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.

Monocle on Design

To celebrate the London Festival of Architecture, Monocle on Design met with design journalist Katie Treggiden to discuss her latest book on repair and reuse, Broken: Mending and Repair in a throwaway world.

While reuse and repair might not sound glamorous, they are essential practices for designers and industry leaders seeking to reduce their impact on the planet. Design journalist Katie Treggiden discusses her latest book, which spotlights designers, makers and creatives who are disrupting the take-make-waste model.

To listen to the episode on Monocle Radio click 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.

Viewpoint Colour – The Healing Issue

Turbulent times continue to exact a heavy toll on both people and planet, as the world attempts to tackle the climate emergency, the ongoing collapse in biodiversity, social unrest and war, and economic crises. Faced with this unprecedented combination, how do we heal the Earth? The place to start is by healing ourselves and our communities.

‘Self-care’ is starting to gain traction as an act of resistance and collective kindness, informed by changing belief systems. People are looking for reassurance in something bigger than themselves, turning to ancestral practices, albeit often delivered digitally. This is leading to a deeper appreciation for the ways in which mind and body and the natural world are connected – and better conversations about all humans, not just the privileged few, being part of the natural world, rather than above or outside it. This reconnection to nature also challenges accepted norms within ecological thinking. Understanding our own biological cycles and nature’s rhythms is bringing about a shift from ‘sustainability’ to ‘regeneration’ and a desire for a ‘flourishing’ planet.  

Self-care is starting to gain traction as an act of resistance and collective kindness, informed by changing belief systems. People are seeking reassurance in concepts bigger than themselves, turning to ancestral practices and ancient wisdom. This is leading to a deeper appreciation of the ways in which mind and body and the natural world are connected – and better conversations about all humans, not just the privileged few, being part of the natural world, rather than above or outside it. We explore this further in our Industry Insight feature, which introduces pioneers who are starting to make mental wellness available to all.

This reconnection to nature also challenges accepted norms within ecological thinking. Understanding our own biological cycles
and nature’s rhythms is helping us understand that aiming at sustainability is no longer enough: we need to turn to practices that
enable regeneration and a planet that can flourish and re-grow.

In the Mind, Body, and Soul issue, we explore the roles of art, design, technology, and creativity in cultivating nurturing, regenerative,
and nourishing environments that heal souls, minds, bodies, communities – and, moving outwards from our innermost selves to our wider surroundings, ultimately heal the planet.

Soul

“I incorporate spiritual practices into my work-life, using a tarot deck to help decision-making, casting spells for success, and calling on deities to guide me,” says Annie Ridout, the author of upcoming book Raise your SQ.

She is not alone.

SQ refers to spiritual intelligence, and Ridout believes spirituality, magic, and what Generation Z refers to as “woo” are becoming more mainstream as we search for “more connection and magic in our lives.” Platforms such as New Mystic, popular with Gen Zers, combine magic with technology, bringing folklore, Indigenous knowledge, plant healing, and psychedelics together with non-human intelligence and artificial intelligence, curated by artists, and delivered digitally. Kate Northrup, the author of Do Less, advises
businesswomen to plan around menstrual cycles or moon phases – and millions check astrologer Chani Nicholas’s eponymous app daily.

Witchcraft or wiccecrœft once simply meant rituals of natural cure, herbal remedy, and spiritual wellbeing, usually performed by women. They clashed with Christian, patriarchal and capitalist belief systems, and were othered and subjugated, in a long
history traced by archaeologist and medieval historian Alexander Langlands in his book Cræft – An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts. Their resurgence can be seen as a feminist reclamation. “To be a witch is to embody defiance
and rebellion against the injustice that masculine systems have created,” Tina Gong, the developer behind tarot app Golden Thread, told Dazed Digital.

As the role of these “masculine systems” – and the resulting marginalisation of Indigenous knowledge – is recognised in the biodiversity crisis, Western environmentalists are looking towards older ways of connecting with nature.

“The word animism refers to something so commonplace … in Indigenous cultures, that most don’t even have a word for it,” says author and mystic Toko-pa Turner in her book Belonging. “It is the foundational belief that … all things are imbued with a soul.” And
it is harder to exploit something with a soul. Spiritual ecology is an emerging field that recognises this spiritual facet to conservation. Online communities such as the Spiritual Ecology Study Club offer teachings on the subject with the aim of “reuniting people, the living world and the sacred.

Mind 

Research has long shown that nature is good for our mental health, and new evidence suggests that the quality of our relationship to nature is important – “connectedness” is what we’re aiming for, according to a 2021 report by the UK Mental Health Foundation. “Setting aside one minute a day to pay attention to your breath and remember that we give plants carbon dioxide with each exhale and in return they give us oxygen helps us remember that we are children of Earth’s ecosystem,” says somatic coach Tamu Thomas

The Mental Health Foundation report also found that for women, people of colour, and those with disabilities, “nature spaces may feel inaccessible or less enjoyable because they are not safe.” Apps such as Spoke democratise access to mindfulness support, while The Breathing App and Open similarly offer meditation at the touch of a button – accessible technology, as well as nature, can help people find peace.

Others are turning to the judicious use of microdosing. While psilocybin remains illegal in many countries, various research papers have found it effective in reducing anxiety and depression – and improving mood and focus for some users. Those seeking to experiment are turning to psychoactives such as those offered by Gwella, which draws on mushroom-derived psychedelics, or PLANT, a dispensary whose name is an acronym for Peace, Love and Natural Things. And for 100% legal alternatives, there are digital offerings that promise similar effects; for example, The Dream Machine, by Collective Act, uses music and light to mimic hallucinogens – participants each “see” something different behind their own closed eyes.

Body 

Today’s self-care practices encompass natural ingredients once considered “alternative” and comprise a more holistic, ritualised experience for body and mind. Inspired by traditional Chinese medicine, Herbar has released a mushroom based face oil for “skinimalists”, and skincare and fragrance brand Haeckels packages seaweed to bathe with. Biomaterial specialist Rosie Broadhead’s undergarments promise the bioactive therapeutic effects of seaweed, as people pay more attention to what is absorbed into the biggest organ of their body – their skin. Our Wearable Wellbeing feature explores Broadhead’s work, alongside that of other innovators
delivering wellbeing benefits via the skin

The exclusion of historically marginalised groups extends to bodily healing too. Youth practitioner Ebinehita Iyere, the founder of Milk Honey Bees, a healing and empowerment space for Black girls, told Dazed Digital: “We have to hone in to inclusive wellness practices that celebrate us.” Such products include Liha Beauty’s Oju Omi Cleansing Mud and the brand’s Gold Shea Butter. Shea butter is called women’s gold in west Africa, co-founder Liha Okunniwa told Planet Woo, “because you can use it for absolutely everything and it’s helped so many women in cooperatives achieve financial independence.”  

Movement is also a key part of caring for our bodies; while sports provide physical fitness, practices such as contemporary dance therapy and yoga offer an emotional workout too, particularly when fully explored. Of the eight limbs of yoga, most white Westerners practice just a few – asana (the postures) and perhaps pranayama (breathing) and dhyana (meditation), unaware of its moral and spiritual dimensions, and there have been conversations around cultural appropriation of yoga. In our Industry Insight piece, we profile yoga teacher Nadia Gilani, who champions access to all.

Community 

Writer Alicia A. Wallace argues that we can’t fully meet the needs of our souls, minds, or bodies on our own, and that caring for one another creates a much-needed sense of belonging. “It reminds us that we weren’t meant to walk these paths alone, but to learn
from and care for one another as we find better ways to live together,” she writes on Healthline.com.

Coming together outdoors is one of the ways we can do just that. Wild Awake runs outdoor camps and experiences such as stargazing, seaweed foraging, and forest bathing, centred on care for the environment and each other. “Wild Awake is all about developing a deeper relationship with the Earth, because that not only motivates one to fight for it and to care for it, but it also gives one that sense of belonging, which is deeply and radically healing,” says Shasha Du, the San Francisco nonprofit’s co-founder and creative director.

Community cohesion doesn’t have to be that adventurous; it can be cultivated closer to home. In São Paulo, home gardeners created the Horta das Corujas (Garden of Owls) to democratise public spaces and overcome barriers to social integration. Derek Haynes from North Carolina, whose Instagram handle is The Chocolate Botanist, told the Guardian: “Black folks gardening is … a radical act. We are returning to a connection to the land that was snatched away from us by hatred and racism.” In many southern states of the United States, public access to unfenced land – and therefore foraging – has been illegal since the mid 19th century, when enslaved people were emancipated, so the rise of community gardens and foraging among their descendants is a form of activism.

Supporting young people is a key part of bringing communities together. Amsterdam-based Comfy Community describes itself a “nomadic community centre” that works with creative young adults to provide events, workshops, and “uplifting content”. Self-discovery coach Calypso Barnum-Bobb focuses on “helping people to discover and express their personal power so they can create lives filled with freedom, fulfilment and abundance.” DJ and broadcaster Vanessa Maria, as well as sharing her love for underground UK music, hosts a music and mental health related podcast and documentary series, Don’t Keep Hush, sparking discussion around music and mental health. 

Planet 

As humans and communities, if we understand that we must do more than simply survive, we need to thrive, then surely sustainability” is not enough for the planet either. Even initiatives such as Earth Overshoot Day – the date each year when humanity exhausts the resources that Earth can regenerate during a year – position the planet as a resource, rather than a living ecosystem that deserves to thrive. “Regeneration goes beyond sustainability and mitigating harm, to actively restoring and nurturing, creating conditions where ecosystems, economies, and people can flourish,” as the Regeneration Rising report by brand consultancy Wunderman Thompson points out. “Flourish” is the operative word. Speaking at the September 2022 Zero Waste Conference in Vancouver, Michael Pawlyn, expert in regenerative design and biomimicry, and co-author of a book by the same name, called for humans to “co-evolve with nature, while recognising our role in the partnership.”

How does that role look? Environmentalist Paul Hawken assessed a multitude of climate solutions as part of Project Drawdown and told National Geographic that regenerative agriculture practices are “by far the single greatest solution to the climate crisis.” In his book English Pastoral, farmer James Rebanks, who offers regenerative farming courses, says that what he calls “benign inefficiency or good stewardship” means that “farms can allow a great many wild things to live in and around them.” The Wildfarmed project in the UK and France works with farmers to help them embrace regenerative practices that improve wheat quality, soil quality, and ecosystems.

In the Brazilian Amazon region, the lab.sonora residency, mediated by curators, ecologists, and Indigenous leaders, offers an artistic immersion in communities and environmental reserves. Its parent organisation, Labverde, aims to foster new ways of existence and interaction with the environment, and new approaches to maintaining fragile ecosystems; lab.sonora focuses on building a new soundscape for the Amazon. And the Krater collective in Ljubljana, Slovenia, hosts a thriving and diverse community of eco-social practitioners – read more about Krater in this edition’s Talent profiles.

If young people – from farmers to designers – are leading the charge, what does this mean for bigger brands and businesses? Is it enough for them to sell the outcomes of regenerative practices, or does the capitalist model itself need a regenerative rethink?

Having founded 1% for the Planet – an initiative in which companies donate 1% of their turnover to environmental causes – founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, recently announced that (almost) 100% of his company’s shares will be invested in fighting the climate crisis – a move company chair Charles Conn called ‘the future of business.’ Publicly listed companies are legally obliged to serve shareholder’s ‘best interests’ – often interpreted as profit. B Corp is trying to change this. Certification requires creates a legal obligation for directors to consider the interests of all stakeholders, not just shareholders, in their decisions – to consider people and planet alongside profit. And the Boardroom 2030 model calls for those stakeholders to be represented at the highest level, whether
they are young people, employees, representatives from marginalised groups, members of the local community or even advocates for the more-than-human world.

If we’re going to co-create a flourishing planet, we need business models that enable souls, minds, bodies and communities to thrive.

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.

MDW22: Padiglione Brera Showcases Ways of Sitting at San Simpliciano (Design Milk)

In the very Italian setting of the main cloister of the San Simpliciano – a church in central Milan, parts of which date back to the third century AD and now home to Padiglione Brera – was a very British affair. Very Good & Proper (could you find a more quintessentially English name?!), SCP, and Case Furniture came together with Resident (the sole Kiwi brand being the exception that proved the rule) to explore what SCP called “Ways of Sitting.”

It was a delight to see Very Good & Proper’s Latte chair in person, having featured it on Circular by Design last summer. The outdoor chair is made using a new bio-composite technology that combines hemp fibers with 100% recycled European plastic, resulting in a CO2 footprint that is reduced by 85% versus a typical plastic chair.

Ilsa Crawford and Oscar Peña’s Bruno Chair has one arm lower than the other to accommodate new more casual ways of sitting, inspired by Bruno Mari’s 1944 poster “Seeking Comfort in an Uncomfortable Chair.” SCP say the piece is made from 99% “sustainable materials” which includes FSC-certified beech and oak.

Upholstered in the same on-trend 1970s shade of olive green is Philippe Malouin’s Group – a sectional sofa that uses primary shapes to form the base, back, and seat of each piece, offering multiple configurations. The collection, which also includes armchairs and cocktail chairs, is the recipient of a Design Guild Mark.

I mean, it might have just been my very sore feet getting to me by this point, but how comfy does Camp (also by Philippe Malouin for SCP) look?! Trust me when I tell you that it’s even more comfortable IRL. Inspired by military camping gear and modernist furniture, it uses tensile cotton fabric to support the upholstered sections.

Gareth Neal is a master craftsman with a CNC machine and this collection of dining accessories (as well as the Orb Grinder below left) for Case Furniture are classic Neal. From left to right, the Splash and Petal chopping boards and the Plough serving board are almost too nice to use.

Trove is a series of minimal cork boxes by David Irwin (also for Case Furniture) for organizing and storing everyday objects. The tactile and sustainable cork combined with the modular stacking system makes them impossible not to touch and rearrange – perfect for a tidy desk.

This rechargeable and portable light by Patricia Perez (also for Case) is perfect for taking outside to elongate summer nights, but also works well anywhere indoors where you don’t want to worry about trailing cables such as bookshelves or bedside tables.

Last one from Case, I promise – this modular shelving system called Slot by Terence Woodgate comes in four colors so you can mix and match. Vitsoe shelving has held pride of place in design-conscious homes and offices since Dieter Rams designed it in 1960. 62 years later, is it time to shake things up a bit?

And last but not least, the Kiwi amongst the British brands – Philippe Malouin designed the Sasha Chair for New Zealand furniture and lighting brand Resident. They describe the fully upholstered dining or side chair as “comfortable, yet brutal and geometric” – I don’t disagree!

To read the article at its source click here.

MDW22: The Breathtaking Divine Inspiration by Lee Broom (Design Milk)

Can a lighting exhibition move people to tears? When it comes from London-based designer Lee Broom, it seems it can. It might have been the emotion of finally being back in Milan after so many years away, or the tiredness of overstimulation combined with too many late nights, but several people reported welling up as they walked around this impressive space. Broom is a stalwart of Milan Design Week and Design Milk has been following him since the very early days of his 15-year career, but this time, he excelled even himself.

Divine Inspiration showcased six new lighting collections inspired by places of worship throughout the ages and the design language often used to inspire awe and devotion among followers. Combined with in-depth research into the modernist and brutalist architecture that surrounded Broom as he grew up, these influences resulted in pared-back silhouettes presented within the context of an “ecclesiastical journey, contemplating how light is often linked to hallowed places, evoking a sense of stillness, reverence and contemplation.” True to Broom’s exacting approach, every last detail of his largest Milan show to date had been considered, from the dramatic soundscape right down to the choice of appropriately “churchy” carpet – and the experience was breathtaking.

