that truly makes me happy. To know that something I have created has made someone appreciate nature, trees, bark and branches – all things they see every day in their life but may not have taken much notice of before, makes me very happy.

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing? What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material?

I believe people are more willing and open to using waste; experimenting and finding solutions. People are certainly open to learning about how I use waste and understanding how even this stunning wood is waste, essentially. There is a curiosity about raw materials and a desire to change views and give wasted materials a second or third life. Ultimately the future is bright and it’s important those of us who who work with waste materials continue to do so; in order to educate and inspire the next generation of makers.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Darren here.

Pearson Lloyd Turns Waste Food Packaging Into Desk Accessories (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

bFRIENDS by Bene is a collection of desktop accessories made from discarded food packaging. Pen pots, trays, and a smart phone stand, are all 3D printed from 100% recycled PLA, a cornstarch-derived bioplastic, that has been diverted from landfill. The collection was designed by London-based Pearson Lloyd and produced by Batch.Works. We spoke to Luke Pearson (below, left), co-founder of Pearson Lloyd, to find out more.

Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education, and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design, and sustainability. 

Growing up in a fairly rural setting meant entertaining oneself was key to not being bored. Having two creative parents, a painter father and a fashion designer mother, meant there was an abundance of tools and materials around me. I was lucky enough to grow up in a rambling, mostly undecorated, house which meant making a mess was okay. As a result, I created my reality and entertainment through the things that I made. A fairly frugal view of the world meant repairs were always attempted and my mother grew all our vegetables, so I’ve always shied away from consumption unless I really need something. The idea of waste has always troubled me and a ‘repair and make things last’ mentality found its way into my design thinking. Having toyed with the idea of being a physicist and engineer, the penny slowly dropped that design was what really excited me so a tiny prompt from my dad pushed me off to art college. At Central St Martins, my degree thesis was about conspicuous consumption and if we would, without legislation, be able to curb this desire. At Pearson Lloyd, we have always tried to be careful with what and how we design, but as time goes on the rules change and the boundaries tighten.

How would you describe your project/product? 

This is a very collaborative project that we instigated having met a young start-up opposite our new studio in London. bFRIENDS is a playful collection of user-friendly desk accessories for the office and the home produced by our long-term friends Bene and manufactured by start-up Batch.works. The collection ranges from very specific small items and ambiguous products with mixed functions to shared accessory trays for group work. All of it is 3D printed from recycled food packaging.

What inspired this project/product? 

For a long time, we have wanted to design a line of accessories, but the costs of tooling are prohibitive for what might be relatively small production runs. Additionally, the amount of tooling required means that, unless you make a lot of one single product, it’s highly wasteful in terms of the energy and raw materials used to make the tooling alone. Meeting Batch.Works during the lockdown last spring, who specialize in producing items in recycled PLA, was a catalyst. In these uncertain times, we wanted to make something with very little impact but also something that could be modified, updated, or even canceled with very little impact. Something smart and agile. Something fun. 3D printing offered the perfect process.

What waste (and other) materials are you using, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them? 

We are using PLA, which is the thermoplastic polyester most commonly used in 3D printing. Batch.Works were already working with a bioplastic PLA recycled from food packaging, so the bFRIENDS product has already had a first life. This lowers the carbon impact massively from virgin plastics made from the petrochemical industry. The fact the desk accessories don’t require very high structural performance parameters meant PLA was very suitable.

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision? 

Recently, we are trying to persuade manufacturers to take bigger and bigger steps, but we have always discussed what proportion of recycled material can be put into our products and tried to ensure non-recyclable materials are kept to a minimum.

What processes do the materials have to undergo to become the finished product? 

There is a roll of PLA filament a few millimeters in diameter, which is heated and squeezed through the nozzle of a 3D printer which effectively draws the shape in 3D. There is no handwork required.

What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy? 

Yes, the products can be chipped and made into new filament to make a new product. We are implementing a collection facility with Bene so that people can simply return unwanted items to a Bene showroom and they can be taken back for reprocessing.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype? 

It’s thrilling to make a new product out of an old one that has a totally different function but discloses no evidence of that previous life.

How have people reacted to this project? 

So far, people like not only the story and intent but also the playful shapes and colors we have used.

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing?

Very quickly but not quickly enough. I think it’s still a first-world privilege in some ways to worry about waste, but sadly it generally affects developing nations’ economies and people first. The problem is visibility. So often what’s not seen is impossible to comprehend and what the world generates in terms of waste is terrifying.

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material? 

A few years ago I took a group of RCA students to Brazil. It was hard to find waste in the city. Everything was scavenged at the end of the day and turned into something new or useful. Necessity and poverty drove this, rather than sustainability, but it made me consider waste as a valuable material in a new way. We have to shift our values, but as materials inevitably become more expensive, people will be forced to use them more carefully or use them again. I hope this is not too late. We need to change the culture now.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Pearson Lloyd here.

Martin Thübeck Turns Sawmill and Tannery Waste Into Modular Furniture (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

Stockholm-based Martin Thübeck graduated with a master’s degree in Spatial Design from Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in 2020. His Betula Collection features a frame made from identical pieces of reclaimed wood, connected by a single joint. For the chair, rawhide rejected by the leather industry is dried around the frame to hold it in place, while a dresser features cord – both designed for disassembly.

Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education, and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design, and sustainability.

For as long as I can remember I have loved to draw, paint, and create things with my hands. The ability to materialize my imagination gave me a strong sense of freedom and acted as a catalysator to imagine even more. My constant creativity landed me a middle spot in a school with a focus on art and design. During these years I spent a lot of time painting and as my skill grew, the pressure to continue that path only got bigger. When it was time to decide on a direction for senior high school, I was offered a spot at a prestigious art school, but the pressure from all the years made me rebel and apply instead for an education in cabinet making. A much less prestigious and more pragmatic direction, but something I longed for at the time. There, I found it very rewarding to have an artistic background when learning carpentry. I work for many years with carpentry before the passing of my mother made me apply to Konstfack, where I fully explored my pragmatic and artistic side. The education has a strong focus on sustainability and today forms the backbone of all my projects.

How would you describe your project/product?

The Betula project is a collection of furniture made from the waste generated by a Swedish birch sawmill. It is a reaction to the part of modern forestry that people tend not to see – and how the material’s origin is generating a lot of waste. In the project, I have experimented with the power of the single building block and how modularity can prolong the lifespan of furniture.

What inspired this project/product?

The project started out as an investigation into how Swedish forestry has evolved over the past hundred years and how this is affected by climate change. Sweden is one of the world’s largest exporters of forest-based products and this has affected how the Swedish forests look today, the majority of which have been planted. Today only 20% of the trees are ‘leaf trees’ as the biggest profits have been found in pine and spruce, which can be planted closer together. With the rapid change in climate it has become evident that these planted forests are very vulnerable to storms, pests, and fires. To prevent this there is a need for much more biodiversity of the sort you would see in ancient natural forests.

This made me interested in the third most common tree in Sweden, Birch. Birch constitutes 12% of the total Swedish forestry and is the most common leaf tree. To get an image of the birch industry I visited one of Sweden’s biggest Birch sawmills. Their clients expect only the best quality with as straight fibers as possible – and a pale color at odds with the natural reddish color Birch often displays naturally. In order for the sawmill to compete, the owner of the sawmill explained that roughly 70% of all the logs that come into the facility are considered waste and burnt. The way the production line is set up, all material goes through the entire refining steps and then gets sorted before the drying process. If something goes wrong in the drying process this can also discolor the wood and render it useless for the furniture industry.

What waste (and other) materials are you using, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them?

At the sawmill, I saw giant piles of waste material that only have minor variations from the desired standard, that sometimes weren’t even visible. These piles inspired the idea to explore how the least amount of work could affect the value of the discarded material the most. By using the dimension of the material and only altering their ends, finding a simple joint that could fit both into itself in several ways and also join along the pieces. The result was to mill a cut one-third of the thickness and as deep as the widest profile of the material.

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision?

Unfortunately, waste is such a widely accessible material, so I started using it long before I even understood the concept. As I got older, I started to question things more and I enjoyed showing the potential in the unwanted. When I started to study design and learning more about sustainability, the concept of using waste came very naturally.

What processes do the materials have to undergo to become the finished product?

In this project, I wanted to explore how the least amount of work could affect material the most. The pieces are only cut in length and a groove is milled in either end, creating a ‘tongue and groove’ joint except that the tongue is the thickness of the material and the groove is the cut in the end of the material.

What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy?

I found inspiration in Gerrit Rietvelds ‘Krat’ system where he took inspiration from an object which denotes other functions, such as a packing case. And Enzo Maris ‘Autoprogettazione?’ project where he wanted to educate consumers about design. In both these projects, nails held the boards together. I wanted to explore if I could find a more flexible alternative way to hold the structures together – experimenting with paper cord and rawhide.