Referencing the shards of light and shadow from lancet windows in church arches, Hail was showcased in a six-meter arrangement between rows of benches that subtly evoked pews. A mirror below created a sense of an infinite perspective, recalling the notion of The Rapture – the “end-time” event that some evangelical Christians believe will see all believers who are alive, along with resurrected believers, rise “in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.”

Requiem is a limited edition collection – only 15 editions will be made of each piece. Lee Broom himself hand-draped fabrics soaked in plaster around illuminated glass to evoke the marble drapery on ancient statues, creating a play between lightness and weight, movement and stillness, and hard and soft textures.

Bringing the brutalist and modernist elements into play, Chant was inspired by the pressed glass bricks often used in place of stained glass in 1970s religious buildings. The glass is blown into the “sphere within a cube” form, and then each cube is connected into single or two-tier chandeliers.

Vesper also draws on brutalist sculpture and modernist cathedral lighting – and is made using extruded aluminum in brushed gold or silver in a “join-the-dots” formation. “These suspended light sculptures emphasize the drama of vaulted spaces and the transcendent quality of light,” said a statement from the brand.

Carved from solid oak, Alter is a nod to Broom’s exploration into the angular forms of mid-century churches and alters and the warmer, natural materials of fonts and pews. The lights can be suspended as pendants as above or surface mounted.

Finally, Pantheum is inspired by the concrete ceiling of Rome’s ancient temple of the same name, as well as the clean, repeating lines often seen in brutalist architecture. Each piece is hand-cast in Jesmonite and sand-blasted to give it a rough texture, with a bulb shape to reflect its negative space. Here, symmetrical clusters amplify their impact.

Bravo Mr Broom – we can’t wait to see what you’ve got in store for us next year!

To read the article at its source click here.

MDW22: Alcova Returns With Emerging Design + Experimental Projects (Design Milk)

(Image above) Poetic Jungle is a collection of hand-built ceramic lighting and sculptural furniture built using the coiling technique. Designer and ceramicist Elisa Uberti was inspired by organic forms found within architecture.

Now in its fifth year, Alcova is going some way towards filling a hole left in the hearts of regular Milan Design Week goers by the demise of Ventura Lambrate. Described by its founders, Valentina Ciuffi and Joseph Grima, as “a platform for independent design,” it combines unusual venues (this year’s military base boasted soaring pine trees and a former psychiatric hospital) with emerging design talent, experimental projects, and a good supply of shaded tables served by food and drink trucks – a winning combination.

Alcova \\\ Image courtesy of David Gorrod, Seen PR

Canadian lighting brand Lambert & Fils collaborated with DWA Design Studio and New York-based wallpaper studio SuperFlower to create Caffè Populaire: an eight-day aperitivo garden set in Alcova’s vacant temple and surrounding wild garden. A table blooming with wildflowers and connected water sculpture featuring Lambert & Fils’ new lighting collection SILO were a sight for sore eyes on a hot June day.

Spoken Lines was a three-dimensional art installation by Beni Rugs, stylist Colin King and artist Amine El Gotaibi that brought the materiality of rug making to life.

The Kitchen for Cooking was a collection of playful, modular kitchens that suit modern living – enabling you to adapt them as your needs change and take them with you when you move – and are high enough for contemporary (taller) humans and designed by people who actually cook! Designed by Chmara.Rosinke – a Berlin- and Vienna-based research and design studio striving to “decipher delight and deliver design solutions in the context of food and contemporary culture.”

Estuary of Riptide and Reunion (far side) by Forêt Atelier showcased the hidden flora in the waters of the Oosterschelde in the Netherlands and their potential as a natural resource for biopolymers, cattle feed, and fabric. Seaweed and seagrasses in particular have huge potential for capturing carbon, reducing the methane emissions from cattle when used in their feed, and providing biodiverse habitats.

One of the notable shifts at Milan Design Week this year was away from “Instagrammable” moments and towards multi-sensory experiences. Taking “energy from the sun, inspiration from travel,” Alessia Anfuso’s emotional scenography for The House of Lyra represented “a ship traveling through different places, latitudes, and eras: swatches of fabrics as sails, the light of the lamp on the bow as the sun, source of energy to creation” – complete with a soundscape and bespoke scent. You really had to be there!

Holotype is a new collection from Chicago-based Refractory Studio in cast bronze, cast glass, and wood inspired by the mountainous American landscapes – all handmade in Chicago. Huge tubs of turmeric provided the scent while a collaboration with photographer Sarah Wilson added atmosphere and context.

With the AD ALL Collection of occasional furniture and accessories for Zeitraum Furniture, Mathias Hahn is exploring the in-between as well as celebrating wood as a material. “The objects are designed to migrate or moderate between spacial scenarios of the every day,” says Zeitraum of the collection.

A collection of eight chairs by Saint Petersburg-based design brand, studio, and manufacturer Delo incorporated recycled plastic, waste metal, and natural fibers – and all reflected the natural colors of their constituent elements.

There is an increasing move in sustainable design not to simply do less harm, but to actively seek to benefit the natural environment – Platforms for Humans and Birds is more than a bench – it’s a “modular cast landscape” with as much to offer our avian friends (edible insertions, water bowls, games, and perches) as the humans who co-exist with them. By Studio Ossidiana – a practice encompassing architecture, design, and art led by Alessandra Covini and Giovanni Bellotti.

To read the article at its source click here.

MDW22: Forest Tales Showcases Furniture Made From American Hardwoods (Design Milk)

Forest Tales was curated by Studio Swine – a collective established in 2011 by the husband-and-wife team of Japanese architect Azusa Murakami and British artist Alexander Groves who have recently relocated to Tokyo from London following the birth of their child (all three pictured below).

The exhibition at Milan’s Triennale showcased 22 pieces from 14 countries and four of the American Hardwood Export Council’s (AHEC) recent projects across two years – all with the aim of drawing attention to underutilized American hardwoods such as maple, cherry, and red oak. “It was crucial to do something bold and impactful which can do justice to the extraordinary works by all the established and emerging designers, whilst at the same time creating no waste,” said Studio Swine.

They created no waste by using the packing crates that the pieces arrived in as the plinths on which they were displayed, projecting a forest-inspired design by London-based graphic studio SPIN onto them once in-situ, which was then painted over, in such as way that ensured the packing crates could still be used for the return journey. The whole image only came together from one specific viewpoint in the exhibition hall – following the notion of  anamorphic perspective.

“Thought Bubble was designed to create a space for mindfulness and relaxation through the repetitive rocking motion of the chair,” said Bangkok-based interior and product designer Nong Chotipatoomwan of the piece above. “American red oak brings a warm and rich texture.” Maple, cherry, and red oak are all versatile woods that grow at a faster rate than they are harvested. Chosen because they are strong, practical, tactile, beautiful, and rapidly renewable, they are currently significantly underutilized by the furniture industry – something AHEC wants to change.

Three tables made by Milanese furniture-maker Riva 1920 – in the background Navalia by Rome-based architect Matteo Benedetti is made from “via di levare”: blocks of American red oak, carved and refined until the final shape is achieved. In the middle, Libra by Italian architect Federico Degioanni’s Oaka Table was subtly inspired by the shape of a dragonfly and is made from American red oak. And in the foreground, Morso by Alessandro Gazzardi is designed to be built by the user without tools – inspired by traditional carpentry, echoing the style of a carpenter’s workbench.

Kumsuka (Evolve Your Space) is an outdoor bench designed using thermally modified American red oak (timber that has been baked) for stability and durability. Johannesburg-based furniture designer Siyanda Mazibuko took inspiration from “isocholo, an African hat, and indlamu, a tribal Zulu dance.”

Studio Swine’s own Humble Administrator’s Chair and Table were also included in the exhibition. Drawing inspiration from the archetype of the traditional Ming chair and Chinese Gardens, the chair legs are made from steam-bent American red oak and the seat and table from cherry by UK-based Benchmark Furniture.

Stem by London-based design and architectural practice Heatherwick Studio is described as “a table that celebrates the power of biophilia by incorporating planting into curved CNC-machined American maple legs, clamped to a glass tabletop.”

Leftover Synthesis is “a chair that explores ways of making better use of wood scraps from furniture production, combined with computational design methods,” says Stuttgart-based industrial designer Simon Gehring.

Danish designer Maria Bruun uses an intentionally pared-back design to let the material do the talking in Nordic Pioneer. This stackable stool with a rounded seat pad is machined from solid American maple by Benchmark Furniture to celebrate the timber.

Concur is an American cherry lounge chair and book rest – “a companion object that encourages the sitter to tune out of daily life and focus on an analogue task in a warm and inviting space.” Is anyone else now obsessed by the idea of “companion objects?!” By the brilliant London-based artist Mac Collins.

Finally, the Kadamba Gate outdoor seating by Lausanne-based designer Ini Archibong (seen above left) is made by Benchmark Furniture from American cherry, red oak, and thermally modified red oak. The underframe was inspired by the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, while the American red oak tops are finished with a rich green stain and gloss finish, and intricate removable brass detailing, which doubles as drainage in its outdoor environment. “Forest Tales brings together a celebration of exceptional design, a love for timber and a much-needed call for balance,” said Venables (above right). “Balance in the way we use natural materials with particular emphasis on renewable ones, such as wood. The same balance on which today’s designers, as well as the entire sector, are called upon to reflect in order to address the greatest social and economic issue of our time: climate change; and the need to put an end to the current throwaway culture.”

To read the article at its source click here.

MDW22: SaloneSatellite Showcases the Best From Under 35 Designers (Design Milk)

SaloneSatellite is the part of Milan Design Week’s main trade fair dedicated to designers aged under 35 and to new prototypes that have not been produced or marketed – as well as design schools – with the aim of connecting them to research, design, and industry opportunities. It is always a Design Milk favorite and didn’t disappoint this year.

Lagos-based designer Lani Adeoye won first place in the SaloneSatellite “Designing for our Future Selves” award, and she takes first place in our roundup too. She was showcasing the Ekaabo Collection of furniture made in collaboration with Nigerian craftspeople more used to turning their skills to dressmaking, tailoring, and shoemaking. “Ekaabo” means welcome in Yoruba and the collection is inspired by West African hospitality, making contemporary use of heritage materials such as Adire, Aso-oke, and Bronze from Benin.

It was a delight to see Disharee Mathur having featured her previous collection on Circular by Design. Using traditional techniques from Jaipur Blue Pottery, her Passive Cooling Tiles are made from waste sanitaryware and waste glass and they absorb ambient moisture to prevent buildings from overheating – a climate-positive solution to fight the effects of global warming.

“If you want to mend the world, start by mending your socks.” Students at Art Academy of Latvia have chosen socks as a metaphor for any product of the 21st century that supports everyday consumption, because of their role in Latvian culture and the centuries-old tradition of gifting them to newborn babies, the sick, and soldiers heading to war – if you can mend, you should, is their message.

“Men like to award men,” ’80/20,” “Diverse jurys award more diversely,” and “overperformance” are just some of the words and phrases printed onto the plastic shroud that covered the graduate projects of students from Fachbereich Potsdam University of Applied Sciences – they used the opportunity of exhibiting at Milan Design Week to challenge the “social ceilings” that persist in design in an installation they called Stuck.

These glass vessels are mouth-blown into wooden molds which catch fire in the process changing both their shape and the shape of the glass. It’s a Finnish technique from the 1960s which Helsinki-based Russian artist, designer, and interior architect Katerina Krotenko is reviving.

Daniel Costa makes rugs, textiles, and paintings “anything tactile” working with farmers, spinners, and weavers in Nepal where yak, sheep, and goats are highly evolved to cope with the weather there. “Those mountains set the tone to life and survival, to mythology and craft,” says Daniel.

Inspired by ocean myths, Aphrodite “taking form from the goddess Venus born of sea spray” is an incredible lamp handwoven from fibers from the fast-growing banaca tree (closely related to the banana) and then hand-painted by Milan-based Filipina designer Mirei Monticelli who works closely with the same community of artisans as her fashion-designer mum!

This candy-floss pink freestanding modular kitchen by Dedaleo is designed to grow and change with you – a great way to reduce waste in interior design and architecture. “ilo+milo is a series of playful kitchen modular elements, designed to fit and adapt to any space and need,” say its designers. “With ilo+milo, the kitchen is no longer fixed furniture, it’s an interactive and never-ending self-renovating part of the house.”

Brazilian designer Tavinho Camerino is combining sustainability with his ancestry of handmade knowledge in the Taboa Collection. Created in collaboration with a community of artisans from Feliz Deserto, they combine aluminum bases with Taboa straw fibers, which are native to the local riverbanks.

The incredible S/M-W DESK by Italian architect and designer Anna Arpa is made from 15,000 tiny pieces of waste timber showcasing 10 underused wood species.

The Continuum Collection by Cyryl Zakrzewski, Boom Plastic, & Nowmodel.org reimagines waste plastic as a high-end luxury material. Cyryl is a sculptor, designer, and graduate of the Faculty of Sculpture and Spatial Activities of the Poznan University of Arts.

And last but not least, this modular flower stand is designed to grow and change with your life – and your plant collection! Its designer Timea describes the principle as similar to LEGO bricks – and it certainly plays into the trend for biophilic design.

To read the article at its source click here.

MDW22: MATTER by Norwegian Presence (Design Milk)

Milan Design Week is back with a bang. The Norwegians always put on a good show and this year was no exception – DOGA (Design and Architecture Norway) presented MATTER by Norwegian Presence – a celebration of materiality, ingenuity, and the culture that is informed by Norway’s abundant natural resources and challenging wild landscapes – all set within the resplendent Galleria Milano in the Brera Design District.

The Minus Chair by British and Norwegian duo Jenkins&Uhnger is the first manifestation of their aim to make carbon-negative furniture – depending on the production volumes, this pine chair is capable of storing more carbon than its production emits. “All chairs are designed to bear the weight of a man, but none to bear man’s weight on nature,” say the designers. “This is our mission.” The Minus Chair is also biodegradable and repairable and sales are limited to within a certain distance from Norway to make good on its carbon promises.

Anna Maria Øfstedal Eng took inspiration from crooked twigs and roots for her Vride Bench made from Norwegian Ash. “Mysteries, shapes, and materials of the Norwegian nature fascinate and in the making process, I often let uncontrollable formations control and beautify my work,” she says. The bench sits somewhere between sculptural form and functional furniture.

There is more to the Shift Stool by Hallgeir Homstvedt than meets the eye. A concealed gasket joint, inspired by skateboards, allows the aniline-dyed beech/ash seat to shift and rotate, moving naturally with your body. The stool pays homage to legendary Norwegian designer Peter Opsvik’s idea of moving while sitting.

Poppy Lawman’s Brent Collection comprises ambiguous furniture made from urban maple sourced from Oslo’s Sofienberg Park – the surface of the wood is treated with a traditional scorching technique to protect it, ensuing longevity, without compromising its ability to biodegrade at the end of its (hopefully very long) life.

The Offcut Chair by Pettersen&Hein (Norwegian artist Magnus Pettersen and Danish designer Lea Hein) was initially conceived for Copenhagen’s Connie-Connie Cafe as part of a project for which 25 artists were challenged to make seating from flooring company Dinesen’s waste. Sketching directly in the material resulted in a ‘sandwich construction’ and as little waste as possible.

Oslo-based Kurdish-Norwegian designer Nebil Zaman made Collective Division – a series of sculptural room dividers – from discarded city bus handrails, combined with plaster, wood glue, and natural resins. By taking everyday objects out of context he is exploring how our surroundings affect our lives and mental state.

Gudbrandsdalens Uldvarefabrik was established in Lillehammer in 1887 and is today championing wool as “nature’s own high-tech material” for its resilience, heat and moisture regulation, and flame-retardant and anti-microbial qualities. The depth of color and texture achieved in these upholstery textiles is testament to centuries-old knowledge and expertise.