Close to the sawmill is a tannery and leather is a material that also has strong visual preconceptions and expectations. When visiting this tannery, I learned that a lot of the hides that come from the slaughterhouse have scares, mosquito bites and other defects that will show after the tanning process. These hides or parts of hides will then be considered waste.

Wood and leather have a long history of being used together. Instead of traditional upholstering I let the soft hide dry and shrink around the wood structure of the Betula chair making it sturdy and strong.

This was a way of prolonging the life of these pieces as they can be separated and put back together as something else.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype?

I think my first reaction was surprise at how little work could change the value so much. It went from being waste to a building block that I instantly started playing around with trying to figure out what to build. This process is still ongoing and the furniture collection is slowly growing.

How have people reacted to this project?

Due to the pandemic, the project has not been shown in its entirety but the few times I have had the possibility to show it, I have tried to engage people in the building possibilities. This way people have touched and reflected on the material in a much deeper way. Hopefully, the project can be shown soon and to be experienced, so more can learn about the potential in the unwanted.

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing?

I believe more and more people see the potential, not only financially but also the necessity if we want to continue to inhabit this planet. I find hope in the growing number of projects showing ways of moving towards a more sustainable way of living.

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material?

I hope that we soon stop viewing anything as waste and start to see everything as potential raw materials.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Martin here.

Disharee Mathur Turns Damaged Sinks and Toilets Into Vases and Accessories (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

Disharee Mathur is a graduate of the MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering program at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College, London. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and has worked at internationally renowned Interior Architecture firms – Studio O+A (San Francisco, USA) and Gensler (Bangalore, India). Today, she is an interdisciplinary designer working across products, interactions and interiors – and her NewBlue project reimagines damaged sanitary ware into vases and accessories.

Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design and sustainability.

I grew up in Jaipur (India) where hand crafting is part of the daily social fabric and culture – whether it is cooking cuisines crafted with spices or using block-printed textiles across the home. I come from a family of doctors who are also singers, writers and musicians. I used to draw and paint as a child. Later, I started doing still life painting at high school and was mentored by my aunt who is an artist. That was when I learned to observe both things and people closely. My interest in painting led me to design. I secured a scholarship to study at the Savannah College of Art and Design. At SCAD, I was enthralled by the possibilities that creative disciplines offered. I started with animation, learning about creating 3D environments for VFX drew me towards designing spaces, and ultimately I majored in Interior Design. There was a materials library in the department that made me feel like a kid in the candy store! After SCAD, I worked in the industry for a few years and wanted to diversify my scale of work across disciplines. I was interested in applying artistry to principles of strategic design and sustainability. These dots connected at the RCA and Imperial College, during my masters. It was exciting to learn about circularity and find overlaps between my cultural practices & crafts and the western definition of circularity in design – and “making with waste” was also not far from tradition at home – whether it was creating outfits out of my mum’s old saris or my grandma using lemon peels for pickles.

How would you describe your project?

NewBlue is a conversation between a traditional pottery craft, material science and design that sheds light on a new perspective on craft preservation and waste management. The project revives an ancient craft practice using ceramic waste as an ingredient in the NewBlue Pottery recipe. The waste is used as a strengthener while keeping the artistry and technique of the Jaipur Blue Pottery craft intact. NewBlue diversifies Blue Pottery beyond pottery, to explore new scales and applications for the craft and their product range into furniture and architecture.

What inspired this project?

Conversations with craft communities in Jaipur and the local government’s efforts to find land to accommodate sanitary ware waste. India has the largest concentration of craft in the world yet only 2% of the global handicraft market share. These numbers reflected reality when I started interviewing craft units and communities in my hometown. The Jaipur Blue Pottery craft was studied to understand the scenario from the ground up. While the craft is celebrated for its ornamentation and technique, less than 300 artisans are practicing today. Apart from the low incentive for the next generation to continue the practice, artisans mentioned material deterioration and low material strength as challenges to the development of the craft. This inspired me to focus on material innovation for craft preservation. Using the waste was also an incentive for the craft units to become eligible for state economic opportunities as contributors to local waste management. Recent craft preservation efforts were geared towards preserving practices as artifacts, rather than enterprises in the economy. I was inspired to find an intersection between traditional craft and scientific innovation to seek a contextual solution.

What waste material are you using, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them?

I am using rejected sanitary ware (sinks and toilets) from local retail stores in Jaipur.  Most of these stores have 3-4 rejected pieces in shipment with cracks and defects, that cannot be sold, so end up becoming waste. We use these pieces as a raw material for NewBlue in the Jaipur Blue Pottery workshops – they are used as a strengthening ingredient. These are processed using the existing workshop equipment. We selected this material after over 50 experiments with different waste materials and doing compressive strength and material hardness tests on all fired samples. The samples with the sanitary ware waste showed the best results. The artisans reviewed all the samples and gave feedback along the way. The selection criteria were accessibility of the ingredient logistically and economically while retaining the aesthetics and processes of the traditional craft. Recycling glass is already a part of the ancient recipe so introducing another waste material is not too far from tradition. We source this waste in the same way the artisans source recycled glass from local art-framing stores. The small quantity of the waste required in the recipe allows wider accessibility for sourcing.

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision?

I first became interested in using waste because of its excess and, as a result, its accessibility. After learning more about the quality of ingredients in industrial waste like ceramics, that motivated me to experiment with the material as a potential resource for use. On reflection, it’s also a great tool for prototyping and testing ideas for form and textures.

What processes do the materials have to undergo to become the finished product?

NewBlue material is made with the addition of waste as an ingredient in the traditional Blue Pottery process. Blue Pottery is one of the few pottery techniques in the world that does not use clay. They use locally sourced quartz powder, recycled glass, plant-based gum, and sand as binders ground together and kneaded to make a dough. The dough is then molded like a flatbread, sun-dried, and finished with intricate motifs in oxide pigments as an underglaze. These ceramics are fired only once at low temperatures of 790-800 degrees celsius. The traditional craft practice remains untouched as this material can only be made and used in existing Blue Pottery craft workshops. The NewBlue material variations are named as “A synonym and Antonym for Jaipur Blue Pottery” for this very reason. The Synonym material is synonymous with the craft in color and texture but with doubled strength. It is embodied as an end-table from existing traditional molds, showcasing the newly acquired strength and scale of the material. The Antonym is unglazed and embodied as passive cooling architectural tiles showcasing the material strength with porosity.

What happens to your products at the end of life, can they go back into the circular economy?

The artisans have traditionally experimented with mosaics to find ways to reuse the pieces and these can be broken down again to make smaller pieces to be put back in circularity. However, more robust research is required to make this reach its full potential at the end of life.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product /prototype?

It was magical! There were so many happy accidents as we experimented with different types of waste, from terracotta street vendors to a china clay factory. We found new colors and textures which we couldn’t use at the time to be strict with craft compatibility. But I’d love to explore some of those for other pieces!

How have people reacted to this project?

It has been really positive and encouraging so far – and I’d love to take this concept to more remote rural communities that were not able to test this in their workshops due to pandemic restrictions.

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing?

There are different perspectives in the East and the West. Designers in the West are really open to using waste as a resource but are sometimes limited in finding sustainable manufacturing techniques to process it at all times, while the East has strong cultural traditions around using certain types of waste in their practices but is sometimes not open to use all types of waste materials. There is real potential in the two perspectives transcending borders to adopt the ‘waste is wealth’ method of making.

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material?

It’s exciting to discover different types of waste as material resources that may further feed into the economy. I am always enamored with how beautifully nature creates and processes waste – dried leaves in autumn are a great example. I hope as designers we are inspired by nature’s processes to feed future circular systems – whether it is material movement or processing what’s left behind after use. The future of using waste material may also draw from past traditional practices of making with local abundance – waste or used materials.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Disharee here.

Mon Terra Turns Waste Plant Pots Into Furniture and Accessories (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

Mon Terra was founded by Tamara Efrat, a multidisciplinary designer and entrepreneur, and Yuval Dishon, a process engineer and maker. Both are from Tel-Aviv in Isreal – although they met in Boston during a three-month social entrepreneurship program and decided their shared values and complementary skillset made them a perfect match. Together, they turn agricultural plastic waste into furniture and accessories. We spoke to them to find out more.

Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design and sustainability.

Tamara – I studied fashion design for my bachelor’s degree and design and technology for my master’s degree. After finishing my studies, I decided to be independent and to open my own studio, where I could vision, create and most importantly collaborate with people from different disciplines. My work explores the relationship between craft and contemporary digital technology. As a designer that creates new objects, I feel it is my responsibility to take better care of the planet in terms of the materials I use, the processes I implement and the quality of the products I create. In the past year, I decided that I wanted to focus on social and environmental issues. In 2019, I flew to Boston for three very intensive months to participate in a social entrepreneurship program where I met Yuval and we founded Mon Terra together.