Fjordfiesta pre-launched the Sverre Fehn Collection – of which this Norwegian pine stool is just one piece. Originally designed for specific projects by the late Sverre Fehn (1924–2009) – a Pritzker Prize-winning Norwegian architect of some repute – this is the first time the pieces have been made more widely available. The collection has been developed in close collaboration with his family to embody his poetic and yet rational approach.

And finally, Vestre premiered its new Kinn Collection by Anderssen & Voll – Torbjørn Anderssen and Espen Voll. The collection is made from 75% recycled post-consumer aluminum scrap Hydro CIRCAL, Scandinavian pine, and Swedish steel – the latter with a 30% lower carbon footprint than the global average to embody Vestre’s mission of “creating caring meeting places.” The chairs are super comfy too – and the gaps between the slats let the rain run right through.

To read the article at its source click 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.

A STITCH IN TIME (Hole & Corner)

Repair skills used to be passed down from hand to hand through the generations, until they weren’t. Before mending becomes little more than memory, a rising culture of craft is celebrating the lost art of repair – and the stories to be found in the stitches. Katie Treggiden considers three women who are turning the tide.

Ask people about mending and, chances are, they will talk about family: the grandmother who darned their socks or the mother who patched the knees on their jeans – and they do tend to be women. Family stories are intertwined with repaired objects, either embodied in the damage and repair itself or captured in the cross-generational conversations that take place while the mend is carried out.

Today, repair skills have all too often been lost in the sands of time. Of course, they can be learned from books or even YouTube videos, but more commonly hand skills such as mending and sewing were passed, almost literally, from hand to hand – from mother to daughter. When the next generation wants to disassociate itself from the past or from traditionally female skills, when they become cash rich and time poor, or simply surrounded by increasingly disposable consumer products, the motivation to learn just isn’t there – and both the skills and the stories are lost. In fact, in 2008, design historian Hazel Clark declared that ‘mending has died out’.

But since then, mending has been undergoing something of a renaissance and a search on Instagram for ‘#visiblemending’ returns more than 117,000 images. Contemporary mending is driven by a desire to honour the labour of garment workers, by environmental concerns, and sometimes by poverty. But it is also driven by a desire – in our increasingly screen-based, perfectionism-obsessed culture – to embrace the flawed realities of a life well lived and the storied patina of repair. London-based artists Celia Pym, Aya Haidar and Ekta Kaul have very different stories, but ask them about mending, and they will all tell you about family.

Celia Pym

Celia Pym describes herself as someone who is more interested in damage and the conversations it sparks than the act of mending itself, but even so, she has been exploring repair as a textile artist since 2007. Her fascination started with a rather odd gift from her father.

Her Great Uncle had recently passed away and her dad had found a ragged jumper while clearing out his house. ‘Knowing that I like things that are a bit wonky and a bit lopsided and damaged and wrong, he gave it to me thinking I might be interested in it’ says Pym. ‘And he was right, I was – in fact I was really quite taken with it.’ The jumper had been hand-knit from a cream-coloured yarn and was full of holes in the forearms. Remembering that her great uncle used to sit in an armchair with a wooden board across its arms and draw, she quickly worked out what had caused the holes. ‘My great uncle was an artist all his life, but as he got older, he would lean forward in this armchair and draw all day,’ she says. ‘So, when I saw these holes, I was really struck by how instantly I could see him sitting in that chair – how the damage could evoke the very particular and specific movements of his body.’ (She confesses that she is equally thrilled by the leg-shapes left in a pair of tights at the end of the day.)

Pym became curious about what she found so moving about this jumper and, as she looked more closely, she noticed that similar holes had been darned before. Her great uncle’s sister had undertaken a series of pragmatic and unsentimental mends over many years, using whatever yarn was to hand, but she had died a decade before he had. ‘Seeing her repairs next to this fresh damage, I couldn’t help feeling that we had somehow neglected him in these intervening years,’ says Pym. ‘And of course, he hadn’t been neglected. He was safe and well and had everything he needed, and yet, there were these fresh holes that nobody had been tending to.’

Determined to rectify that, and having missed the chance to learn from her great aunt, Pym took herself off to the library, looked up darning in a book, and started to repair her great uncle’s sweater. The rest, as they say, is history. She has trained as both a teacher and a nurse, but has always returned to her artistic practice which is grounded in repair. She was shortlisted for the Women’s Hour Craft Prize with two darned garments in 2017 and her work has been exhibited all over the world – and all because her dad thought she might appreciate a tattered old jumper that had belonged to his uncle.

Aya Haidar

As a self-described ‘mother, artist, and humanitarian,’ Aya Haidar’s creative practice focuses on found and recycled objects, through which she explores themes of loss, migration and memory, but it all started with a very special sewing machine. ‘Every day after school, I would go to my grandmother’s house,’ she says. ‘I would sit across the table from her while she sewed and mended things on a Singer sewing machine – and she would tell me stories from her childhood.’

Haidar’s grandmother and her parents are Lebanese. From 1975 to 1990, there was a civil war in Lebanon and so in 1982 they left. They came to England, via Jordan and Saudi Arabia, leaving almost everything behind – apart from that Singer sewing machine. At the age of six, Haidar’s grandmother had been invited to a tea party. She took a sweet from a bowl and popped it in her bag to eat later. When she opened it, while savouring its sugary goodness she noticed something on the inside of the wrapper. She had a won a sewing machine. It was duly shipped to Lebanon for her and from the age of six, this was the machine she used; mending and remaking the family’s clothes until her death at the age of 99. ‘To be brought up with someone like my grandmother as a principal figure in my life, I definitely credit her for that influence.’

For Haidar, mending today is a metaphor – a way of telling and retelling her family’s stories. For her Recollections series, she photographed sites around Beirut, printed them on to linen, and ‘repaired’ the cracks and bullet holes in the buildings with what Glenn Adamson describes in his book The Invention of Craft as ‘coloured bandages’. ‘It was about filling these voids with colour,’ she says. ‘It was a way of embellishing, but also highlighting, something that my family find ugly, not just ascetically, but in the sense that it reminds them of something horrific – but something that absolutely needs to be remembered.’

She continues to work with refugees arriving in the UK, running embroidery workshops as well as creating artworks that tell their stories. ‘I see my work as layering a story on top of a material that already tells a story itself,’ she says. Her Soleless Series comprises shoes that were worn by refugees across borders and are beyond functional repair, but now embroidered with images of their owners’ journeys. ‘Instead of throwing them away, I felt like they needed another layer, because they physically carried these people across countries,’ she says. ‘For me to embroider an image of that journey onto their soles tells that story so powerfully.’

Her education has taken in Chelsea College of Art and Design, the Slade School of Art, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a master’s in non-governmental organisations and development at the London School of Economics. Her career as an artist includes international solo and group shows in London, Berlin, Jeddah, Paris, Dubai and Turkey. And her humanitarian work makes a difference to thousands of women and children every year. But it is ‘mother’ that comes first in her description of herself, and talking to her, you get the distinct impression that her grandmother’s wisdom is being passed on to the next generation of women too.

Ekta Kaul

Textile artist Ekta Kaul sees mending is a matter of respect. She grew up in India where mending was part of family life, a reflection of its deep roots in the wider culture, where everything from ceramics, jewellery and textiles to electronic gadgets is routinely repaired. ‘I always felt very connected to the land and the resources it provides,’ she says. ‘My ancestors were farmers, so my dad would always explain to us that somebody had worked really hard to get the food to our table – there was always this notion of respecting the land and the labour that had gone into it – any leftovers were reinvented into something else the next day.’

And it wasn’t only food that her family saved and repurposed. Kaul describes her mother as extraordinarily creative. ‘Apart from being a brilliant scientist, my mother was also a prolific needle woman,’ says Kaul. ‘When we outgrew out jumpers, she would unravel them, steam the wool so it was nice and fluffy again, and then reknit them into new patterns she had learnt. She embroidered, knit and playfully reinvented textiles constantly. I absorbed this throughout my childhood.’

Similarly, at the start of each winter, Kaul would see beautiful quilts laid out on the side of the streets, soaking in the sun before being used again for the next season. The quilts would be unstitched, the wadding taken out and beaten, aired in the sunshine, and sewn back together – often using the same thread. ‘I’ve often wondered if the idea of rebirth and the circularity of life, which is so entrenched in Indian culture, manifests in our culture of recycling as well,’ she says. ‘Mending was and still is very much a way of life.’

It was quilts that provided Kaul’s entry point into textiles. ‘My grandmother had this huge bag – it was blue with embroidered flowers on it – and she would tuck into it any scraps of fabric, or parts of saris, that she wanted to save,’ says Kaul. ‘Once it was full, we would start making quilts.’ Kaul would layer up the pieces of fabric, so her grandmother could secure them together with long rows of running stitch into the resultant quilt. Stitching layers of discarded fabric together into quilts – commonly known as Kantha in the west – is a tradition practiced in several parts of India, each with its own regionally specific name. So, what Kaul and her grandmother were practising in was ‘gudri’.

Having studied at National Institute of Design in India, Kaul had come to the UK to do a master’s and was surprised to discover that a culture of mending and respect for materials was no longer part of the culture here. ‘There seemed to be this disconnect, where traditional knowledge – once passed down through generations – had been lost in the post-industrial era,’ she says. She soon found herself drawing on her upbringing within her artistic practice. Using techniques inspired by gudri, she now creates embroidered maps which explore places, history and belonging through stitch. She has appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row, won the Cockpit Arts Textile Prize and has work in the collections of the Crafts Council, Liberty London, the Gunnersbury Museum and private collectors. Having lived in diverse, vibrant cities like Edinburgh, Bath, Ahmedabad, Delhi and London, she describes her work as “rooted in the non-binary” and imbued with a plurality of perspectives and cultural influences – not least those of her family.

To purchase your copy of Hole & Corner issue 22, please click 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.

GOING FOR GOLD (Crafts Magazine)

After the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics incorporated electronic waste into their medals and as London’s Design Museum showcases an installation by artist Ibrahim Mahama made from electronic waste for its exhibition Waste Age: What Can Design Do?, Katie Treggiden, author of Wasted: When Trash Becomes Treasure, explores the concept of ‘urban mining’ and talks to the craftspeople using e-waste in their work.

Most of us remember learning the periodic table at school. Neat rows of boxes filled with mystifying combinations of letters and numbers, each representing one of the 90 elements that are the building blocks of everything on Earth. Sitting on those science lab stools, none of us imagined they might run out but, today, some are already in short supply. In fact, the European Chemical Society has released a new periodic table, putting 12 elements on an ‘endangered’ list. Gone are the ordered lines that appeared in our chemistry books. In their place, amorphous shapes depict the comparative availability of each element, and a colour-coding system highlights which elements are most at risk and those that come from minerals mined in conflict zones. Thirty-one of the elements carry a smartphone symbol, spotlighting that they are used in every one of the 1.56 billion smart phones we make annually. Five of these are already coded red – their availability under ‘serious threat in the next 100 years’.

Precious metals such as gold, copper and silver are among those becoming scarce, while antimony (used in batteries) and lead both look set to dry up in the next decade. Their availability is hampered not by limited existence – there is as much gold on the planet as ever – but there are few effective recycling processes, which means that the decreasing supplies underground and their location in conflict zones . Approximately 10% of gold produced annually and a third of silver is used to produce electronic goods, and yet less than a fifth of e-waste is recycled – even during recycling, most rare earth metals are lost. Increasingly, the elements we need are not in the ground, but in landfill. According to one estimate, so-called ‘e-waste mountains’ hold precious metals such as gold in concentrations 40–50 times higher than can be mined underground.

The Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama highlights the scale of the problem with a mountain-like installation made from e-waste at the heart of the exhibition Waste Age: What Can Design Do? currently at London’s Design Museum. It features alongside a film by design studio Formafantasma showing research from its three-year investigation into the recycling of electronic waste. Another output from Ore Streams – its multimedia project first commissioned by NGV Australia and Triennale Milano – is office furniture made from iron and aluminium extracted from computer cases and components. ’  says co-founder Simone Farresin. ‘The future of electronic waste is not in recycling, but in reusing components.

If the problem is being highlighted at London’s Design Museum, a potential solution took centre stage in Tokyo this summer, where medals at the Summer Olympics and Paralympics were made of recycled electrical devices. Approximately 78,985 tons of discarded devices were collected, classified, dismantled, and melted down before being turned into bronze, silver, and gold medals.

Designers and craftspeople are already thinking along similar lines. In 2015, the designer Jorien Wiltenburg put forward a ‘future design scenario’ as part of her graduate project at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam – her Micro Urban Mining project proposed that copper harvested from electronic cables could be used to weave and knit baskets and fabrics. ‘Restoring the connection between the creation and the use of an object gives us the strange but exciting feeling of having brought back to life something that was considered obsolete,’ she said at the time. It was entirely conceptual, but now pioneering makers and designers such as Sandra Wilson, Studio Plastique and Marta Torrent Boix are making such ideas a reality.

Dr Sandra Wilson. Photo David Cheskin.

Modern-day alchemist, Sandra Wilson

Sandra Wilson is a silversmith, jeweller, researcher and educator at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in Dundee, Scotland. She is interested in what she calls the ‘edges of things’. Her research exists in the spaces between jewellery and metal design and other fields – biology, psychology, anthropology and, recently, chemistry. For her Urban Gold Rush project, she collaborated with the Love Chemistry Laboratory at Edinburgh University to recover copper and gold from old computer circuit boards she sourced on eBay, using a technique called hydrometallurgy. ‘The process works with aqueous solutions using acids to recover precious metals,’ she explains. She used hydrochloric acid to recover all the metals from the circuit boards , and then employed chemical compounds or ligands (molecules or atoms which bind reversibly to a protein) to separate them. ‘I spend a lot of time shaking flasks with different solutions and filtering chemicals,’ she says. ‘I feel like a modern-day alchemist.’

Using traditional hand-raising techniques to create sterling silver vessels, Wilson paints the surfaces with her recovered metals in solution, allowing the water to evaporate and the metals to react with the silver, creating distinctive patinas. She has discovered that the process, known as electro-chemical displacement plating, was once used by pre-Hispanic Andean metalworkers. ‘We can learn a lot from historical processes that will enable us to address sustainability,’ she says. ‘Craft values that emphasise materials, where they come from, and how we work with them are incredibly important – and craft practitioners, alongside other disciplines, are central to addressing the big cultural issues of our time.’

Wilson is now collaborating with the National Institute for Design (NID) in Ahmedabad to create a new value chain for female jewellers in India. Such artisans are often charged more for raw materials and paid poorly for their finished products. ‘This project aims to connect female jewellers to e-waste recyclers and create a new “chain of custody” mark for their finished products, so they can charge a premium,’ she says. The project has been hampered by funding cuts and COVID-19, but she is hopeful for its impact. ‘It feels like we are only now getting going,’ she says.

Sand savers: Studio Plastique

Brussels-based Studio Plastique mines electronic waste for glass, rather than precious metals. Silicon (Si) is still categorised as in ‘plentiful supply’ on the European Chemical Society’s new periodic table, but sand (SiO2) is scarce, driven by an exponential increase in demand for concrete – China has used more in the last 11 years than the USA used in the 20th century. The problem is that desert sand – eroded by wind – is too smooth to lock together and form materials such as concrete and glass, so it is the angular, water-eroded sand that is used – and it’s running out.

But there is plenty of glass in landfill. The ‘odd material out’ in electronic waste, the glass windows found in washing machines, kettles and microwaves is often difficult for facilities to recycle, despite being eminently suitable. Theresa Bastek and Archibald Godts, co-founders of Studio Plastique, spotted an opportunity. ‘It is downright stupid to neglect those materials. It is common sense to find applications for them,’ says Bastek. Common Sands – a play on ‘common sense’ – is their collection of vessels, tableware and home accessories made from glass recovered from electronic waste. The colours and textures of each piece are a result of the metal oxides and coatings used within common household appliances, and each piece is marked with the origin of the glass from which is it made, in an attempt to restore the relationships between resource, producer and user.

The first prototypes were made using traditional and the pair is now investigating semi-industrial processes to enable them to scale up. ‘Our generation is facing the consequences of poor resource management and poor design,’ says Bastek. ‘There is too much nonsense in the way we harvest, produce, and consume – long-established, yet illogical cycles that are harmful to nature. There is no way around designing with waste in the future. What once seemed utopian will become obvious. But it has to be done right, it has to be done beautifully.’

Urban miner: Marta Torrent Boix

Spanish product designer and maker Marta Torrent Boix started working with electronic waste by chance. She wanted to explore pottery and, without access to a wheel, she set about making one. Realising that she would need an electric motor if she didn’t want to power the wheel by foot, she called a mechanic friend to see whether he might have one to spare. He didn’t, but offered her a broken washing machine instead. ‘I only ever intended to use its motor, but when I started disassembling it, I realised that inside this “white box,” there were hundreds of useable parts,’ she says. ‘I ended up making the whole wheel from washing machine parts.’ She has been making machines from electronic waste ever since.

For her Urban Mines – her final project for her Material Futures MA at Central Saint Martins this year – she collected dumped electronic goods from the streets of London and repurposed them into both a table and a clay extruder to add to her potter’s wheel. She now uses these machines to make ceramic tableware. ‘Urban Mines highlights the contrast between the intangible and mechanical parts of e-waste and the tactile part of ceramics,’ she says. ‘Through this project, I am combining old craft techniques with new and wasted technology to create unique ceramic pieces.’ The pottery forms have their own distinctive style. Relatively straight-sided and oversized terracotta bowls and mugs feature chunky extruded handles that bear the marks of her machines.

Although Boix is making use of electronic waste, she’s not convinced that what she’s doing is the solution. ‘The problem starts in the way these products are produced,’ she says. ‘Complex artefacts like electronic devices have to be designed, not just for assembly and use, but for disassembly. If there as a simple way to separate and classify the integrated materials, they would be easier to recycle.’


Formafantasm

Of course, these problems call for legislative intervention, and rules that go beyond the recently enacted ‘right to repair bill’ in the UK, but in answer to the question posed by the Design Museum, ‘what can design do?’ Formafantasma’s Simone Farresin agrees with Boix; it starts long before the end of a product’s life. ‘When you open an electronic product up, there’s no clear colour coding or labelling that tells you what is hazardous, because you’re not supposed to open it,’ he says. ‘A simple, universal colour coding system would not only increase the rare earth materials that can be salvaged, but also protect workers in the global South. Designers need to be involved because they can spot where things can be improved.’

From designers at the beginning of the process to craftspeople at the end, re-channelling the electronic waste stream is going require imagination and expertise at every stage. Luckily, it’s clear from the work of Wilson, Boix, Studio Plastique, Wiltenburg and Formafantasma that both already exist; it’s simply a matter of making the connections – a little ‘thinking around the edges’, as Wilson might put it.

COP26 Opinion Piece (Crafts Magazine)

‘Craft skills and knowledge should be at the heart of the debate about our relationship to the planet,’ says sustainability champion Katie Treggiden

The writer and podcaster explains why it’s vital for the climate movement to encompass a far wider range of people and solutions

‘When you’re close to the problem, you’re necessarily close to the solutions,’ say Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katherine K Wilkinson in their introduction to All We Can Save (2020), an anthology of writing by women at the forefront of the climate movement, whose real-world experiences and practical solutions are all too often ignored.

It’s a piece of advice that the organisers of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference seem not to have heeded. The event is conspicuous in its homogeneity and in its privileging of those whose business models and profits are put at risk by the very actions needed to avert the climate crisis. Despite the fact that women, people of colour, the populations of the Global South and Indigenous communities around the world are disproportionately affected by and concerned about climate change, the importance of their representation has been overlooked.

In September 2020, when the UK government announced its original line-up of politicians, lead negotiators and civil servants to host COP26, there wasn’t a single woman among them. Pressing ahead with the conference before widespread COVID-19 vaccination across the globe has led to the final line-up of delegates being disproportionately from Western countries. Right now, the very legitimacy of COP26 is being called into question by environmental, academic, climate justice, indigenous and women’s rights organisations, who say they have been excluded from the negotiations. Compounding the problem, the public narrative frequently erases perspectives from outside of the West. Last year, the Associated Press cropped Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate out of a photograph taken in Davos featuring Greta Thunberg and three other white European campaigners.

Craft has long been associated with the same historically marginalised groups who are barely present at COP26. Critic and curator Glenn Adamson argues that it’s not the case that craft is predominantly practiced by women and non-Western people, but rather that ‘craft’ is the term people apply to whatever they make – that it’s a constructed, ideological category applied to anything outside of the individualistic Eurocentric domain, designed to diminish their power. Historically, craft has been trivialised, along with the worldviews of those who practise it. The perspective that sees craft activity as somehow ‘lesser’ than other creative practices, and the one which regards non-Western contributions on climate emergency as secondary, are both rooted in the same webs of privilege and prejudice.

Craft offers not only a way of making, but also a way of thinking – one that is collaborative, inclusive and responsive to our changing natural environment. It is essential if we are to shift away from our current ‘take-make-waste’ model of production to a more circular one. Traditional forms of knowledge and practice should therefore be at the heart of the debate about our relationship to the planet, and yet the knowledge of craftspeople is often relegated in favour of technological and technocratic solutions and the priorities of global corporations.

A living root bridge constructed by the Khasi hill tribe, featured in the book LO-TEK Design by Julia Watson.

The circular economy, as defined by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, asks us: to design out waste and pollution; to keep objects and materials in use; and to regenerate natural systems – all things that craftspeople have always embraced. Makers’ respect for natural resources, their material literacy and often mono-materialistic approach makes waste an abhorrence – and their sheer proximity to their materials during the making process makes pollution personal. Their ability to turn materials into useful, meaningful and valued objects that can be repaired or remade keeps materials and objects in use. And their sense of connectivity to those who have gone before and those who will follow, makes regenerating natural systems inherent to the craft process.

Indigenous rights activist Sherri Mitchell Weh’na Ha’mu Kwasset describes our current approach to knowledge and expertise as ‘a racially exclusive framework that has bolstered colonial scholarship and relegated Indigenous knowledge to obscurity’. And yet, there are countless examples of traditional craft techniques allowing people to live in harmony with the planet, and even actively rejuvenating the environment. For example, in India tea is traditionally served in unglazed terracotta cups known as kulhads. They are designed for single-use and thrown onto the ground as soon as the tea is finished, where they harmlessly degrade back into the earth, eventually forming more clay. In Northern India, the Khasi hill tribe has developed the only bridges able to withstand the force of worsening monsoonal rains, woven and grown from living rubber fig trees’ aerial roots into a latticework that only becomes stronger over time. As artificial bridges are washed away or rot in the humid conditions, we are reminded of why proximity to the problem generates better solutions. On the other side of the world, black ash trees, in decline across Oklahoma, thrive where Potawatomi basket-makers create spaces in the forest canopy for new growth by sourcing their material in accordance with traditional practices.

‘Can craft save the world?’ is the question that drives my work as a podcaster and writer – a provocation that plays with preconception of craft as small and trivial. And yet, as these examples show, it is anything but: those who practice craft have the power to help us transition to a more circular economy, in which we eliminate waste, keep materials and objects in use and regenerate natural systems.

In her celebrated book Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer, a scientist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, writes: ‘Many Indigenous peoples share the understanding that we are each endowed with a particular gift, a unique ability. Asking what is our responsibility is perhaps also to ask, what is our gift? And how shall we use it?’ As the craft community grapples with its responsibilities in the climate crisis, perhaps we should also be examining our gifts – and their potential to help us and future generations thrive in synergy with our one finite planet.

To read the article at its source please click here.

The Poetics of Persuasion (The Peninsulist)

The recent publication of the IPCC Sixth Assessment has been labelled a ‘code red’ warning on the climate crisis. What could craft possibly have to offer in the face of such a huge and ‘wicked’ problem? Katie Treggiden makes the case for craft as a harbinger of hope.

Craft as a tool in the fight against the climate crisis? Really?! I know what you’re thinking. Either you associate craft with Tom Daley’s poolside crochet, in which case you’re probably more than a little bemused, or you’ve seen independent designer-makers coming up with some pretty cool ideas, but you’re not convinced they’re scalable. Either way, craft is small; craft is marginal; craft is gentle. It hasn’t got the scope or seriousness to tackle the problems the planet is now facing, and certainly not at the scale we now need. ‘Independent designers with the greatest of intentions and the greatest of ingenuity are still the merest rounding errors of the real problem,’ says craft historian Glenn Adamson. ‘The real problem is of such hugeness that it requires a radical rethinking of our production and consumption patterns as a species.’ And he’s right. But what if craft – small, marginal and gentle as it might be – could help to prompt some of that radical rethinking?

Co-founder of Studio Swine Alexander Groves describes the Sea Chair that he and his partner Azusa Murakami designed as a ‘flight of fancy.’ Inspired by the crafts practised by seafarers for generations, it was conceived to provide potential solutions to both the plastics crisis and declining incomes from fishing, by providing fisherman with an open-source design they could make from ocean plastic while out at sea. However, he admits that they didn’t actually expect to solve either problem. So why design the chair at all? ‘Transforming the undesirable into something desirable makes you do a double-take and re-assess your perception of the world,’ he explains. ‘We wanted to bring [ocean plastic] to the public’s attention and introduce some poetry which we felt was lacking in sustainable design at the time. We wanted to engage people with the issue and demand change in the way we use plastics.’

With director Juriaan Booij, Studio Swine made a film depicting a day boat heading out to sea in the romantic light of dawn. It shows fishermen catching both fish and plastic, turning the latter into Sea Chairs as they gut and prepare the fish. ‘The film was as important an outcome from the project as the chair itself,’ says Groves. It went on to be awarded at Cannes and viewed by millions of people.

For Groves and Murakami then, craft is not necessarily about solving the planet’s problems, but about raising awareness of them with enough poetry to challenge perceptions and perhaps even spur the radical rethink that we need.

The argument often put forward in defence of such flights of fancy is that they serve as independent research projects, generating original ideas that, once proven, can be scaled up in collaboration with bigger companies – and sometimes this is the case. But what if this isn’t craft’s only role? ‘In the arena of poetics and persuasion, the designer is not necessarily coming up with the solution that will be scaled up and operationalised but rather using craft as a form of soft power – a way of getting people to attend to the problem of climate change and think in a more optimistic and hopeful way about potential solutions,’ says Adamson.

Now the evidence that climate change is not only real, but caused by human activity and taking us on a path towards our own extinction, is unequivocal, the communications task facing environmentalists is less driven by facts and more by emotions. The danger of reports such as the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment is that the facts engender feelings of despair and hopelessness. If we are to reverse, halt, or even slow climate change, the task ahead of us is vast and can seem insurmountably complex. And it is intersected with issues ranging from biodiversity to social justice. It is all too easy to feel overwhelmed, to bury our heads and to do nothing, but the crisis calls, more than anything, for action.

Craft offers an opportunity to create talismans of hope. ‘Iconic, attention-grabbing, beautiful, charismatic objects can serve as handles on a possible future – a future that is more functional, a future that actually works,’ says Adamson. ‘Maybe the soft power of craft is most important because it gets right to our human understanding of the situation itself.’ If craft can create hope, it can inspire action.

London-based designer Yinka Ilori agrees. ‘Storytelling is such a huge part of design; without a narrative, design is pointless,’ he says. ‘It’s got to make me feel something.’ Ilori’s If Chairs Could Talk project comprises five chairs, each made from the discarded pieces of others, which he uses to explore issues of both sustainability and social justice, by telling the stories of five of his childhood friends. ‘I suddenly saw chairs, not just as seats, but as objects that could explore power in society and, viewed in a gallery setting, perhaps even change perspectives,’ he says.

Similarly, designer Simon Ballan tackles both the colonialisation of his native Colombia and the waste and pollution generated by gold mining in his Suelo Orfebre (‘Golden Soil’) collection. The vessels are handblown using recycled glass and ‘jagua’ – the crushed ore left over after gold mining. ‘I wanted to use design as a narrative medium that must stop striving to ‘mirror’ the coloniser, but instead to foster practices that make use of our own local realities, to create objects and tools for discourse and empowerment,’ he says. He worked with the local community to develop the collection and in doing so demonstrated the value of something that was, until then, dumped into rivers at a rate of 100 tonnes a day, creating pollution downstream. ‘The people of the local community reacted with surprise to the transformation of the jagua,’ he says. ‘They perceived it differently after the transformation. It was no longer a waste product, but a material that could be transformed into something valuable. In the future I would like to think that, metaphorically at least, every waste stream could be transformed into gold.’

‘Artistic endeavour and wild leaps of creativity can sometimes lead to massive transformations in the way the material world operates and is understood,’ says Adamson. Massive transformations are exactly what we’re looking for. Perhaps we’ve just been looking in all the wrong places – and the poetics of persuasion are rooted in the small, marginal and gentle after all.

 

 

Back for good: the fine art of repairing broken things (The Observer)

(Header image Aya Haidar – credit Roo Lewis)

New legislation coming into force this summer gives UK consumers the ‘right to repair.’ The last time we were encouraged to ‘make do and mend’ was during World War Two – this time the imperative is environmental. Podcaster Katie Treggiden explores what a return to a culture of repair means for five artists and designers already making and mending.

When Aldous Huxley wrote his dystopian novel Brave New World in 1932, he imagined a society in which the importance of discarding old clothes was whispered into children’s ears while they slept (‘Ending is better than mending. The more stitches, the less riches’) – so vital was the imperative to drive consumption of the new. He set his novel 600 years into the future, but in the foreword to the 1946 edition, suggested that its ‘horror may be upon us within a single century’. He wasn’t far off. Just 63 years later, in 2008, design historian Hazel Clark declared that ‘mending has died out’.

Another 13 years on, it has, and it hasn’t. Product lifespans are getting shorter – in fact one UK-based fashion company advises buyers to work to quality standards that assume a dress will stay in its owner’s wardrobe for less than five weeks. And it’s not just clothes that we no longer mend. Household appliances can be cheaper to replace than repair, with spare parts often available only if harvested from retired machines. Something as simple as a depleted battery frequently spells the end for today’s hermetically sealed electronic devices, and simply attempting a repair can render warranties invalid.

This summer Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Regulations, dubbed the ‘right to repair bill,’ come into force, requiring that manufactures make spare parts and maintenance information available for their products. The intention is to overcome built-in obsolescence, enable repairs and extend lifespans. The government now expects white goods to last for up to a decade, rather than the seven-year average reported by the Whitegoods Trade Association.

But ‘right to repair’ campaigners such as the co-founder of The Restart Project, Janet Gunter, argue that the measures don’t go far enough. ‘This has been widely reported as “problem solved”, but in fact, the rules only apply to lighting, washing machines, dishwashers and fridges – and they only give spare parts and repair documentation to professionals,’ she says. ‘We have to keep fighting for all the other things in your house – we want to see ecodesign legislation applied to other hard-to-repair tech products, such as laptops and smartphones – and offer the right to repair to everyone, including people who want to repair their own machines at home.’ Philip Dunne MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee agrees. ‘There should be no contest: consumers should have every right to fix items they own,’ he says. ‘Making spare parts available is the first step in creating a circular economy where we use, reuse and recycle products. We must stop using and disposing quite so much: we must take action if we are to protect the environment for generations to come.’