Yuval – Growing up, it was obvious at home that we didn’t waste water, that we didn’t purchase unnecessary things and that we recycled (back then it was only paper); it just made sense to me, but I’m not sure I understood the reasons. I have always had a passion for understanding how things work and why they are the way they are. Over time, I have become more knowledgeable about and aware of sustainability, until it has become an integral part of my being. My academic background and some of my professional background are actually in medical research and devices, but about five years ago, I joined an urban agriculture start-up. Not only was this venture important for the environment and healthy living, but working there helped me find my field of creativity: problem-solving and process development. This was a good jumping board from which to launching Mon Terra with Tamara, who has such a complementary skillset.

How would you describe your project?

Mon Terra is an ecologically committed venture addressing the issue of plastic waste produced by the agricultural industry. We collect plastic plant pots discarded by local gardeners and nurseries, then clean and shred them before using them to manufacture our products.

What inspired this project?

Seeing the huge amount of plastic waste Israel produces alone every year: over one million tons of plastic, only a quarter of which is currently being recycled. It is estimated that 26,000 tons of plastic waste are produced annually by the Israeli agricultural industry.

What waste (and other) materials are you using, how did you select those? particular materials and how do you source them?

We start the process by collecting the precious raw material – discarded polypropylene plant pots – from gardeners and nurseries.

What processes do the materials have to undergo to become the finished product?

The pots are cleaned and shredded using an industrial plastic shredder, which turns them into tiny plastic flakes. Great care is taken in shredding and stocking the different types of flakes, based on parameters such as color or quality. Although the pots are all polypropylene, they may contain different additives and therefore behave differently during the reincarnation process. The plastic is carefully weighed, placed into molds, and melted using a variety of techniques. Polypropylene’s melting temperature is rather low (130-170 degrees celsius), rendering this process relatively low-energy.

Finally, each product requires a set of post-processing steps, like drilling, wiring or sanding. During post-processing, some plastic waste is created from the raw product. This plastic is collected and reused in other products, so nothing ever goes to waste.

Each and every product is handmade by Mon Terra. This ensures that each product is of high quality, and also renders each product unique. At Mon Terra, we believe in “truth to material”, so although most of the products require some post-processing, we aspire to make as few changes as possible to the raw product – the manufacturing process is thus apparent in each product in a unique way.

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision?

Initially, we were designing an ecological product for urban agriculturists. While researching raw materials and manufacturing facilities, we were alarmed by the magnitude of plastic waste produced by the agricultural industry, an industry crucial to our health and our environment. It became clear that we should devote our efforts to helping the agricultural industry to join the circular economy. We began collecting discarded plant pots from gardeners and nurseries, who were happy to collaborate, and then we started researching and experimenting with small-scale plastic recycling. Quite a bit of research, experimentation, trials and errors were involved in perfecting the “plastic reincarnation” process as we like to call it.

What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy?

We design and manufacture high-end and durable products so they are long-lasting, and we make them unique so our customers feel connected to them and keep them for much longer, but yes, absolutely. All our products can be recycled again when they finish their lifecycle. We constantly receive offers for collaborations with different designers and manufacturers, but unfortunately, we must turn them down as they normally propose mixing our raw material with theirs, which would render our products non-recyclable. We take great care to avoid mixing different types of thermoplastics, and therefore we currently limit our products to only polypropylene.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype?

When we first saw the transformation we were amazed! The new reincarnated material we developed looked similar to stone and marble. Honestly, it was astounding, we were expecting to recycle the plastic and hoped it would look nice, but we immediately realized we are actually upcycling. When we started posting our products on social media we also started getting many offers for collaborations from different artists and designers. When we started getting attention from large manufacturers and sellers, we realized we had managed to transform and upcycle the original material – plant pots – into a very interesting material.

How have people reacted to this project?

We get amazing responses from people around the world. People are amazed when they realize the products are not stone or marble, and even more so when they find out they are made from 100% recycled plastic. We have also been contacted by other designers, manufacturers and sellers. All this wonderful feedback has provided amazing motivation and made us realize we must be doing something right – both design-wise and in terms of the environment.

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing?

In Israel, where we come from, people are not very familiar with buying sustainable products, at least not as much as in the rest of the Western world. One of the main objectives of Mon Terra was to expose as many people as possible to the opportunities of waste utilization. We know many people envision recycled products as low quality or something they see their kids do at kindergarten, which is why it was crucial to us to develop high-end, design-led products.

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material?

We think waste as raw material is the future. There just isn’t any other way – our resources are diminishing quickly. This field is developing these days but not fast enough. At some point, it will become inevitable. We believe that generating less waste is key, alongside its recycling. We believe waste should stop being called ‘waste’, as it should always be raw material for other applications, and if a waste product cannot be recycled or reused – it should have been made of a different material to begin with. We believe in the numerous interesting, inspirational, intelligent circular economy ventures that are developing these days and are happy to be part of this movement.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Mon Terra here.

Anti Turns Discarded and Broken Umbrellas Into Desk and Table Lamps (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

We’ve all experienced that frustrating moment when an umbrella gets blown inside out, the force of the movement breaking the spindles and rendering it useless. The thing is that the majority of umbrellas are simply not designed to last, with an average lifespan of just six months. In order to turn this frustration into something positive, Anti takes discarded and broken umbrellas, disassembles them, and upcycles them into desk and table lamps. We spoke to UK-based founder and CEO Mark Howells to find out more.

Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design and sustainability.

I grew up In Hertfordshire in a working class family. My mother can draw and paint and my father is very musical; writing and performing electric and acoustic guitar-based music to this day at 70 years of age. My first exposure to design was via a foundation course in art and design at Watford in the 1990s. I was drawn towards the traditional arts as opposed to design, until I was asked by a tutor, who ran a 3D Design class, to select an object from a series of waste objects she had scavenged from a beach and produce a new product. I chose a section of a washed-up bicycle tire and made a watch strap that buttoned over the tire tread. I loved the process of learning to unsee the original utility of an object and unlocking a new purpose unseen by anyone else before. This led to an explosion of designs using waste. At the time I had a cleaning job in the evenings at a very large office and I would collect items of interest that had been discarded in bins – in particular, computer components – and repurpose them. It was these designs that secured me a place on an Industrial Design degree at Cardiff University. Although I learned a huge amount, I really had no real interest in becoming an Industrial Designer – the assembly line approach of the time was a far cry from the work I had been doing to secure my position on the degree course in the first place. This was the ’90s and sustainability wasn’t a mainstay of the curriculum. I decided to take the drafting skills I had developed and head towards engineering. I worked for various environmental consultancies, which led me to building and land surveying, eventually as a board-level director of a successful surveying practice. In this role, I gained exposure to starting new business units and small businesses – which inspired me to fulfill a long-harbored desire to return to sustainable design.

How would you describe your project/product?

Anti’s first collection is upcycled lamps made of discarded umbrellas that were otherwise destined for landfill. The collected umbrellas are disassembled into their separate materials groups (e.g. plastics, metals, nylon) and are made into desk and table lamps. Over 1 billion umbrellas are made each year but are not designed to last, with an average lifespan of just six months. Anti addresses a waste issue by designing with waste, not creating it – and the new products are easier to disassemble at end-of-life than the umbrella was in its original state. This is the first waste stream we are concentrating on, but there will be others. One of our key focuses is to design repeatable upcycled products that can be made/manufactured at scale. The more we sell, the more waste we reuse, and the more good we can do.

What inspired this project/product?

After living in London and Tokyo, I became very aware of the wastage around umbrellas. In Tokyo, umbrellas are everywhere, you see endless rows of broken umbrellas at railway stations and outside shops. On a typical rainy day in Tokyo over 3,000 umbrellas are handed in to lost property, London underground deals with a similar problem. Our research suggests as many as one billion umbrellas are broken, lost or discarded each year worldwide. Umbrellas are just one example of an everyday product that has an important utility and value, but is flawed. It solves one problem but causes another. In the case of umbrellas it keeps us dry, and is portable, cheap and available on every street corner, but is made of different material types and so it’s difficult to disassemble at the end of its life, which makes recycling at scale difficult.

What waste (and other) materials are you using, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them?

Both lamps are made from discarded umbrellas. We have collected these over the last few years primarily from lost properties and from city streets, bins and train stations. We also use a 3D-printed recycled plastic filament for two components and several metal components that are made from recycled materials.

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision?