Assuming things go their way, we are likely to see a move away from throw-away culture and a return to repair. Not since Make Do and Mend during the Second World War has there been such an imperative to fix the things we own, but now the motivation is environmental. The second tenet of the circular economy, as defined by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, is to ‘keep materials and objects in use’ and repair is one of the simplest ways to achieve this. Today, artists and designers are leading the way in exploring what mending really means. They might not be offering to fix your broken toaster, but through exploring the practice of repair, they are laying the groundwork for new ways of thinking about the objects we surround ourselves with. Perhaps by following their lead, we can move away from the veneration of newness that is exemplified by the trend for unboxing videos on YouYube and ‘box-fresh’ trainers, and instead learn to celebrate the storied patina that comes with care and repair.

Aya Haidar 

For self-described mother, artist and humanitarian Aya Haidar, mending is a metaphor. Her Recollections series comprises photographs of war-damaged buildings in Beirut into which she stitches multicoloured embroidery thread ‘repairing’ the bullet holes. ‘It was about filling in these voids – these holes that are scars, remnants and traces of something that is dark, ugly and traumatising, and filling it with something colourful and joyful,’ she says. Her Lebanese family fled the war in 1982, moving first to Saudi Araba and then London. ‘For my family, those damaged buildings are ugly, not just aesthetically, but because they remind them of something terrifying, but something that does need to be remembered.’ By embellishing and filling the cracks with beautiful, colourful threads, she emphasises them, so the war that caused them is not forgotten. Haidar’s work focuses on found and recycled objects and explores themes such as loss, migration and memory. In the Soleless Series, she embroidered images of migrants’ journeys onto the soles of their worn-out shoes. ‘The shoes physically carried refugees across borders and across lands,’ she says. ‘They were so worn and torn that they were not fit for purpose, but instead of throwing them away, I embroidered images of their journeys onto their soles, adding another layer of meaning. I couldn’t return the function to those shoes, but I could tell their story and show their value.’ Haidar runs youth workshops for refugees from countries experiencing conflict, such as Syria and Somalia, and uses craft as a way to help them process traumatic experiences. ‘The physical act of mending works towards an emotional repair,’ she says. ‘Because craft is a durational process, because it is slow, considered, repetitive and thoughtful, the women who take part in my workshops are left with their own thoughts and the time to process them in the flow of making. It is a solitary process, but also a collective experience. The conversations that come out of the workshops are very real, very honest, very raw – there are a lot of exchanges about personal experiences while we’re crafting. There is a beautiful sense of healing that starts to happen.’

Jay Blades

For Jay Blades, presenter of the BBC’s Repair Shop, mending is about community. Described by the BBC as ‘a heart-warming antidote to throwaway culture,’ the  programme sees members of the public bring broken objects to a barn in the grounds of the Weald and Downland Living Museum, get them fixed, and take them away again. ‘On paper, it doesn’t sound that interesting,’ laughs Blades. And yet some 7 million people tune in to every episode. The secret of its unlikely success can perhaps be found in its origin story. Katy Thorogood, creative director of production company Ricochet, took a chair that had belonged to her late mother to be reupholstered. When she got it back, she fell in love with it all over again, but that wasn’t the magic moment. The magic happened when the upholsterer handed her a framed sample of the original fabric as a keepsake. She simultaneously burst into tears and had the idea for her next hit TV show. ‘The upholsterer didn’t need to do that, but he did it simply because it was a kind thing to do,’ says Blades. ‘What makes the Repair Shop so special is its community – its love. It’s about doing something kind for someone that you don’t know.’ And that’s a theme that runs through Blades own story. He established Out of the Dark with his then wife Jade in High Wycombe in 2000 to enable disadvantaged young people to learn practical skills from the last generation of furniture makers in the area. ‘It was about turning furniture that someone had written off into something desirable and trying to explain to the young people that there is a direct connection between that and giving them the skills they needed to go into a job interview with their heads held high.’ When that project came to an end due to the perfect storm of cashflow problems and the end of his marriage, it was again the community that stepped in. He had been living in his car for a week when a friend came to find him and offered him a job and a place to stay – and he’s been living with that friend’s family ever since. Having got back on his feet, he was already running Jay & Co, his own furniture-restoration business, when the BBC came calling. He can now count Mary Berry among his fans – she requested him specifically as a guest on her Christmas special, Mary Berry Saves Christmas and told Blades she and her husband watch every episode. ‘Of course, The Repair Shop is a celebration of craft skills, but at its heart, it’s about caring for people by repairing the things that matter to them,’ says Blades.


Image credit Matt Jessop

Chris Miller

For Chris Miller, restoration is a direct response to the climate crisis. Skinflint, the vintage lighting website he co-founded, specialises in sourcing lighting from the 1920s to the 1970s, usually from non-residential settings such as hospitals, churches, and factories. The company has already saved 50,000 lights from landfill. The lights are made safe and functional and then get what Miller calls a ‘light touch’ restoration, maintaining the patina of their age, before being sold to architects, interior designers and house-proud consumers the world over. The decision to source mainly industrial lights is about availability and volume, and his chosen era is bookended by the advent of mainstream electric lighting in the 1920s and the introduction of plastics in the 1970s. ‘Buildings such as churches were the first to be electrified and we still salvage 1920s church lights, because they have had quite an easy life – they’re only used once a week and they tend to be quite high up,’ he explains. ‘After the 1970s, you start to see the language of planned obsolescence and failure engineering coming into the documentation and the effects of engineers handling a material they didn’t yet fully understand.’ So far, so pragmatic, but it was actually a tragic personal experience that motivated the decision to set up an environmentally driven business. Miller was in Sri Lanka when the tsunami hit the country’s eastern and southern shores on 26th December 2004. ‘Ordinarily, we make travel up as we go along, but on this occasion, we had booked various places in advance – and that’s what saved our lives,’ he says. On 24th December, he and his wife reluctantly left the waterside hut they’d been staying in and moved inland to a pre-booked jungle lodge for Christmas Day. Just 48 hours later, the tsunami destroyed those waterside huts, taking the lives of many of the people they’d been sharing drinks with just days before. It was a wake-up call. ‘We all experience signpost moments every day,’ he says. ‘Most we miss, some we see but don’t act upon, and some just hit us smack in the face. We left our jobs in London and moved to Cornwall with a three-month-old baby. Skinflint was officially launched two years later.’ For Miller, running a restoration business is a response to an event made more likely and more severe by climate change. ‘We simply can’t go on in the way we have been for the last 100 years,’ he says. ‘The resources are just not there. You can layer provenance and storytelling on top… but the key driver for our business is the environment.’

Bridget Harvey

Former artist-in-residence at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Bridget Harvey might actually offer to fix your toaster – alongside her artistic practice, she is the co-organiser of Hackney Fixers, a community group modelled on the Dutch Repair Café initiative that pairs the owners of broken things with volunteers in order to find a solution. But her work as an artist is concerned with what we make, how we make it, and why that matters. ‘What I’m interested in is the human condition – the human psyche,’ she says. ‘How we move through the world, how we interact with objects, and whether their repair is embraced, rejected, or something in between – it is all a really interesting window into how we think, how society operates and how objects define us.’ Her work spans clothing, ceramics, and hybrid objects that embrace both. ‘Blue Jumper 2012–2019’ is about to join V&A’s permanent collection as part of their reconfigured fashion galleries curated around garment lifecycles, but it began life as a second-hand woollen jumper in Harvey’s own wardrobe. When it got damaged by moths, she carried on wearing it, darning the holes in contrasting colours. When the moths got it again, she simply kept darning, and kept wearing it, describing herself as the ‘disobedient owner of a disobedient garment’. Her Mend More jumper is a more direct statement – made as a placard for a climate march, the navy-blue sweater is emblazoned with the words ‘Mend More Bin Less’ on one side and ‘Mend More Buy Less’ on the other, which she appliquéd on, making each letter from yellow fabric scraps left over from other projects. ‘Kintsuglue Plate 2019’ is a commentary on the increasing popularity of the deliberately visible Japanese repair technique Kintsugi among Western repair practitioners. Instead of using the traditional urushi lacquer and gold powder, she has used a Kintsuglue – a copycat product emulating Sugru, a mouldable ‘glue’ that can be manipulated like plasticine for 30 minutes until it sets into a water-proof silicone. With these layers of influences, and not having designed or fabricated the plate nor the Kintsuglue herself, Harvey is exploring notions of authorship within repaired objects. In other pieces, she has patched a blanket with tin cans, and bridged the gap between two halves of a broken bowl with a beadwork section, rendering it repaired but useless. She is playing at the fringes of repair, asking us to question when something is truly broken and when it is really mended.

Hans Tan R is for Repair

Image credit Khoo Guo Jie

Singapore-based designer, educator and curator Hans Tan wants to champion the role of repair in contemporary design. ‘In most Asian cultures, mending is seen as something you do only when you can’t afford to replace something,’ he says. ‘Buying something new, for a festive occasion such Chinese New Year, is important as a symbol of prosperity – and mending is not seen as a profession. I want to reposition repair as an aspirational activity that can generate inspirational outcomes.’ He has started to do that through R is for Repair, an exhibition at the National Design Centre, Singapore earlier this year. Commissioned by DesignSingapore Council, the exhibition proposed that one way to reduce the 0.74 kg of waste the World Bank estimates we each generate every day, is through extending the lives of objects we might otherwise throw away. Tan invited 10 members of the public to submit broken objects and paired them with 10 contemporary designers. Tan gave Tiffany Loy – a Singaporean artist trained in industrial design and textile-weaving – a Calvin Klein tote bag that Arnold Goh bought with his first pay cheque. Once his pride and joy, it had developed holes, and been relegated to use as a grocery bag. She flipped the bag inside out, taking advantage of the undamaged lining, and added a cord mesh – both to strengthen it and to form a handy external pocket. Hunn Wai and Francesca Lanzavecchia, co-founders of Lanzavecchia + Wai, were given a $15 watch with a broken strap that its owner had owned since high school. It had already been replaced with a like-for-like replacement but held sentimental value. ‘We are both quite romantic designers – we seek to re-humanise situations and objects and bring about new behaviours, so we were really happy to be given a timepiece to work on,’ says Wai. ‘A watch is a powerful object – it’s got a lot of narratives and unwittingly becomes part of your identity over a period of time. Even though this was a cheap watch, it was well made and still working.’ They encased the mass-produced timepiece in a bespoke walnut case with brass fixings aligned to the quarter-hour, turning it into a precious clock. ‘Commonly, we perceive sustainable practice as something that comes with inconvenience, cost or sacrifice,’ says Tan. ‘But sustainability can be articulated and practised in an attractive, purposeful way – and as designers we are uniquely placed to reposition repair as aspirational. In each case, we wanted to end up with something that was incrementally, if not fundamentally, better than the original, so that people might see repair, not as an inconvenience, but as something they love to do.’

Read the original article at its source 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.

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.

Repair & Renewal – A Panel Discussion for Toast

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)

.

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.

Faded Glory (ViewPoint Colour)

.
Photo credit:
Marc Hibbert 

Although many designers are seeking slower collaborators in the natural world rather than turning to man or machine, few exercise the same degree of patience that Jiyong Kim’s approach to colour demands. Katie Treggiden meets the designer waiting months for the sun to fade his menswear collection.

While Jiyong Kim’s colleagues at Central Saint Martin’s were busying themselves experimenting with dyes and colourants for their graduate menswear collections, he was patiently waiting for parcels from his mother in South Korea. Having made the decision not to use any chemicals in the processing of his fabrics, Kim started his collection a year early, allowing him to utilise the very slow process of natural fading at the hands of his unlikely collaborators – the sun, the wind, the rain – and, of course, his mother, who oversaw the process in her back garden, sending him photographic updates and shipping pieces to London via DHL once he deemed the process complete. ‘I was very stubborn as I tried to be faithful to the concept of natural fading,’ he says. ‘Instead of using dyes, I experimented with putting fabrics out in a field where they would be exposed to all of nature’s conditions – sun, moon, wind and even rain. It was fascinating to watch the colours change. The result looks as if the fabrics are printed – but actually they were all faded, using a method of pleating and knotting, that creates shapes of its own.’

Motivated by the waste and pollution caused at every stage of fashion design, Kim not only ruled out working with chemical dyes, but also new fabric, sourcing instead antique materials from flea markets and vintage shops in Paris. ‘I have collected vintage clothing for most of my life,’ he says. ‘In fact, the inspiration for this collection came from different fading patterns caused by storage or display.’ Exploring the effect of the sun even further, he researched the ways in which people in hot countries use fabric to prevent sunburn and, inspired by Indian saris, used draping techniques without unnecessary seams to create natural silhouettes that emphasised the natural fading, while also reducing waste.

By drawing our attention to the potential for beauty in what many consider damage, Kim is questioning the cycles of waste to which so many of us unconsciously contribute. ‘I aimed to make a menswear collection that might nudge the fashion industry closer to sustainability,’ he says. His is a new idea, but a simple one. Perhaps fashion can avoid burning out, if it can only perfect the art of fading gracefully.

Find out more about ViewPoint Magazine here.

Read more about Jiyong Kim here.

Yinka Ilori Turns Discarded Chairs into Sculptural Pieces With a Story (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.

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.

Zoe Murphy Turns Unloved Furniture, Wood and Textiles into Vibrant Home Accessories (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 was born and raised in Margate. Both of my parents were school teachers and so we always had a lot of educational textbooks around the house and I seemed to be preoccupied with spending summers learning things from the books and then re-drawing the pictures and text from them into sketchbooks of my own. I was reproducing these little graphic interpretations when I picked up a book all about the environment and the ozone layer. I was so shocked to read about pollution, that I wrote to the Queen about it. (This is not a joke, my parents didn’t know I had done it until I received a reply from a lady-in-waiting at the palace!) I resolved, there and then, to do more to spread the message that I’d read. It seemed really important to me, and my tiny developing mind decided that I could get more people to pay attention if I could translate the information out of that dusty textbook using my own unique skills and talents. I went on to study textile design and screen printing at university, but always retained a strong sense of duty and have therefore always strived to create things that spread awareness about the environment and waste.

How would you describe your furniture?

I screen-print my own hand-drawn designs and patterns onto second-hand wooden furniture and create cheerful, graphic and very colorful furniture pieces such as chests of drawers, tables and sideboards. The storage and surfaces that I create with objects others have discarded have a very mid-century look to them before I apply a lot of pattern and decoration. This is a conscious choice for me as the interiors from that period have very simple and straight or smooth forms and so they support my details and statement print work in a way that doesn’t make a piece feel too busy in the end. My designs have their roots in the time I spent studying to be a textile designer and growing up in Margate. For that reason, I always seem to have a lot of suns, flowers, sunrays, happy shapes and optimistic imagery. It matters to me to make something positive out of the waste I’m using and I know that can be engineered on every level, so even the colors I choose will have a warm and bright feel to them. First and foremost, I want people to feel good when they look at my work, and perhaps only after that discover that it is reused.

What inspired this project?

I like to investigate new design ideas every few months and they are always born from an interest or compulsion that I’m exploring at the time. My latest collection of work has been inspired by one of my design heroes Vera Neumann who was a silk scarf designer in the 1950s. She began life as a painter so when the war finished and parachute silk was an abundant material she began painting her work onto silk instead. Vera would still sign all of her designs, even when they were silk scarves instead of paintings, and is known for popularizing the idea of a ‘signature’ scarf. I was so inspired and impressed by an artist using her creativity in such a practical way but also retaining the value of her artistic identity at the same time, for me it felt an important blend of the two disciplines – art and design. Particularly at a time when a lot of creatives are feeling pressed to make-do and the world is in a state of flux and uncertainty, it’s encouraging to think that even after a great war or shortage of materials it’s possible to pivot and emerge with tenacity and flair. The sets that I’m making for the collection all come from one huge oak table that had a split from age and was heading to the tip. It’s fruited a batch of screen-printed coffee tables and matching candlesticks that celebrate the idea of looking again even in the most difficult of eras.