The design potential of using waste has interested me since higher education, however, the first real exposure I had to the environmental impact of how we were dealing (or not dealing) with waste was when I was a junior technician at an environmental engineering consultancy. I saw how landfills were designed firsthand and even had the opportunity to see one being built. Landfills were recognized even by the landfill designers at the time to be a poor solution with many issues e.g., the plastic membranes often split or ripped leaking the toxic water (leachate) that had percolated through the waste over time and into the soil and worryingly possibly into the groundwater. To see these vast cavernous sites being built, often in areas of countryside, just felt wrong and you could really see the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality we have associated with waste. The new items we purchase are made of the exact same materials we were throwing away; I have always believed that it’s our perception of what we deem as waste that needs to change. If you view any perceived waste item by its material type and form as opposed to its original utility and the stigma associated with something old or used, then it’s free to take on a new role. It’s down to us as designers to unlock this potential.

What processes do the materials have to undergo to become the finished product?

The umbrellas have to be disassembled into their individual component types and, in some cases, cleaned and repaired. The 3D-printed parts also need to be cleaned and finished. Then both lamps are primarily made through a process of assembly as opposed to manufacturing. This is also more energy-efficient.

What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy?

I encourage each customer to return our products at end of life via our Take Back scheme. We will happily take back any of the products produced at our workshop. These will be disassembled and reused as the basis for new designs or as a last resort disassembled for recycling. Having these products returned really is of great value to us. Both lamp designs are easy to disassemble, which allows us to recapture their material value very quickly.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype?

It really does feel like a kind of alchemy when you get it right. My objective Is to produce beautiful products from waste streams that at first, or even second, sight have no reference to their original purpose and utility. I know my work is done when someone suddenly realizes that what they are looking at is not what they thought, and yet it was there in front of them the whole time. To provide that surprise and joy is the best feeling.

How have people reacted to this project?

It’s been really positive so far. I think people are genuinely surprised that you can create something that looks beautiful from something that is not considered so. I’ve been particularly pleased with receiving great responses from fellow designers and sustainable designers.

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing?

I believe people are now more accepting of recycling and products made from recycled materials and in many cases, there’s now a demand for these. Upcycled products, however, are sometimes devalued in what people might pay for them due to the monetary tag associated with their previous life. That’s interesting because, in my opinion, the creative innovation to successfully develop an upcycled product (particularly at volume) is far more challenging, and ultimately more impressive, from both the point of view of the creative process and the end product point.

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material?

Ultimately, we should get to a stage where we do not see waste as rubbish. I believe circular economy principles will be the panacea to the fear and hurt we are feeling more strongly than ever towards the damage to the planet. Politicians, businesses, designers, and individuals will genuinely want to change the way we live, you can see the younger generation are already asking all the right questions and have the hunger to find the answers. Upcycling, in the sense of taking a linear lifecycle product and transforming it into a circular lifecycle product, can be a stop-gap to buy us more time until we are designing with circular principles ingrained into everything we manufacture from the outset. Developing biomimicry and biological fabrication where we can grow our products and they can safely return to the earth without the need for retrieval systems is a really exciting future. Although there is incredible progress in this area, we are, realistically, many decades from this becoming mainstream, and therefore the role of upcycling is critical to providing the time to achieve that transition.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Anti here.

Radically pragmatic, pragmatically radical

Flat lay of burgundy magazine called The New Era

Most designers start their creative process by asking questions, but few go to quite the lengths that Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin do to understand the social, economic, territorial and geopolitical forces shaping every project they take on.

In their Milan- and Rotterdam-based design studio, Formafantasma, a rigorous research phase is combined with seemingly endless questioning of everything around them. ‘We’re not just here to make things pretty – it’s our role to ask questions,’ says Farresin. And yet somehow, for all their knowledge and expertise – particularly in sustainability, they resist the urge to be judgemental of the answers, preferring instead to investigate each project before deciding which levers they can pull to bring about positive change. ‘You can’t change the whole system with every project,’ he adds. ‘But you can keep asking the same questions – you’ll get different answers every time, but the important thing is to keep asking.’

Farresin talks to craft, design and sustainability writer, Katie Treggiden, about how they keep both the radical and the pragmatic sides of their business in check.

You’ve said “When we create something, it will have an impact. We don’t have a solution, but we question all the time.” What kind of what questions motivate you?

We always ask: ‘What role does design play in this context?’ ‘What is the ecological impact of what we do?’ We can’t always afford to think about the answers – we are a commercial studio and sometimes just try to execute something well within the constraints of the brief. But at other times, we have the freedom to question the impact that designers have – or don’t have. We love to get involved in conversations about what design can do.

So, what interests you about objects? What is your relationship with collecting and owning things?

We like beautiful things, and we care about the things we own, but we don’t fetishize objects. When you look at an object, you can talk about the people who produced it, economics, theology, anthropology, politics… Those are the things that excite us about objects.

Your work often involves rigorous research. How does that impact the sort of work that you make?

Not as much as we would like! We work on three types of projects – research-based projects such as the Cambio exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery in London, more commercial projects where we work more as a traditional design studio, and education through our role at Design Academy Eindhoven. This is our own balance. This is not the rule, but it is our way of making peace with being designers. Because of projects such as Cambio, people often see our work as closer to art, but these projects simply show our approach. We could apply the same approach to working with a company on a more holistic level – and our ambition is to find more opportunities to apply our more radical and investigative approach. I would love a furniture company to give us an open brief and full access. Then we could come up with some really interesting ideas. And if they don’t, the next generation of designers will get those opportunities and that’s fine too. Our thinking is more radical than what we do. At the moment, we are only able to apply the full extent of that thinking to projects such as Cambio, and we are okay with that. It means that we have to make compromises, but compromises that keep us rooted in the reality of what we are criticizing and that in itself is extremely useful. After our Ore Streams project – which investigated electronic waste – we took on projects with electronics companies and tried to start conversations about privacy, repairability… but they weren’t really interested. It was frustrating, but extremely useful for us to see up close how the design process is too fragmented to allow holistic thinking and therefore innovation. So for us, that was extremely beautiful. Did we achieve what we wanted? Not really. But still…

What role could designers have in tackling electronic waste?

The first step is repair. The second step is the reuse of components, which is different from recycling – and the future for electronic waste is not recycling, but reusing components. And then there is recycling, which means shredding stuff to obtain materials, but fragmentation of responsibility and knowledge is a big problem within recycling systems, and this needs to be addressed with both micro- and macro-governance. Even there, design can play a role – designers can understand production processes and come up with solutions – such as a simple colour coding system that would tell you which elements are hazardous.

There’s an expression I came across when I was studying for my master’s, which is that ‘no research is ever wasted’…

Absolutely, and that’s also why we ended up also being involved with education, curating the geo-design master’s degree at Design Academy Eindhoven, because what we’re doing is not only about building a business, it is also about building knowledge and awareness. Being involved in education is a way of expanding this in a non-commercial realm of design – and that’s extremely fulfilling.

Let’s talk about the Cambio Exhibition – what made you decide to investigate the global timber industry?

I have plenty of answers for this question! The first is a simple one. We realized that it was going to be difficult to develop our Ore Streams project further, because it proved so difficult to engage anyone who was making electronics. So, we went back to our roots. We started our careers in Italy, making furniture, using wood. The second reason is that we wanted to address the complexity and ethical questions of working with living creatures – trees. The third reason is that Serpentine Gallery is in Hyde Park surrounded by trees, so it made sense. And finally, there was The Great Exhibition, which took place in Hyde Park in 1851. The Great Exhibition glorified the shift from design as an artisanal practice to working for industry and making with machines. And it showcased materials extracted outside of Europe, so there was a clear link with colonialism. All in giant green house that was being used, for not for survival of living creatures, trees, but to glorify products. I cannot think of anything more emblematic of the complexity and the problematic elements of design. And so, we went back to those marginalized trees…

And what is the role of a designer in investigating the global timber industry? You’ve talked about a shift in the role of designers away from human needs…

When a designer is called in to do something, the thinking tends to begin with the human in front of them. The designer is thinking about what the needs or desires of the ‘target audience’ or ‘end user’. But if you want to think about the impact of design at an ecological level, you need to think about what happens before that moment – where are the materials coming from; which politics are they supporting? We cannot resolve ecological problems at a product level – simply by making materials biodegradable for example – without considering the lifecycle of the material. Ecology is also related to social justice, and there’s a lot of injustice in the way things are executed in the way timber fields. Instead of designers thinking ‘What can I do with this material?’ we should be thinking, ‘What can I do from and for the forest?’ If we extract value from the forest, we should also look at the needs of the forest and the other services the forest provides, such as sequestering carbon, providing a habitat for creatures, holding the earth together so that it’s not blown away by the wind…. Everybody talks about the quality of execution, the quality of comfort for the person using the product, but what about the comfort of the trees and the forest? We’ve got to stop centring humans.

As you conducted this investigation, what did you learn?