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

I work exclusively with unwanted and badly damaged wooden furniture, often solid woods but mostly pieces that have been veneered. Although these will have been cheaper to produce in their time and are sometimes more stable than solid wooden pieces, they are nearly always chipped, ripped, stained or broken because of how fragile veneers and the light wood furniture frames are over time. I try to get pieces that are badly damaged, that are about to be thrown away, or that need a lot of repairs. If it’s stylistically out of date too that is a bonus, because of the way that I work I can bring furniture into different centuries and make things look a lot more contemporary. I’m mostly given or find unwanted furniture, it’s still surprising how much people leave on roadsides and throw away – my most recent collection was made from a table that was about to be thrown into a chipper at a recycling centre.

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

I was campaigning and caring for climate change from a young age, and wrote my university dissertation on consumption patterns and how to steer them in a market to make for more sustainable activity. In 2008, when I was challenged with creating my degree show (to showcase my print work) I knew I wanted the entire collection to be reused and made from waste. That’s when I started screen printing onto wood and furniture and even wedding dress silk for soft furnishings – eventually my entire show was made from waste.

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

I start by carefully removing and dismantling a piece that I’ve chosen to use, stripping the existing lacquer, unscrewing all of the components and restoring anything I hope to use again. I will remodel most of my furniture pieces by adding new legs, handles and sometimes splitting the piece into different sized units to get the maximum use out of the material. It feels very important to me that all of the forms look like they have come from the same place even if they start out looking very different. Unwanted furniture as a waste material has a better chance if I am able to pull it in to a recognized aesthetic that people trust and value and that I’ve worked hard to brand. So I strip back a unit to its most simple form and then prime it for printing. Once I have designed something I’m happy with, the silk screens are used to apply layers and layers of print work onto only certain parts of a piece. This means being able to choose parts that are very badly damaged to cover with the pattern and leaving the rest of the remaining wood to be celebrated. When the print is applied, all parts are revarnished and then reassembled with any new wooden components added (these are made by a woodturner local to me). The final touches are to line or fabric the inside of any storage units to make sure that every part of a piece feels exciting and special to discover. And then, much like Vera, I sign my creation!

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

Because I know that every time wood is stripped or painted it takes a little more of the material away and reduces its possibilities for the next time it might be recycled, it’s always my aim to decorate and print onto as little of a piece as possible while still moving it on enough to be found refreshing for a consumer. Everything is screwed together, printed with water-based paints, and lacquered with a durable varnish, so that it will last for as long as possible and then finally will have enough original material for it to be reused again. It takes an incredible amount of time and care to reuse waste and I’m of the opinion that the application of craftsmanship can elevate any material. I use my researched and designed print work to add value and rescue a material that isn’t considered useful. I aim to deliver an emotional connection and delight to the people who buy my work, so that they will care for it properly and keep it for longer than the average piece of furniture.

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

It would have been at a very very small age. My favorite thing to do as a little girl was to make dresses for my Barbies and furniture for my doll house. None of them were made from things I had bought because the thought didn’t even occur to me – why would I use new things when there was so much already available? I clearly remember making a set of living room chairs for my doll house, padded and upholstered, from toilet rolls. The buzz I got from taking something that really was the lowliest material and fit for the bin and turning it into something so useful and domestic, was unmatched. Giving things a second chance at being valuable made me feel valuable, and that feeling hasn’t ever gone away.

How have people reacted to this project?

The response to my work from others has always been an emotional one. I imagine it comes from the narrative created when you see pictures and drawings on things that often are just a color or a surface. I make work to express how I feel and what I care about, so it can still be a surprise for me how much people emotionally invest in the things that I make. It nearly always makes people smile or exclaim something, and the extra benefit is when they find out that it’s made from something that was ready to be thrown away. The polarity of that is always special and memorable for people and is likely a reason that all waste reuse has an impact beyond that which a new material on its own can generate. The legacy of a product makes it all the more interesting, as waste has lots of lives before it. I pour a lot of myself into every piece I make and thank the way that I market myself and my work for that. I talk and share a lot with the people who buy from me and I know that when they look at something I have made, see the creative as much as the creation. It’s another aspect that helps the waste I chose to reuse, as I’m determined to package myself up with the product as a way of giving the best chance of striking a light in a customer.

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

What I think is really helpful is how much awareness has grown around the issues of climate change. The primary objective is to create with better and non-toxic materials and to use up what exists already so that more doesn’t need to be produced. It’s still novel and notable to recycle instead of using raw materials in product design and I’m looking forward to a day when it’s just considered standard to look for a reusable option first before using something new. As a designer it can be more fussy and time consuming to use waste rather than buying in big predictable sheets of material, but educators and informed creatives are drawing attention to the fact that ongoing consumption is a zero-sum game. If we are going to move forward in a way that isn’t destructive for ourselves or the planet, we’re going to have to make creative accommodations, and that’s definitely something that is talked about more than it used to be.

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

As material scarcity starts to increase – either through increased demand from populations or reduction in the amount of raw materials still available – I have no doubt that we will all get more creative with our production cycles through necessity alone. It seems likely that some dramatic environmental activity will also remind consumers of what the status quo is doing to our resources as well, and so it’s likely that there will be a shift in concern that will start to hopefully move us over to using waste in production more. It will be great to see technology and connectivity play a bigger part in reallocating materials, and all the while our systems and apps develop there’s a big opportunity to use that connectivity to deliver information about resources and what is available. Imagine a time before eBay, and think how much was thrown away because we couldn’t find someone who wanted that exact item. It’s beautiful! I would love to see increased connection providing more circular solutions like this.

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

The Human Instinct to Create panel (London Craft Week 2020)

In November 2020 I was invited to chair a panel discussion on The Human Instinct to Create for London Craft Week 2020.

The panel included Kanupriya Verma, CEO of Ikai Asai, with Ikai Asai collaborators Matthew Sasa, Noor Salma, Ayush Kasliwal, and Dharmesh Jadeja.

Photo credit: Ikai Asai

I’m dreaming of a waste-free Christmas (Crafts Magazine)

Waste-Free-Christmas

.

Some 114,000 tonnes of plastic packaging will be thrown away and not recycled this Christmas, along with four million portions of turkey dinner, eight million Christmas trees and, according to Defra, enough paper to gift-wrap the entire island of Guernsey. If all those stats have got your tinsel in a twist, fear not – there are plenty of ways to embrace the festive season without compromising your eco-ethics.

Waste-Free-Christmas

Christmas trees are traditionally cut down, used for just a few weeks and then dumped, emitting harmful greenhouse gases as they decompose. Some local garden centres offer replanting services for rooted trees and Giles Miller Studio is launching the Goodness Tree on Kickstarter (kickstarter.com, £65). Made from corrugated cardboard, it is expected to last at least five years and can be fully recycled. For added feel-good factor, the trees are assembled by those without work, providing vital income when it is needed most. Any profits will be donated to homelessness charity Shelter.

Waste-Free-Christmas
Photo: Caro Weiss

When it comes to wrapping, take a tip from the Japanese and embrace the art of furoshiki – or cloth wrapping. The practice dates back thousands of years in Japan and is now gaining worldwide popularity as an eco-friendly alternative to wrapping papers, with shiny, glittery coatings that make them almost impossible to recycle. Laura Spring’s Fabric Wraps (lauraspring.co.uk, from £9.50) are designed for just this purpose – or use a silk scarf or a screen-printed tea-towel that can double up as an extra gift.

Waste-Free-Christmas

At least half of us will receive an unwanted gift this Christmas, so avoid yours being regifted, donated, or worse still, joining the 5% of Christmas gifts that go straight into the bin, and choose wisely. Think about an experience, such as an embroidery masterclass with textile artist Ekta Kaul – offered virtually or in-person in her London studio (ektakaul.com, from £70) – or a throwing course at The Leach Pottery in Cornwall’s St Ives (leachpottery.com, from £335 for three days).

Waste-Free-Christmas
Photo: Camilla Greenwell

Or go fully circular and buy a gift made from waste. Aimee Bollu combines the ‘detritus of the urban landscape’ with slip-cast or hand-turned vessels, elevating street litter to objet d’art (aimeebollu.com, from £150 for a set of three).

Waste-Free-Christmas

Bethan Gray’s Exploring Eden collection, created in collaboration with Nature Squared, includes the Pearl Shell Paper Weight (bethangray.com, £660) hand-crafted from the mother-of-pearl shell threads leftover from river pearl cultivation. Netherlands-based Studio Lindey Cafsia and Studio Carbon have designed a series of five cubical objects called Morphs (adorno.design, from £79), which can be used as anything from candle holders to key trays – they are made from a bio-composite, the main ingredient of which is cow dung, but don’t worry, they are odour-free. And because they are unglazed, they can be broken down and composted or remade at the end of their lives.

Waste-Free-Christmas

For more ideas, those in London can pop into The Home of Sustainable Things (thehost.store) in Islington, where they will find Studio Blast’s Myceliated Vase (£125), made from take-away cups that have been digested using mycelium – the thread-like feeding network of a fungus. Try one of the zero waste shops popping up all over the UK – from Earth Food Love in Totnes to the Zero Green Shop in Bristol and Store Brighton on the south coast – where you can often find locally-made gifts alongside their mainstay of dried goods. Or explore German online platform Eyes Wide (eyeswi.de) where you can filter products by ethical concern.

Shop mindfully, wrap with care, and rethink your tree – and there’s every chance you can enjoy a waste-free Christmas this year. Just make sure you eat all that leftover turkey.

You can buy Issue 285 of Crafts Magazine here.

 Or click here to subscribe to Crafts Magazine.

Jacqueline de la Fuente Turns Waste Paper + Cardboard Into Sculptural Vases (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

.

Jacqueline-de-a-Fuente

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 England, Surrey but my parents are both from the Philippines and came over to study nursing in the 1970s. When I was eight years old my parents decided to move us to the Philippines where we lived for two years. Growing up I preferred being outdoors than drawing, but discovered my creative streak when it came to my art lessons – I was always doing more than was asked, pushing the boundaries, but not really noticing it at the time. Having lived in both countries I was aware of how different they were from a young age. We lived comfortably in both places, but in the Philippines, I was much more aware of the pollution and how the poorer areas suffered environmentally. I guess this has subconsciously stuck with me. Moving back to the UK, I went on to pursue interior design on a foundation course but without any planning, I fell into textile design. I went onto Winchester School of Art where I specialized in weave design – again without any real planning! This gave me an understanding of how fabric was made and the labour involved. After graduating I decided to travel to Australia where I ended up working as a weave and print designer. I then travelled to the weaving mills in China, and that was a definite moment where I became aware of the impact the textile industry was having on the environment – how the dyes were disposed of and the process the yarns would go through.

Jacqueline-de-la-Fuente

How would you describe your work?

My work is designed to turn discarded unwanted paper into artful decorative, ornamental pieces for people to enjoy and have in their home. My vases and sculptures are hand-sculpted, using paper and card waste which is turned into a paper clay. Each vase or sculpture I make is a piece of art to be treasured. At the same time, they have an organic feel to them with the combination of structure and boldness.

Jacqueline-de-la-Fuente

What inspired this project?

My passion for ceramics, objects, sculptures and vases initially inspired this project. Being a full-time mum to two young kids meant going to a ceramics studio wasn’t easily accessible for me. At the same time, having a family made me aware of how much we throw away such as packaging of kids’ toys, cereal boxes, letters, egg cartons… One day after researching papier-mâché for my kids, I came across a lady who was making theatre props out of ‘paper clay’. Her version was more like a soft paste that you had to use over chicken wire for structure and she was using tissue instead of paper. This instantly clicked with me and inspired me to think about how I could use our paper and card waste and turn it into clay. It dawned on me just how very little we pay attention to these materials and I was curious to see if I could prolong their use by changing their form and aesthetic.

Jacqueline-de-la-Fuente

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

I source paper and card waste from local cafes, shops and what we throw away in our own home. This is from packaging, letters, newspapers, egg cartons – all of which are discarded almost instantly after their short use. To make the clay, I turn these into paper pulp and mix them with flour, adhesive and a small amount of joint compound so very similar to papier-mâché. I like the idea that these materials go through less of a process than normal recycling. Very little energy apart from my own is used to turn waste paper into a new aesthetic.

Jacqueline-de-la-Fuente

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

As much as working in the design industry made me aware of the materials we use and the processes that create waste, it is becoming a mum that has given me the motivation. From food waste to items the kids grow out off or no longer want to play with, the realization of just how much we end up taking to the charity shops, selling on eBay or throwing away became overwhelming and I felt I had to do something about it.

Jacqueline-de-la-Fuente

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

To make the paper clay, I first shred the card and paper by hand. This is then soaked in water until it’s softened enough to blend it, turning into paper pulp. To hold the paper pulp together, I mix in a small amount of adhesive, joint compound and flour to the pulp which makes it into a sturdier malleable clay. The process uses very little water and hardly any clay goes to waste. I can pretty much start making it into a shape straight away. Unlike normal clay, each part of the object needs to be made individually as it’s still quite soft. I sometimes use glass jars or recycled objects I have at home to help start off a shape or base and then use my hands to organically build up the desired shape I have in mind. By adapting the recipe and using paper and card instead of tissue for the clay, it makes it more malleable and easier to mold into shape. Some of my vases are left naturally or I paint them with water-based paint which are from sustainable companies.

Jacqueline-de-la-Fuente

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

If I’m honest my vases have not got to the stage yet of being discarded so I don’t know how well they break down. As they are not watertight, I am sure that by wetting them again, the material would turn back into clay but it won’t go back to its original material or paper again.

Jacqueline-de-la-Fuente

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

Seeing the vases I made for the first time was very exciting and I was amazed that I had created a product that was very similar to ceramics in terms of how it looks and feels in the hand.

Jacqueline-de-la-Fuente

How have people reacted to this project?

When I first made my vases it took a while for me to share them as I was hesitant about whether people would understand why I was using paper and card waste to make decorative objects for interiors and home – I was also worried that the materials I was using would cheapen them, even though the craftsmanship is the same when working with hand-building clay. The moment I shared them on social media, I had the most amazing response. The first (and only!) three vases I had made sold instantly and from there I started getting orders and interest from all sorts of people even the amazing interior design duo 2LG Studio. I now have a great following and lots of interest in the process of how I make the final product. People seem to be excited to have my vases or sculptures in their home or to give them to family or friends as gifts.

Jacqueline-de-la-Fuente

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

People are more aware of sustainability, buying or sourcing locally to cut down their carbon footprints. With our current situation with climate change and COVID-19, I think people are becoming more aware of waste and reusing what they can, buying less and making more considered purchases. By looking at how things are made and materials, people are more positive and accepting towards waste being used in products or as a new material.

Jacqueline-de-la-Fuente

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

As our resources dwindle and people become more aware of waste and the impact on the environment, recycling discarded waste into innovative materials is the way forward. We can see it now in the various creative industries that are beginning to do this, for example, plastic bottles made into handbags or into tables and chairs. They are so many exciting new products out there made purely from recycled waste. I hope this can continue in other areas.

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

The Age of Waste: five designers modelling a ‘circular economy’ (The Observer)

.

We name epochs of history for the materials that define them, from the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages to the hundred years that straddle the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries, known as ‘the Plastics Age’. As the finite resources of our planet become ever scarcer, enterprising designers are turning to rubbish as an increasingly abundant raw material. Katie Treggiden, author of Wasted: When Trash Becomes Treasure, considers whether our next era might be defined by waste.

Two-thirds of the resources we take from the earth are discarded. We are throwing away, burning and burying the same valuable materials we have gone to such great lengths to excavate to the extent that copper can now be found in higher concentrations in the ash leftover from the incineration of rubbish than in traditionally mined ore. In the UK, we each produce 2.37 pounds of rubbish every day (it’s almost double that in America) and for every sack we generate, another 70 sacks are created in the processes that bring about its contents. 47% of the virgin materials used by the fashion industry don’t even make it into the clothes on the high street. Approximately one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, while we cut down rainforests to make space to grow more. And by 2050, it is estimated that the ocean will contain more plastic than fish – that’s calculated by weight and most plastic is pretty light. A gyre of waste in the Pacific Ocean is already three times the size of France.