The biggest learning was that fragmented responsibility and knowledge is not working. Just to give you one example, the tools that designers use to make renderings enable us to render furniture using endangered species. This is a really powerful example of how the design discipline is shaped around the needs of humans, not the rest of the planet. There is a lot of conversation about trees as a solution in climate mitigation. If this is the reality, we have to change the way we use wood. Wood absorbs CO2 – it is 40-45% CO2 – but if you dispose of it and it is incinerated, that carbon is released. So how can we apply it to disposable products? Or even buildings that are renovated or demolished after decades? You are not making something ‘sustainable’ just by making it out of FSC-certified wood. We need to challenge the business models that rely on short lifespans – we need to talk about the economy. As designers, we can at least be aware of these systemic issues and start considering how we might apply this kind of thinking.

Tell me about your tile collection for Dzek, which is glazed in volcanic ash…

Inspired by De Natura Fossilium, a project we did for Gallery Libby Sellers, the concept is that many minerals used for glazing are extracted from underground. We were fascinated by the idea of volcanos excavating these materials for us, so we wanted to see what we could do with a non-extractive material. What is really interesting is how the chemists we worked with kept asking us what aesthetic we wanted and we kept saying “We don’t know, because it depends what comes out.” For us, it wasn’t about dictating the aesthetic, but reflecting the materials. The development of products is not about reflecting reality anymore – it is about fulfilling desires.

Tell me about your upcoming project for Hem…

It’s probably the most industrial product that we have done to date – it’s a shelving system made with extruded aluminium and it is all about maximizing efficiencies of effort and materials. It’s made of a highly renewable, entirely recyclable, single material and made with a very efficient technology – two extrusions create the entire shelving system. It is the opposite of what we do with our research-based projects, where we are trying to sort out things on the more macro level. It’s beautifully old fashioned in its attempt to resolve things, as much as possible, on a product level.

Because sometimes you’ve just got solve one problem at a time?

Yes, and also at different scales. Our practice is full of contradictions, but if you remove the contradictions, you need to remove yourself from the mud in which we’re living – and that’s not what we’re interested in. We are gloriously engaged, and we make compromises. We could be more radical, I’m sure, but this is where we stand, this is what we have decided, and these are the compromises we are willing to make within our own code of ethics.

Yes, and the danger is, if you can’t contradict yourself, it’s the radical stuff you can’t do. The only way you can never contradict yourself is to never try…

Honestly, you need to work on an academic level to only do the radical work. And even then, there are compromises. Or there are the people who seem very radical, but don’t sign the work they do to make a living. So, they can they afford to seem radical, because they do horrible works behind the scenes. We would rather be honest about the compromises we make and be proud of everything we do, at whatever level we can bring about change.

How else can designers contribute to a better use of resources?

It’s about making better choices driven by an understanding of the whole system, so it’s about sourcing, production, repair, distribution, and so on. Designers need to think about these same categories and reapply them to every brief – what can you do in each context? Maybe you cannot address these issues on a material level this time, but there’s something you can do on a distribution level. I have a lot of respect for everybody in this discipline – and you cannot afford to be ideological when you’re a designer. Otherwise, you need to quit being a designer. We’ve even had conversations with companies who clearly only want to get involved with ecology as a trend, but we might still do something with them and then maybe they will start to understand. Maybe that trend will sink in and start to become a culture. And that is starting to happen. It’s happening.

To find out more about Formafantasma here.

Form Us With Love and Baux Turn Textile Offcuts Into Acoustic Panels (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

Stockholm-based Form Us With Love is an unusual design studio in that it is also an incubator of sorts, with team members free to explore and establish ventures that sit within and without its perimeters. The original co-founders of Form Us With Love – Jonas Pettersson, John Löfgren and Petrus Palmér – teamed up with entrepreneurs Johan Ronnestam and Fredrik Franzon to take conventional architectural products and make them more visually appealing, co-founding BAUX (Palmér has since moved on from FUWL to run Hem but remains involved with BAUX). In doing so, they took the exceptional thermal and acoustic insulation properties of a Swedish-made building material called Träulit, first invented in the 1940s, and completely reinventing its aesthetics. More recently, they have given production offcuts a second life as a commercial acoustic solution, BAUX Acoustic Flexfelt System, that is fully compostable at the end of its life. But this is far from FUWL’s only experience of working with waste – the design studio has created furniture for IKEA from recycled PET plastic and is currently exploring possibilities for previously unrecyclable glass. We spoke to Jonas Pettersson to find out more.

Tell me a little bit about your education and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design and sustainability.

We [Jonas Pettersson, John Löfgren and Petrus Palmér ] met at industrial design school in Sweden and during the last year, we discussed the potential of starting our own studio. The idea was to create our dream work environment rather than trying to figure out a good business idea. The discussion took shape and the same day as graduation, we ran to the bank and set up Form Us With Love.

How would you describe your product?

At FUWL we have co-founded the sustainable acoustic brand BAUX and since the launch, we have continued to grow its range. First out was Wood Wool, an established building material that we turned into a global interior solution loved by Stella McCartney, Google, United Nation, and many more. Second, we launched a unique paper pulp solution, made from 100% natural ingredients, that meets the needs of workspaces but is also compostable at its end of life. What we’ve been working on next is taking post-production textiles offcuts and giving them a second life as a commercial acoustic solution. It’s a 100% traceable source, which often is the challenge when it comes to waste. The new product will not only introduce a new sustainable material, but also move BAUX into new product categories to support the challenges of tomorrow’s architecture.

What inspired this product?

The inspiration is rational. We, together with BAUX, are on a constant quest to meet the future expectations of architecture when it comes to both acoustics and sustainability. In close dialogue with the textile industry in Sweden, we figured out how to implement offcuts into a second life product. It’s important to understand a material’s properties and then use it to its full potential. In this case, we have made the offcuts visible to avoid adding additional material as well as communicating its story to its users.

What waste (and other) materials are you using, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them?

We are in constant dialogue with industry partners – be they material scientists, experts, recyclers, producers, etc. From our experience, it’s crucial to see design as a collaborative process, listen to different insights and perspectives to bring forward real change. Upcycling these offcuts was a direct result of our approach to collaboration. Designers can bring both a critical and curious perspective to a problem.

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision?

When we were in school fifteen years ago, the industry was not too interested in the topic of “what to do with waste.” The world has changed, and even since a few years back, our approach and know-how is more relevant than ever. The first time we worked with waste on an industrial scale was with IKEA, where we explored several potential waste streams that turned out to be the material solutions for the wood PP Odger chair and the recycled PET Kungsbacka kitchen system. Our motivation is to change the perspectives, from waste to value.

What processes do the materials have to undergo to become the finished product?

It’s hard to give one clear answer, as it depends on how the material will be used and at what scale. Our job as designers is to figure out solutions that work both for culture and industry, in other words, to identify the both use and its supply.

What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy?

Yes – it’s a circular solution. The product is made from a mono-material blend and can be taken back and reproduced. Thinking about end-of-life is important, but also how a product’s lifespan can be prolonged from both quality and aesthetic values.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype?

There is always quite some excitement for the project team to see how design prototyping leads to new solutions from the waste. For a few years, we have a joint venture looking into waste from the glass industry. The glass has been dumped in the ground for decades and this particular glass contains toxic heavy metals that affect the groundwater. The project team consists of recyclers, designers, scientists, and engineers. Just a few months ago we managed to separate the heavy metals from the glass. Now we’re leading a design exploration to find applications for refined glass.

How have people reacted to this project?

One of the first projects we did from waste on an industrial scale was with IKEA and the Odger chair. It was a challenging project and during the process, it was a lively debate around how the global consumers would buy into the products when seeing a new material in that context. The timing was just right – people were ready to re-think what beauty is, from perfection to imperfection. That was rewarding for all people involved fighting for change.

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing?

There has been a dramatic change, at least what we see, both from global brands we work with, and from its consumers. It’s a hard topic, so we believe it’s our job to be informed, and bring forward solutions that are best suitable to improve life for people, business, and the planet.

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material?

The future will be more informed and more sustainable but, at the same time, people will continue to value convenience. We believe designers with a critical approach can play an important role to find solutions that work for people, the economy, and the planet. The lack of resources and increasing price of materials will speed up this change. It’s going to move from nice-to-have to a must-have, simply because resources will not be enough to meet the world’s growing population.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Form Us With Love here.

Very Good and Proper Turns Hemp Fiber + Recycled Plastic Into Outdoor Chairs (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

Very Good and Proper (VG&P) was founded in 2008 by product and furniture designer (now director, majority owner and CEO) Ed Carpenter, fellow RCA-graduate and London-based German designer (now design director) André Klauser and restauranteur Patrick Clayton Malone – initially to produce furniture for Malone’s new restaurant group Canteen, and then for a wider market. Today, their signature pieces still include the Canteen Table, the Hook & Knob, and the Utility Chair, all launched at the London Design Festival in 2009. Collaborating with leading architects, interior designers and furniture dealers around the world, VG&P designs and manufactures carefully considered, practical and beautiful products using quality materials and craftsmanship. Their most recent project is the result of a collaboration with Paris-based design studio AC/AL and is an outdoor chair made using a new bio-composite technology that combines hemp fiber with recycled European plastic. We spoke with Carpenter to dig into the detail.

Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design and sustainability.

I was creative from a very early age and spent most of my time drawing and creating cartoons. However, the first time I started to ‘design’ was by making my own skateboards when I was about 12 or 13 years old. I read an article in a magazine that gave a ‘step by step’ guide on how to make a plywood skateboard deck from scratch. Looking back, it was quite complicated and involved all of the creative elements of what I still do today. I just didn’t know what ‘design’ was at the time so didn’t really think much about what I was doing – 12 years later I found myself graduating with an MA in Design Products from the RCA in London and starting my career in design.

How would you describe your project/product?

The Latte Chair is our first collaboration with Paris-based design studio AC/AL (Amandine Chhor and Aissa Logerot). We were approached by AC/AL with a design for an outdoor chair that we really liked. It started life as a simple wooden chair with a metal frame. The design was really charming, however, we felt we should be more ambitious with our first foray into outdoor furniture so, over the next two years of collaboration, the Latte Chair evolved into what you see today – an outdoor chair made using a new bio-composite technology that combines hemp fiber with recycled European plastic to create a high performance, sustainable and re-usable material.

What inspired this project/product?

‘Latte’ is the French word for ‘slat’ and in AC/AL’s original wooden design the ‘slats’ were exactly that. We really loved the familiar linear aesthetic of the slats and, as well as giving the chair its name and character, they’re extremely practical for outdoor use.

What waste (and other) materials are you using, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them?

When we started exploring the notion of using plastic for the chair the first thing we said to ourselves was that we would only do this if we felt 100% confident in the sustainability credentials of any material and process. We did lots of research into plant-based plastics and bio-composites and eventually settled on working with a Swedish company called Trifilon that is dedicated to making green plastics made from fully or partially bio-based materials. The material we ended up specifying is made from 100% recycled European plastic combined with European harvested hemp fiber which gives the material excellent structural integrity and reduces the CO2 footprint by 85% versus a typical plastic chair.

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision?

As designers and manufacturers, we are always interested in new materials and processes. We like to question conventions and always try to understand the context and bigger picture of the materials and processes we use. This was exactly what we did when we decided to produce our first plastic injection-molded chair. It would have been extremely straightforward to go with established conventions and use virgin plastic with a glass fiber filler. This just didn’t feel right when we all know what a problem we have with waste plastic and although there’s an argument that the problem lies primarily with ‘single use’ plastics, we still felt we should not be adding to this problem, however small.

What processes do the materials have to undergo to become the finished product?

High quality recycled European plastic is combined with hemp fiber to create a bio-composite that is then injection-molded into the form of the chair.

What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy?

Yes, that’s another thing we set out to achieve right from the beginning. We wanted to create a ‘closed loop’ manufacturing network so we found a partner here in the UK that we could work with closely in that capacity. The recycled bio-composite we use can be re-ground and re-used without any loss of quality. Therefore, any waste material or end of life returns can be re-purposed and transformed into new products.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype?

The first time we saw the prototype chair in the final material, we were so happy. Firstly, it looked and felt fantastic! The fibers of the hemp showed through in such a way it elevated the material beyond typical plastic. Secondly, we were blown away by how it performed structurally and practically. The hemp fibers made a huge difference to the samples we had seen before and it really gave us the confidence that we had chosen the right material.

How have people reacted to this project?

The feedback has been extremely positive! People have responded really well to the design, and then when you explain the sustainability, materials and process behind the design, people are really keen to find out more. It’s still early days, but fingers crossed all that positivity translates into a successful product.

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing?

Design professionals are much more educated around the issues associated with waste plastics and raw materials these days – we’ve found this and broader sustainability concerns are often one of the first things we’re asked about when we’re looking at a new project.

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material?

Hopefully, more companies and designers will start experimenting with and using waste material as an alternative to virgin raw materials. There are lots of really interesting materials out there you just need to find and help support them – with wider adoption and investment they will become more practical and affordable. Once this happens, I’m confident it will start to become the norm rather than the exception and people will really start to appreciate the unique qualities and charm these types of materials can offer.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Very Good and Proper here.

Weez & Merl Turn Plastic Carrier Bags Into Housewares, Surfboard Fins + More (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

UK-based makers Weez & Merl melt and marble plastic waste, such as carrier bags, and turn it into 100% recycled housewares. They operate a free collection scheme for local businesses’ polyethylene waste in their seaside hometowns of Brighton and Hove, on the south coast of the UK, and collaborate with forward-thinking companies on sustainable solutions from bespoke tabletops to specialist surfboard fins. I first spotted their work when I picked up an intriguing coaster in a restaurant and asked the waiter what it was made from, so I had to find out more…

Tell me a little bit ab­­­­out your childhood, education and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design and sustainability.

Our dad is into design, architecture, art and engineering, and our mum is into crafts and painting, so we had a pretty creative and practical upbringing. Moving to England when we were young was a really difficult transition, but growing up having a different cultural background has ultimately been a very good thing. Growing up in Sweden, there’s an intrinsic respect for nature and we did a lot of woodworking, sewing, growing food, gardening and cooking. We’d make things out of what we could find lying around, like a test of your imagination – you can’t beat the satisfaction of making something new from something old. So it makes a lot of sense that we’ve ended up utilizing waste materials in our creative practice!

What are your products made from, how did you select that particular material and how do you source it?

We use LDPE (low-density polyethylene) and MDPE (medium density polyethylene) for different applications – lower density usually for smaller pieces like our coasters, and medium density for larger pieces like tabletops to take advantage of their different properties. Back in 2012, it was clear that plastic bags were being wasted on an epic scale – this was before you had to pay for them in the UK. They were everywhere on the beach, so that’s when I first started collecting and experimenting with them. A few months later when a friend working in a clothes shop told me how much plastic they would throw away with every delivery, I started to understand the scale of the problem, and that the waste was mostly created behind the scenes. I started collecting from that shop on a regular basis after that. We have built on this and now operate a free collection scheme for local businesses’ waste polyethylene here in Brighton & Hove, which saves businesses money and means it actually gets recycled in this country, rather than traveling around the world to be recycled or even landfilled or incinerated.

What inspired this project?

Using unusual materials was always something I was drawn to throughout education, but I became inspired and motivated by Prof. Johnathan Chapman, who had just founded the Sustainable Design MA course at Brighton University at the time. He gave a talk in our first year, and he explained how he had overcome the feeling of the world’s environmental problems being too overwhelming to do anything about, which is a common emotional stumbling block for many designers. I was in the midst of this feeling of hopelessness at the time, but he managed to change my mindset completely to wanting to have an impact, and convincing me that I shouldn’t run away to be a hermit in the woods!

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision?

Waste became a full-on fixation in 2012. I wanted to be a woodworker when I first started my degree, but I wanted to utilize waste materials too, so I often used the offcuts of wood in the scrap bins and the bark from logs. I then was totally sidetracked with creating materials from natural waste, which led to asking cafes to collect eggshells for me, hair from hairdressers, even wet leaves that have to get removed from clogged up drains in the autumn, so I experimented with these materials combined with natural glues, but even though they were very beautiful, they weren’t very useful! After avoiding plastics, I eventually had a go at melting plastic bags that I found on the beach here in Brighton for my very first experiments with polyethylene, and found I actually loved the way they shrunk when you heated them, like shrinking crisp packets when we were little! I saw ‘natural’ qualities in the material that contrasted totally with what I had previously associated it with. The mission from then on was to see what it was capable of, and I started applying traditional craft techniques and tools to it in various ways, from lathing to wattle and daub, straw work like Orkney chair backs, to rammed earth – the latter of which ended up turning into compression molding, which is the main technique we use in our work.

What processes does the material have to undergo to become the finished product?

After collection, we remove contaminants such as paper labels and sticky tape by hand. We then melt it down, using colored plastic bags as our ‘dye’ to create colors, which can be mixed together like paint to create any color you want. Then we use compression molding to press the plastic into molds or sheets of various thicknesses. We can then cut the sheets using bandsaws and table saws into the shape required, and finish the products using sanders or hand planes. Polyethylene is very similar to something like pine in density, and it’s flexible so no danger of shattering, and it cuts and sands beautifully – I realized early that I could apply all my woodworking skills to the material, and this opened up so many doors in the design and craft world.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype?

Complete fascination! It looked so natural, like marble, yet the colors and weight made it obvious it wasn’t. Working with the molten plastic was the first awe-inspiring moment though – it moves so organically, which always surprises people when they see us working with it! It’s like a cross between an extremely hot bread dough and molten sugar – it’s alien but familiar.

There’s so much to explore with this material in terms of colors and marbling styles, so we usually make totally new colorways each time which keeps it really fresh and fun – it means we still get to experience that fascination every time we make something new. It’s important to keep that spark alive! There’s still so much to learn too – there is no rulebook to follow, so we have to figure everything out from scratch. Covid halted our plans to redesign and rebuild our large hydraulic press last year, and so this is the next big project that we can’t wait to get cracking on so that we can finally continue making our larger-scale work and furniture designs.

What happens to your products at the end of their lives? Can they go back into the circular economy?

Polyethylene is not recycled by local councils yet, but all of our products are fully recyclable with us through our return scheme. Recycling is really important but should ideally be the last resort, so we are working on restoration, reparation and exchange schemes too. Hopefully, our customers will want to keep our products for a very long time, but as makers of plastic things, we have a huge responsibility to provide options for them if they don’t. These types of services used to be really common not long ago. The ability to extend the product’s lifespan as long as possible is such an important part of sustainable design, so sometimes it’s worthwhile to revive ideas from the past to help solve current problems.

How have people reacted to this project?

Merl: People’s reactions over the years have always been so encouraging, and sometimes pretty funny. When they pick up one of our coasters for the first time not knowing what it is, their arm flies up in the air as they were expecting it to be heavier like natural stone. They’re usually pretty baffled, then pleasantly surprised to find out it’s made from waste plastic!

Louise: The support from the businesses we collect plastic from has been huge as well – they’re lumped with so much plastic packaging when they receive orders from their suppliers, so they’re happy it’s going to get used and not burned or landfilled.

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing?

I’d say attitudes have changed dramatically over the last eight years since I started regularly working with waste materials – people used to raise an eyebrow at me and not ask questions when I’d ask if they could collect materials for me, but now it seems to be celebrated and starts a conversation every time. Maybe it’s because people are more familiar with environmental issues now, and therefore more willing to engage with solutions. We hope we’ve changed a few people’s opinions as well – that’s definitely our goal anyway. People are becoming more discerning about the products they buy too – the hand-made-to-last, rather than mass-produced-disposable is becoming more desirable again – objects with a story.

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material?

Things are looking pretty bright – there are so many inspiring individuals and teams across the world working with new materials crafted from waste. With recycled plastics, it’s a medium just like ceramics, wood or metal – and we see a future full of plastic craftspeople. Already, the “Precious Plastic” project, started by Dave Hakkens, has inspired and mobilized hundreds, if not thousands of people around the world to recycle plastic themselves in their local area, often using homemade machines from the open-source blueprints Hakkens released. Who knows how many people will be crafting recycled plastics in 10 years’ time. Plastics are endlessly recyclable if you treat them with respect by not mixing different types together. And similarly, there seems to be endless ways to use them and work with them – there’s so much left to explore. The great thing is that when we do experiments that don’t work out for whatever reason, we just pop them back in the oven to remelt and try again. There’s no waste this way, all our off-cuts and even our dust from sanding are all captured and remelted.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Weez and Merl here.

Model No. Turns Food Waste + Reclaimed Wood Into Home Furnishings (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design and sustainability.

I’m actually a licensed architect, and prior to Model No. I was running a very sustainably-minded creative design-build firm. Growing up in Wyoming, and then moving west, I’ve always been obsessed with empowerment via new technologies to make more interesting and sustainable things. Thankfully there’s been a big push in the construction industry to become more sustainable, but in order for that to fully happen, we also need better options for what we put into those buildings. And all these wonderful new fabrication technologies really open up what’s possible to do creatively. So it’s a perfect match!

How would you describe this project?

Model No. is revolutionizing how furnishings are designed, produced and sold. Our distinctive approach provides custom, sustainable products with accessible price points that are created on-demand by consumers. Made domestically in localized highly-automated factories, all our furnishings are artfully crafted from sustainably sourced materials, such as upcycled food waste, and produced using the latest eco-friendly tech, including 3D-printing. With just a few clicks online, consumers customize products and they are made to order and delivered in a few weeks, eliminating long wait times and wasteful inventory.

What inspired this project?

The current furniture market is outdated, so there is a need for companies to push the industry forward. The industry consists of items that are mass-produced out of the country, with little original design or customization ability, shipped very long distances, and made from materials that typically are not very sustainable or eco-friendly. This all contributes to large carbon emissions and overall waste. With these pain points in mind, I founded Model No. with Jillian Northrop and Vani Khosla to solve these problems and reimagine how you can access sustainable, customizable, artfully designed furnishings.

What waste (and other) materials are you using, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them?

Through the use of agricultural waste from corn husks, sugar cane and sugar beet as materials, Model No. minimizes carbon emissions and toxic byproducts. We also use reclaimed and certified sustainably harvested wood for products such as tabletops, coffee tables bases and our headphones stands, to upcycle wood products or utilize leftover wood. So whether a product is all 3D-printed, or all wood, or some combination of the two, it’s always as sustainable as we can possibly make it. In order to reduce our carbon footprint caused by shipping products across the world, we source 95% of our materials from farms within the U.S. These include Jamplast (Raw PLA), Spectra (Coloring services for the PLA), Techmere (Raw PLA), Moore Newton (Hardwoods), and Aura Hardwoods (Hardwoods and plywoods).

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision?

As we explored using large-scale industrial 3D-printing for producing furniture, it became apparent that we could use resins that originated from food waste and were compostable. We’ve since developed the ability to recycle this resin as well, so that we can recycle our own products and use them to produce new products. We’d always intended to make the best sustainable furniture possible, pieces that are not only great looking and high-performance, but that would also be healthy to be around for both our customers and our employees. So when we saw it was possible, we really committed to this direction.

What processes does the material have to undergo to become the finished product?

We grind food waste – such as corn husks, sugar canes, sugar beets and cassava – into a PLA – Polylactic Acid – for it to be 3D-printed. For CNC fabrication, we utilize waste and by-products such as reclaimed wood, as well as sustainably harvested woods, which can be shaved down and repurposed for items such as Model No.’s tabletops.

What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy?

We plan to add recycling facilities in these spaces in order to take back used items. Hinting at the company’s name ‘Model No.’, each product has its own individual model number, making it easy to identify the type of material that the product was built with and the year it was manufactured so it can then be broken down to raw materials to be repurposed through 3D-printing.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype?

Ironically while I was obviously elated that we were able to do it, we also then immediately broke the first items in the rigorous testing we do to ensure our products meet the highest quality standards! It was when we figured out how to then fully recycle those broken products and re-use the resin that I fell completely in love with the whole process.

How have people reacted to this project?

People have reacted very positively to our commitment to sustainability, design and on-demand customization. We have been recognized as an industry leader in the media and have had several companies reach out for collaboration. It is our hope that we can inspire not only consumers to shop sustainably, but also encourage other companies to follow suit.

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing?

With natural disasters occurring more frequently – an obvious sign of global warming – there is a growing conscientiousness to do more to protect the environment. I think that people and companies are seeing the value in upcycling as recognition of the need for sustainability continues to become more and more apparent.

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material?

There is much work to be done to develop our ability to utilize waste as a raw material. We are very proud of the work we have done so far in turning waste into items that consumers can enjoy on a daily basis; however, we also recognize that more needs to be done. We hope to continue to discover how different types of waste can be upcycled and hope to inspire other industries to do the same.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Model No. here.

Vestre Turns “Ownerless” Ocean Plastics into Public Benches (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

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Tell me a little bit ab­­­­out your childhood, education and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design and sustainability.

I grew up in a remote village in the very far north of Norway. During the long and dark winter months, I developed an interest in drawing and loved to create cartoon characters and design cars. My dad, who runs a graphic design company, inspired my sense of creativity and I spent many hours in his office where he gave me different creative tasks.

I moved to Oslo in 1998 and studied at the Einar Granum Art School for two years before being admitted to a furniture design course at the Oslo National Academy of Arts. I graduated with a master’s degree focusing on the social use of outdoor furniture in public areas and designed “Dialog”, a bench, for which I received the National Award for Design Excellence in 2010.

After I graduated, Vestre put Dialog into production. I started working with Vestre as a freelance designer and eventually accepted a permanent job as a design manager, where I have continued to focus on creating social meeting places. Working at Vestre and seeing their holistic approach to design and sustainable manufacturing has inspired my interest in sustainable design.

How would you describe this project?

In line with Vestre’s broader focus on sustainable manufacturing, we wanted to make a bench from 100% ownerless marine plastics to show that is possible to reuse waste to make great products.

The project is about highlighting the manufacturer’s and the designer’s responsibility to work towards the longevity of raw materials by reusing materials when the initial product is no longer used, and to secure the responsible disposal of unrecyclable materials.