But it’s not all bad news. Ever since the Industrial Revolution, we have been accelerating a linear take-make-waste model that assumes an infinite supply of resources. Now, a new circular economy proposes something more sustainable. One of its key tenets is the notion of keeping materials in use. In a linear model, waste is the end point. In a circular model, it can represent the beginning of something new. Of course, we must reduce, if not eliminate, waste in new products and processes, but we also have an opportunity to take the legacy of 200 years of linear production and turn it into the starting point for meaningful, long-lasting products – and that’s exactly what a new generation of innovative designers is doing. It would be a stretch to suggest that their products might save the planet, but perhaps they can offer inspiration for a different perspective. If we can reframe our own ideas about waste as they have, we will have taken another step in the journey towards a thriving circular economy – one that can meet the needs of the present, while leaving the planet in a state that allows future generations to meet their needs too.

Post Adidas

Photo: Ronald Smits

When Adidas approached the Rotterdam-based designer Simone Post to recreate her graduate project (a collaboration with Dutch wax print company Vlisco to create rugs from their misprinted fabric), she encouraged them to look instead at their own waste streams. They wanted hardwearing rugs for the interiors of their shops. The difficulty was, whereas Vlisco manufacture in Holland and therefore generate waste in Holland, Adidas’ supply chain is global – or ‘big, far away and difficult to see,’ as Post puts it. She hit upon the idea of using post-consumer waste instead, calling the project Post Adidas. The brand made 409 million pairs of trainers between 2008 and 2018, so she didn’t have to look very far. ‘Sports shoes are made from multiple materials glued together – textiles, metal, soft plastics, hard plastics – and that needs to change because it makes them very difficult to recycle, she says. ‘But as a designer, you work with what you’ve got.’ She collaborated with I:CO, a German company, specialising in the collection, reuse and recycling of used clothing and shoes, that had already developed a method of shredding shoes. Post decided to sort the fragments into two colourways, light and dark. More complex separation is beyond the scope of current technologies, but this simple move enabled her to create complex graphic patterns – the melange of different colours is only discernible on closer inspection. The rugs are pressed, with a binding agent, into geometric shapes. ‘I never stop being amazed by the fresh, perfect-looking thing that emerges from what was considered waste,’ she says. She hopes to eventually use the process to make sports shoes for a fully circular product. Having been told at art school that ‘fashion is inherently unsustainable, so you don’t have to bother,’ Post believes things are starting to shift. ‘My generation and the generation after us really want to bring about change,’ she says. ‘There is so much leftover material that we cannot really ignore it anymore – and there are now so many initiatives that using waste to improve the system is almost becoming the obvious choice.’

Plastic Baroque

Photo: Rory Mulvey

Even recycling generates waste. London-based designer James Shaw’s collection of furniture is made from the sweepings that are left on a plastic recycling facility’s floor after the processing of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) milk bottles and other food packaging. With an extrusion gun of his own design, Shaw melts down the plastic pellets and squirts the melted plastic out into Play-Doh-like strands. With these, he ‘paints in three dimensions’ to create each piece. ‘I don’t really believe in waste – it shouldn’t exist,’ he says. ‘For my generation of designers, this kind of thinking is just implicit. We have so many high-quality waste products and materials that we are currently doing silly things with, like burying them in the ground or letting them escape into the oceans. It just seems logical to use them.’ The collection is named Plastic Baroque – by combining the word ‘plastic’, suggestive of cheapness, disposability and ubiquity, with the word ‘baroque’, evocative of luxury, opulence and excess, Shaw is attempting to challenge perceptions, elevate plastic’s value and inspire positive solutions to the environmental crisis. But it’s not to everyone’s taste and Shaw admits he is courting mixed responses. ‘I am up for things being provocative or disruptive, but at the same time I am chasing beauty,’ he says. ‘Some people really get it, and can see the beauty in it, but some people find it very ugly.’ Despite the negative reactions, Shaw believes attitudes are starting to change: ‘Whatever happens, waste will become much more widely used as a raw material,’ he argues. ‘Whether you are predicting “climate Armageddon” or business as usual, resources are becoming more scarce and we cannot keep relying on extraction for the materials we use in everyday life.’

Remember me

Photo: Saint James

As its name suggests, the Rememberme chair, by Tobias Juretzek, wasn’t inspired by a desire to use fashion waste, but out of an interest in the nature and value of our personal relationships with the objects we own. Describing each piece as a ‘time capsule of living history,’ he says: ‘Characteristics like details, colours and craftsmanship remain visible and create a vibrant product language. Clothes can encapsulate moments and adventures. My furniture transports these memories and gives them a new expression.’ However, that’s not to say the Berlin-based designer isn’t motivated by the environmental imperative – he has been making things out of the things other people throw away all his life. ‘As a child, I never considered waste as only waste,’ he says. ‘I often experienced the magic of turning discarded objects into something new.’ Today he works with an Italian recycling company to source unwanted clothes and with Italian furniture manufacturer Casamania & Horn to saturate them with a binding agent and compress them into chair-shaped moulds. It is still a very hands-on, and therefore small-scale, process, but he has big plans. He would like to scale up and utilise the pre-consumer waste streams of the fashion industry. ‘With its unconventional appearance, the chair serves as an ambassador for the value of discarded or unused materials,’ he says. ‘Even though sustainability is such a hot topic these days, a decrease in consumption is not noticeable. In order to create a more sustainable and progressive world, everybody needs to be involved. The Rememberme Chair challenges people to think differently.’

Exploring Eden

Photo: Rory Mulvey

Bethan Gray’s Exploring Eden collection of furniture and accessories – created in collaboration with sustainable surface specialist Nature Squared – uses shells and feathers that are discarded in food production. ‘As long as people are eating shellfish and poultry, this waste is being created,’ she says. ‘It just makes sense to find a use for it.’ Bright pink scallop shells are embedded into black eco-resin to showcase their zig-zag cross-section in a striking desk. ‘The bold, graphic pattern is amazing,’ says Gray. ‘Just like something I would have designed, but completely natural.’ Nature Squared were already using the brown part of the pen shell but hadn’t yet found a use for its iridescent nib. ‘It’s a black rainbow,’ enthuses Gray. ‘We just had to use it.’ And use it they did, creating a fluted coffee table, a lounge chair and a paperweight. The project is part of a wider environmental stewardship programme, so the additional income fishermen make from selling these shells is invested into replacing plastic nets with more ecological ones. In her London studio, Gray has always designed high-quality, long-lasting furniture and ensured her materials are ethically sourced, but this project was a catalyst for working in a more circular way. ‘In some ways I’m quite late to the party,’ she admits. ‘But working with these materials has changed the way I think about everything. Once your eyes are open, you rethink everything – this project has made me think differently. More consciously. Less wastefully.’

If Chairs Could Talk

Photo: Rory Mulvey

Growing up in a working-class family on a council estate in North London, designer Yinka Ilori was used to a ‘make do and mend’ approach to clothes and distinctly remembers arriving at school in a uniform two sizes too big that his mum assured him he would ‘grow into’. However, it was on his first trip to Nigeria – where his parents were born and raised – that he really became aware of reuse and recycling. ‘People were using old concrete blocks or tyres as seating or previously worn fabrics for upholstery,’ he says. ‘It was fascinating to see them using the everyday objects around them as part of designed objects.’ He studied furniture design at London Metropolitan University, where a brief to combine two discarded chairs into one reignited his passion for reuse. ‘Seeing two chairs from two different worlds come together to create a new narrative blew my mind,’ he says. ‘I suddenly saw chairs, not just as seats, but as objects that could have power and depth in society and perhaps even change perspectives.’ For Ilori, the use of waste in his work is also about more than just the environmental impact – it is about storytelling. Inspired by the Nigerian parable, ‘no matter how long the neck of a giraffe is, it still can’t see the future,’ his breakthrough project ‘If Chairs Could Talk’ told the stories of five childhood friends. ‘I grew up in a society where people are pre-judged,’ he says. ‘Of those five friends, some are famous actors, some are lawyers, and some are stuck inside a criminal justice system they’ve lost all faith in. I wanted to tell their stories.’ Ilori is now working on larger scale architectural projects, but is still concerned with reuse – his Colour Palace for Dulwich Picture Gallery was dismantled and repurposed into planter kits for school children and he now has a commitment to legacy written into his contracts, arguing that there is little point in using recycled materials if they can’t go back into the circular economy afterwards. ‘For the first time ever, I am really hopeful,’ he says. ‘The conversations I am having now are positive, empowering and fair. I am excited for the future.’

To read the article at its source click here.

 

Ella Doran Turns Waste Plastic into an Upholstered Chair With a Message (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

Turn-Waste-Plastic-into-Upholstered-Chair

.

Award-winning London-based designer Ella Doran set up her homewares business in the late 1990s, quickly winning fans and plaudits for her pioneering application of photography-based images and patterns onto functional, household products. Her involvement in the RSA’s Great Recovery project – and specifically, the restoration of a sofa that was bound for landfill simply because its fire safety label had been removed – sparked a renewed interest in, and commitment to, the circular economy. We spoke to her about her latest project, the Clean Up Plastic Camo Chair.

Turn-Waste-Plastic-into-Upholstered-Chair

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 creative 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 learnt 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.

Turn-Waste-Plastic-into-Upholstered-Chair

How would you describe your Clean Up Plastic Camo Chair?

The Clean Up Plastic Camo chair is a one-off piece. The story of the chair is as much a part of the design process as the piece itself and is aimed at highlighting the wicked problems of plastics in our oceans and furniture going to landfill. It’s a truly collaborative project. I teamed up with Urban Upholstery (Andrea and Patrizia) for the re-making of the chair. We ran several live demonstration workshops and invited the public and local school children to watch Andrea as he rebuilt the chair after stripping it back to its frame. The children were very engaged from the outset, particularly as the chair had been found abandoned on the streets of Hackney, and they were fascinated to learn how much goes into re-upholstering a chair!

Turn-Waste-Plastic-into-Upholstered-Chair

The upholstery textile for the chair was born out of another collaboration with fellow designer Sophie Thomas who led the Great Recovery project at the RSA. Sophie has been collecting waste plastic washed up by the sea from beaches around the world and we worked together to create artful arrangements of her almost jewel-like pieces. I then photographed the arrangements to create the textile design. The design unintentionally echoes that of a Terrazzo floor and it’s only after closer inspection you realize what the pieces actually are, giving the design a great back story that balances the negatives of plastic pollution with a new optimistic message of reuse.

What inspired this project?

My fellow collaborators and I are passionate about the circular economy, through education and advocating for re-use and repair rather than recycling and/or landfill. I have always brought attention to the value of the materials I work with, and now I want to inspire more transparency across the whole textile supply chain, as well as helping to end the use of harmful chemicals in the making process and ensuring that all workers have fair pay and rights. The re-design of an abandoned chair helps illustrate how creativity can keep furniture out of landfill. For this project, we wanted to shine a light on the wastefulness of plastics. That’s not to say that all plastic is bad, but single-use plastic should be banned and our oceans certainly need to stop being the unlucky recipients of our waste!

Turn-Waste-Plastic-into-Upholstered-Chair

What waste materials is the chair made from, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them?

The chair plays with a traditional Chesterfield buttoned-back feature. We made every button from discarded plastic bags found on the streets of London. The back of the chair was deliberately left open to reveal the craftsmanship and intricate work involved in the re-making of the piece. The seat was re-sprung using hand-tied coil springs, with FR coir fibre, horsehair, recycled wool felt and calico. The legs have been finished with an acid-blue vinyl fabric from off-cuts saved from the bin, supremely sewn to fit like tights, and the underside of the chair was completed using bright red plastic netting also found left on the street. The printed velvet is recycled from PET bottles. The design is printed onto specialist paper using water-based inks and then applied to the fabric through heat and compression known as dye sublimation. This process avoids using any water in the finishing of the textile.

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

I have made or been part of making ‘products’ for over 25 years – thousands of products in total, in volume and design through both my own manufacture and that of my licensors. I am proud of the majority of what I have made, but there was a period when I realized that I needed to slow down and refocus on what my core purpose was and what I was applying my designs to. That was over 10 years ago when I started to engage with re-use and the practice of re-designing old furniture pieces (namely chairs and tables) alongside my textile homeware collections. Now my company is working with manufacturers and collaborators to close as many loops as possible in the stream of materials and the manufacturing processes we share together. We’ve shifted from holding stock to only making to order. We offer a take-back service for our made-to-order roller blinds, which means when you order new ones from us, we can pick up your old blinds and ensure the different components are separated for re-use and recycling. Global economies have been built on stories, and in many cases it’s time we told new ones – more inclusive and more circular ones, which involve less carbon-producing and more carbon-sequestering. And for my company, that means doing more with less.

Turn-Waste-Plastic-into-Upholstered-Chair

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

Exhibiting the ‘Clean Up Plastic Camo’ chair in September during Shoreditch Design Triangle [part of the London Design Festival] was exciting. Working in collaboration brings a unique ‘magic’ to the work. This is a one-off chair, and our dream is to have it live in a museum rather than in a private home, so it’s message reaches as many people as possible.

Turn-Waste-Plastic-into-Upholstered-Chair

What happens to the chair at the end of its life? Can it go back into the circular economy again?

Yes, it can have another life, the recycled velvet will most probably be the first thing to wear out, and that could then be replaced, and the fabric could be recycled again.

Turn-Waste-Plastic-into-Upholstered-Chair

How have people reacted to this project?

We had a great response during the festival. Visitors marveled at the work that has gone into each aspect of the chair. And I’ve had enquiries about the velvet textile, but at this stage we are not looking to offer it by the meter.

Turn-Waste-Plastic-into-Upholstered-Chair

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

This is a really exciting time, everything is shifting! Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen that community can be powerful, adaptive and caring. We have all felt the strength and value of our social economy and community, and the prioritizing of everyone’s good health and wellbeing. I find this really energizing. I know from my research that household recycling in general has had a massive increase during COVID-19 and, although this is good news, what we also want to ensure is that those materials do actually get recycled. At the moment too much of it still gets burned for energy or shipped abroad. And this is where designers can help shift the system, by working within industry and designing closed loops or products for disassembly to enable material recovery at the end of each product’s life. Sophie Thomas and I are part of a new multi-disciplinary creative collective called URGE, working with organizations to envision and enact radical responses to the climate emergency. Our aim is to connect the thinking with the doing, and identify the actions needed to make a difference and change out-dated systems.

Turn-Waste-Plastic-into-Upholstered-Chair

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

That is a very broad question! It used to only be ‘dust’ that we threw away, hence the name dustbin! But one human’s waste is another human’s treasure and I think the future is bright. Ingenuity and creativity will lead the way for new and recycled materials that are more in-line with regenerative systems. And we are going to see more bio-based plastics and mycelium products coming onto the market. I found Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics a very inspiring read. If there is one positive thing that has come out of the pandemic, it’s the heightened awareness of the climate emergency. If everyone makes little changes, that can all add up to a lot!

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

Yair Neuman Turns Waste Eyewear Lenses Into Lighting Collection (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

Turn-Waste-Eyewear-Lenses-Into-Lighting-Collection

.

Yair Neuman is a London-based designer and entrepreneur, exploring sustainable design opportunities, while minimizing the environmental impact of everything he produces and conceives. His most recent collection was developed in collaboration with eyewear brand Cubitts. As with most eyewear stores, Cubitts’ frames are displayed with dummy ‘plano’ lenses that are replaced with prescription lenses once purchased by the customer. The average high-street eyeglasses store discards 200 such lenses every week. Neuman is turning these lenses, otherwise destined for landfill, into polycarbonate sheet materials, from which he has created a striking lighting collection called Lens Light, recently launched during the London Design Festival.