The project is also about recognizing the important work being done by volunteers who are cleaning shores of plastic waste, and how their efforts are at the core of this product.

What inspired this project?

Vestre is part owner of Ogoori, a company that distributes ownerless marine plastics by renting the raw material to manufacturers for use in their products and making sure that the plastic remains in the circular economy. To showcase this new material, I worked with Vestre to create a product for their collection.

The design process has largely been about the plastic itself and the story behind it. This has guided both the form and the design process. The circular economy of reusing material – in this case, material which has so clearly been rejected by society and not recovered through controlled cycles – has also been a focus throughout the whole process. To visualize this cycle, it made sense to create a product that communicates with the ocean. Coast is intended to be placed on a jetty on the waterfront or on a rocky archipelago, so you can sit on the bench and look out over the sea.

The plastic’s history is also reflected in the way the shape of the bench borrows its design and theme from the marine environment. From the front, you can make out the outline of a boat’s hull, and the plastic parts lie in a row, submerged in a protective steel frame, giving the impression of floating on the surface. The steel frame extends upwards on thin legs and lifts the plastic material onto a pedestal. The different shades of green and grey in the plastic material came about as a result of the combination of different colors of plastic collected and at the same time, reflect the color of the sea.

What waste (and other) materials are you using, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them?

Coast has a frame made from steel that has been hot-dip galvanized and powder coated. The steel is sourced from Sweden and has an average of 30% lower emissions than the world average for steel production. The seating surface is made of plastic collected from Norwegian shores, where the ownerless plastic accumulates, destroying nature and natural cycles.

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision?

To be honest, I have always been hesitant about using plastic components when designing products, preferring to use natural products such as steel and wood. However, when Vestre started looking at reusing marine plastics it was a material that inspired me. As Vestre doesn’t use plastic in their products it made even more sense. By only using marine plastic, we are helping with the problem without adding to it.

What processes does the material have to undergo to become the finished product?

The marine plastic is sorted by type and washed, dried and ground into pellets. These pellets can be used in the same manufacturing processes as new plastics. However, the quality of the plastic is naturally not as consistent and durable as with new purpose-built plastic compounds. The different types of plastics are molded into the seat slats used in the product. Because the plastic is less durable, I wanted to make it a replaceable part of the bench and not part of the mainframe.

What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy? 

The plastic pellets are not sold but rented to manufacturers and branded with a QR code. This ensures that the replaceable slats used are returned for new cycles of use.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype?

It’s an inspiring and gratifying task to design a bench that uses plastic collected from beaches with the help of volunteers. So it feels good to have created the first bench from this material for Vestre, and to contribute to sustainable development with a product that will be accessible to everyone.

I also marveled that something that has been thrown away and floated for a long time in the sea could look so interesting and beautiful. The decision to let the material determine the look of the bench and mix the qualities of plastic slats randomly by availability created a surprising and interesting color texture – a design benefit that came from using waste as raw material.

How have people reacted to this project?

People are in general very enthusiastic and it is the same with Vestre`s customers who are interested in using both the bench and the raw material for their projects. It is especially fun to hear that the bench has inspired the teams cleaning up the shores.

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing?

I think that there is a strong feeling of responsibility and concern for the environment that is making people question the throw-away culture. These type of products enable people to make responsible choices. If it is possible to make aesthetically beautiful things from waste, then it adds meaning and value to the product rather than detracting from it.

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material?

There are many efforts being made to reuse materials, and it is trending both in product design and architecture. Hopefully, this bench can play a small part in helping this movement along.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Vestre here.

Yinka Ilori Turns Discarded Chairs into Sculptural Pieces With a Story (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

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Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design and sustainability.

As a toddler, I loved to play with bikes, cars and tricycles – they brought me joy and allowed me to imagine or dream. I think we often forget that the first designed objects we come into contact with are all about play. So that was my first entry. I went on to study design technology and fine art at college. I wasn’t very good at fine art, so I went more in the direction of design and technology, and then went on to a degree in product design and furniture at London Met University, and that was when I really started to consider design as a career. Sustainability is something I’ve always seen around me, for example, going to Nigeria, and seeing people and communities repurpose the everyday objects they find around them, such as breezeblocks, tires, or odd bits of wood, into seating, benches or to create facades.

How would you describe If Chairs Could Talk?

If Chairs Could Talk is a collection I produced for a concept store on King’s Road in London. It’s a big, glossy, finished space – and so I was interested in taking objects off the street – that had been thrown away or discarded and damaged – and putting them into a public space. There was a feeling of taking what was unwanted and giving it a new life. People responded really positively and it was fascinating to me how we often identify with or respect something new and polished, and yet they were the same chairs people had walked past and ignored in the street.

What inspired this project?

Those chairs, that were out on the street and people didn’t care about, were transformed and suddenly people wanted to praise them and say “Wow, I love them”. It was amazing – and I think that’s how we sometimes treat other people. So each chair told the story of somebody I grew up with. The chairs each had names such as A Trapped Star, Backbone and A Helping Hand that reflected the characters of those people. Some of them grew up to be famous actors or successful lawyers, some sadly turned into delinquents, despite the fact I knew them as intelligent, kind people. There is a Nigerian parable that says, “No matter how long the neck of a giraffe is, it still cannot see the future,” so the message of these chairs was that we shouldn’t pre-judge people.

What waste (and other) materials are you using, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them?

The If Chairs Could Talk collection is made from discarded and broken wooden chairs that I found on the streets of London. I’d be on the top deck of the bus and spot a chair in a skip or about to be thrown away, and I’d get off the bus, grab the chair, and hop back on with my new fellow passenger! My Mum got quite frustrated with the number of broken chairs that started to fill my room, and eventually spill out into other rooms of the house! She never quite understood my fascination, but chairs are really powerful objects. When you sit on a throne, you instantly have status. If I gave you a low chair and I had a high chair, people look at me as superior just because I’m on the higher chair. My Dad’s chair at home was sacred – only he could sit on it. As kids, we would fight over who got which seat in the car. So using chairs was about understanding that such a simple object can demand status and create hierarchy instantly. And I would think about how I could take these objects and give them a second lease of life, upcycle them and give them a new narrative.

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision?

It was probably in Nigeria. Over there, every object can have an afterlife and can be reused in a really sustainable and environmentally friendly way. But my first realization of how I could apply that to my own practice was when my tutor, Jane Atfield, set us a brief called Our Chair, which was inspired by Martino Gamper’s 100 Chairs in 100 Days. The brief was to find two chairs that are unloved or thrown away, and recycle them into a new piece of furniture, giving them a new narrative.

What processes do the materials have to undergo to become the finished product?

The creative process is quite an organic process for me. I will take this broken chair out of its environment and into the studio – and even as I’m walking to my studio with this chair, I’m already breaking down the chair in my head, trying to work out how it could look and what sort of narrative it could share? Was it made in another country – is it an immigrant to the UK? Could its backrest be repurposed as a leg? Is there a parable that it calls to mind that might help me tell its story? And then when I get back to the studio, I’ll take it apart and lay it out on the ground, almost like a piece of flatpack furniture and try to find a new use for every component. It’s quite a different process to the one I was taught at University.

What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy?

Yeah, they can. I work at the intersection of art and design, so I hope they will become heirlooms and passed down through generations. I want them to be like pieces of jewelry that you can cherish and keep for a long time. But you can add more layers and create even more of an attachment to it – remake it again and add to its story.

 

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype?

I think I would have to go back to that first project at London Metropolitan University for Jane Atfield. I made a weird-looking, sculptural chair from two cafe chairs. It was this really sort of sleek silhouetted green chair, and it wasn’t really functional. But I just thought, “Wow, I’ve created this piece of furniture, using those objects.” And I don’t think that form could ever have come about without those two objects that it was made from. Even now, when I’m making batch-produced work, that idea has stayed with me.

How have people reacted to this project?

People have reacted in a really, really incredible way. I think they can all kind of resonate with and connect with the fact that, not only am I creating design objects, that are perhaps also pieces of art, but I’m also trying to educate people about upcycling and sustainability – and the fact that you shouldn’t always just throw things away, but then maybe think about repairing or reimagining something instead.

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing?

I think I have a responsibility to make sure that I’m very conscious of the things that I do within design – to think about the afterlife of that project. What is the lifespan of that project? And can it be passed down? Where would it go? How would it be used? And I now try to factor that idea of legacy into my contracts. But the next generation is all over this stuff. I am so impressed with how informed kids are about climate change, so yeah, I think it’s changing – for the better.

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material?

There’s a long way to go with it. Sustainable or recycled materials are still quite expensive – and it can be hard to convince clients to spend money on them – but that’s changing. I’m hopeful. I think we’re having the right conversations and more and more people are doing the right thing.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Yinka Ilori here.