Turn-Waste-Eyewear-Lenses-Into-Lighting-Collection
Photo: Mark Cocksedge

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 jeweler mother, with her artistic view, and my surgeon father, with his practical precision, provided me with a good balance of creativity versus execution to start with. Then studying design in Eindhoven and in London has helped me build my practice around sustainability, which is common to the majority of designers in my age group. I just don’t think there is any other way.

Turn-Waste-Eyewear-Lenses-Into-Lighting-Collection
Photo: Mark Cocksedge

How would you describe your Lens Light collection?

The collection is a representation of many labor hours and represents just the first page of a story about waste in the eyewear industry. It also shows that there are great brands like Cubitts, with whom I collaborated for this collection, that are working towards a real change.

Turn-Waste-Eyewear-Lenses-Into-Lighting-Collection

What inspired this project?

The first time I worked on eyewear pieces was at Ron Arad’s brand pq in 2010. Being involved in the industry on and off since then I witnessed wastage that is hidden from the costumer’s eye. This project started when I realised there was an opportunity to use that waste as free, high-quality material that I could repurpose into something else.

Turn-Waste-Eyewear-Lenses-Into-Lighting-Collection
Photo: Yair Neuman

What waste materials is the collection made from, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them?

The most polluting part of eyewear making is the lens waste. This is what I work with and use to create my pieces from. All the clear display lenses installed in eyewear frames in shops are replaced with consumers’ prescription lenses when the frames are sold. Despite being made out of optical grade polycarbonate, these clear display lenses are essentially disposable and go straight to landfill. The nice thing I have discovered is that if an optician or store is willing to collaborate and keep these lenses for me, all I need to do is to collect them and transform them into something else. It is a simple supply chain.

Turn-Waste-Eyewear-Lenses-Into-Lighting-Collection

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

The general feeling in the design circles I move in is that we’ve taken enough out of this poor little planet. We have dug, cut, pumped and extracted for generations. There is, of course, some value in processing virgin materials, but with so much that can be reclaimed, repurposed and upcycled, sometimes it just makes more sense to do that, no?

Turn-Waste-Eyewear-Lenses-Into-Lighting-Collection
Photo: Mark Cocksedge

What processes does the waste material have to undergo to become the finished product?

I start by composing patterns using the lenses’ original shapes and then flatten them either individually or fused into sheets, depending on the designed piece. Then I use a combination of heat, pressure, jigs, moulds and freehand sculpting to create the final designs.

Turn-Waste-Eyewear-Lenses-Into-Lighting-Collection
Photo: Mark Cocksedge

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

This is such a good question as that very moment was probably the most inspiring moment in the work. This usually happens in projects, I find, and if the feeling is positive enough it can really help to overcome hurdles later on in the process and carry the project all the way to completion.

Turn-Waste-Eyewear-Lenses-Into-Lighting-Collection
Photo: Jonathan Minster

What happens to the product at the end of its life? Can it go back into the circular economy again?

Making objects that are mostly static, such lamps works well with the delicacy of the material and supports longevity. At the very end of the product’s life, there will still be the problem of not being able to recycle large plastic objects easily. However, I’m hoping to collaborate with other makers who specialise in processing rougher plastic parts into raw material that could be repurposed the lamps. Some of them already operate in the UK.

Turn-Waste-Eyewear-Lenses-Into-Lighting-Collection
Photo: Mark Cocksedge

How have people reacted to this project?

It’s very reassuring that many people from within the industry are reaching out to me as a result of seeing the work. It shows that the time is right for a change and the professional world is ready for it.

Turn-Waste-Eyewear-Lenses-Into-Lighting-Collection
Photo: Jonathan Minster

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

I notice it’s a topic of conversation and sometimes people are proud to have something made out of waste material. My hope is that over time it will just become common sense rather than being something special.

Turn-Waste-Eyewear-Lenses-Into-Lighting-Collection
Photo: Mark Cocksedge

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

Production facilities are becoming increasingly automated, which is allowing for detailed control over each step of the process. I can already start to see how this will enable producers to separate, control and reintroduce waste back into the system, overcoming logistical challenges that we’ve been struggling with so far.

Turn-Waste-Eyewear-Lenses-Into-Lighting-Collection
Photo: Mark Cocksedge

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

A New Standard of Colour (ViewPoint Colour)

.

As the slow process of natural dyeing provides an alternative to fast fashion for many emerging designers, Audrey Louise Reynolds might be joining their commitment to all-natural ingredients and non-toxic processes, but she’s not playing by their rules. Katie Treggiden meets the mutineer hoping to start a revolution in colour.

Audrey_Louise_Reynolds

With phrases such as ‘ban plastic bags’, ‘eat less meat’ and ‘fuck Trump’ emblazoned down the arms of her SS2020 ‘Environmental’ collection, Audrey Louise Reynolds is no stranger to wearing her politics on her sleeve. ‘I live and breathe my approach,’ she says. ‘It’s all an extension of me – I’ve woken up every morning and fought for the same thing for as long as I remember.’ Dubbed ‘the fashion world’s artisanal dyer’ by The New York Times, the Brooklyn-based natural dye advocate spends her days creating fabric and fashion for private clients, designers such as Rogan, Loomstate and Wendy Nichol, and her own collections, fighting for ‘a new standard of colour’ in the process. ‘It isn’t hard to save avocado stones in the freezer until you have enough to dye something pink,’ she says, arguing that such practices should be scaled up to provide solutions to everything from global food waste to an increasingly toxic fashion industry. ‘If you wouldn’t put it in your body, you shouldn’t put it on your body,’ she says. ‘People use organic lotions, eat organic food, and yet wear toxic exercise fabrics to sweat into and dermally absorb crazy chemicals. My approach needs to become the new normal.’

Audrey_Louise_Reynolds

While her contemporaries are using botanical dyes to create rustic, earthly colours, Reynolds is the rebel in their midst, focusing instead on a neon palette that appeals to her youthful audience. ‘The hippie hues of soft yellows, mushroomy browns, and onion-skin greens, though beautiful, have cast a stigma that this is all that can be achieved,’ she says. ‘My goal has always been to harmlessly achieve the brightest shades possible.’ Designed in collaboration with a group of friends to combat the winter blues, her AW19 collection mashes up references from early 1990s rave culture to ‘kindergarten vibe’ hand-cut fringes. It is contradictory and confrontational, and yet represents a dynamic and inclusive approach to sustainability.

Audrey_Louise_Reynolds

These clothes are not worthy; they’re fun, celebratory and positive. Several pieces feature the letters ‘PMA’ – ‘positive mental attitude’ – and perhaps that is exactly what these uncertain times call for. ‘Every day, I collect plants or earth and draw with them while I have my coffee,’ says Reynolds. ‘This reminds me to be creative, playful and thankful that I get to go to work every day, fight for something I believe in, and know that I’m making a difference.’ If that’s not a manifesto for the future, I don’t know what is.

Audrey_Louise_Reynolds

Find out more about ViewPoint Magazine here.

Thinking outside The Box (Crafts Magazine)

All copy as provided to the publication.
Photo credits: The Box

Making It | The Box, Plymouth

From 29 September 2020 | Reviewed by Katie Treggiden

I went to school just up the road from what is now the Box. On a bad day, I would sneak out at lunch time and climb the stairs to what was then the City Museum and Art Gallery, slip between its imposing doors and sit in a hushed gallery in front of one particular painting: a rendition in oil of a stormy sea, hanging in a gilded frame. It provided a sort of balm.

Stepping through the sliding glass doors of the Box more than 20 years later could not feel more different, and not just because the redeveloped building is now home to 2 million objects, from archival records, film and photography to furniture, texts and paintings from multiple collections and institutions, as well as the artworks and natural history I grew up with. Surrounded by the echoes of noisy children, 13 monumental ship figureheads depicting men and women from cultures all over the world hang defiantly in the atrium, speaking of Plymouth’s maritime history and global connections. ‘King Billy’ – a 13ft tall, two-tonne figure of William IV carved in 1833 – stands proudly above the welcome desk, his toe poking through a specially created hole in the glass balustrade. Each one of these figureheads has been painstakingly restored, returning them to their 18th- and 19th-century glory. With as much as 90% of some pieces suffering from wood rot, it’s no wonder the project won a Museums + Heritage Award, celebrating both the traditional craft skills and the cutting-edge technologies, such as sonic tomography, used in their repair.

But the figureheads speak about more than simply craft or even traditional views of their histories. ‘They start conversations about Britain’s colonial history, about how gender and race are represented, and about all the histories that are becoming part of contemporary discourse,’ says curator Terah Walkup. ‘They are a magnificent way to cue people up for what their experience here is going to be like.’

In another bold statement of what’s to come, Eva Grubinger’s Fender is a ‘ready-made’ sculpture that forms part of a multi-site exhibition entitled Making It. Craft historians often cite the appearance of ready-mades in the art world (specifically Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ – a mass produced urinal signed by the artist) as the moment that art and craft parted ways. But here, the giant fender in black vulcanised rubber – once used to prevent ships in the dockyard from bumping up against one another – celebrates Plymouth’s history as a city of seafaring makers. By taking it out of context and dropping it onto a polished concrete floor – where children hurtling past cause it to gently rock back and forth revealing its surprising light weight – the Austrian artist is opening Plymothians’ eyes to something they see every day. ‘Ships navigate the world’s seas and their first contact with Plymouth is one of protection,’ says Walkup. ‘Objects made for use can also connect with contemporary dialogues about politics, people, our relationships with each other and the world around us.’

Much of Making It is off-site. Antony Gormley’s 22-block cast iron figure, Look II, overlooks the point on West Hoe Pier where Sir Francis Chichester landed in 1967 as the first and fastest person to sail single-handed around the world by the clipper route. Leonor Antunes’ fused glass window is permanently installed over the road at St Luke’s – a deconsecrated church and former library and bookbindery (Crafts, September/October 2020). Ship of Fools, Nigerian-American contemporary artist Kehinde Wiley’s film portraying of a group of young Black men at sea, struggling to reach the land, asks questions about what it means – and what it takes – to ‘make it’ throughout centuries of systemic racism. This installation is at the Levinsky Gallery within the University of Plymouth and the split location approach seems a shame, because it makes it difficult to take the exhibition in as a whole, but it does enable the artworks to connect with people who might not otherwise venture into an art gallery.

Back inside the Box, Brazilian artist Alexandre da Cunha’s Figurehead II is another ready-made sculpture. A stack of four sewer pipes in prefabricated concrete, standing almost 20ft tall, references the much-maligned post-war architecture of the city, while drawing attention to the building itself. The diameter of the structure fits perfectly within a decorative circle in the original floor tiling and the holes punched into its sides offer new vistas of the Edwardian interior. ‘I like seeing people do what I call the “museum dance,” as they bend backwards to look up into this space,’ says Walkup – children climbing in and out of the sculpture’s openings as she speaks.

The Box has taken Plymouth’s City Museum and Art Gallery, Central Library and St Luke’s Church and turned them inside out. What was once the trade entrance on a back alley is now a glorious glass-fronted atrium, opening onto a pedestrianised street. Chronological placement of traditional artworks has been replaced with bold curatorial decisions, such as arranging a series of landscapes of Plymouth geographically, putting Beryl Cook right alongside the Old Masters. The single narrative of old has been replaced by a cacophony of voices, each vying for its rightful place in history. And the stories being told put Plymouth proudly at their heart – taking credit for the good and responsibility for the bad – but never understating the role that this maritime city has played in global history. I am keenly aware of the privilege that enabled me to walk up those austere stairs, slip in through those imposing doors and find solace in a hushed gallery at just 17 years old. I hope a broader segment of society will come into this noisy space, filled with its diversity of stories about craft and making in Plymouth, and find more than just solace. In the same way that Eva Grubinger’s Fender encourages visitors to see something utterly familiar and really look at it for the first time, I hope the Box encourages people to reassess Plymouth’s history, its place in the world, and all those who made it happen.

You can buy Issue 286 of Crafts Magazine here.

 Or click here to subscribe to Crafts Magazine.

NA Meets: Tonje Kjellevold (Norwegian Arts)

tonje-kjellevold

.

Tonje-Kjellevold
Photo credit: Kaja Bruskeland

Tell me about your background – was your childhood creative, what did you study, what drew you to curation?

I was mainly into reading and daydreaming – I’m very creative, as long as I can stay inside my own head! Trying to manifest creativity is an exercise in perpetual disappointment – honing a creative skillset and a unique expression of that is not something I can do, but I enjoy connecting the dots and putting things into systems. That sounds boring, but it’s a useful skill. I never thought about curation, until Adorno approached me – it was such an exciting opportunity that I had to say yes.

The brief for Virtual Design Destination was to reflect on specific experiences, thoughts, and themes from the time of lockdown – what was your initial response to the brief and how does your final curation respond to it? 

My initial response was bleak! Lockdown has been challenging for the creative community. But I couldn’t find inspiration in the negatives, so I started thinking about restriction and isolation as spaces where new opportunities could arise. What happens when we direct our focus inward, and how do these five artists navigate their practices with new obstacles in place. My final curation is open to interpretation, but I hope the setting gives the viewer a sense of where we are – in a makerspace.

What gave you the idea to set the virtual exhibition in Kiyoshi Yamamoto’s studio? What does this space represent?

I wanted to focus on the work being made in artists’ studios all over Norway, rather than on finished artworks. Kiyoshi’s studio is the archetypal makers’ space. It’s filled with ever-evolving projects and Kiyoshi is always playing music and lighting candles and explaining what he’s working on. I wanted to bring the other artists into a digital version of this space. There is a sense of ‘in medias res’ – of being plopped into the middle of this setting where incredible things are taking place – and yet the site is abandoned. Jens Peter Jongepier’s composition Dust Moving adds to the feeling of an almost sacred space.

This year’s global pandemic has presented a unique set of challenges for the LDF curation – how did you overcome these? 

This is my first curation, so I had the unique privilege of not knowing how things would normally work, but not seeing the works or the space in person was a challenge. Envisioning a 3D-simulation of a studio you have in your mind is also a peculiar type of exercise – but that’s where all my daydreaming experience came in handy! Adorno has an amazing technical team and they put together all the pieces – from modelling the studio to creating moveable models of all the artwork – just the way I envisioned them.

How did you select the five Norway-based artists and makers (Kiyoshi Yamamoto, Karen Klim, Sisse Lee, Ramona Salo and Nathalie Fuica Sanchez) you have chosen?

Nathalie Fuica Sanchez’ work came first because it so clearly connected to restriction. Her textile work is based on weighted blankets – they speak of isolation in a very literal sense, but also convey this emotionally – plus you have a positive connotation of comfort, of sleeping soundly, of a safe space. Kiyoshi Yamamoto and I picked out some of his pieces together. He has been revisiting and reconfiguring artworks during the pandemic, because of difficulty sourcing materials, but his glass works are perfect for that because they come in several pieces. I envisioned Karen Klim’s glass works, perfected through more than 30 years of practice, side by side with Kiyoshi’s, who has started working with glass only recently – and they work so well together. Karen’s biggest inspiration is water, so it was nice to bring her into this space that overlooks the fjord. Many of the other curations are situated within nature, and I wanted my curation to have that connection as well, hence the title, Inside Looking Out. I knew placing Sisse Lee’s ceramic vessels by the window would entice people to ‘walk’ over, and I also imagined the water outside would create a wonderful (virtual) effect on the high gloss surface of the vessels. Finally, Ramona Salo’s clothing underlines this notion of ‘in medias res’. A pair of slippers on the floor, a warm sweater – I wanted it to look as if the artists had just popped out of the room.

How does their work reflect Norway – the landscape, the culture, the contemporary art/design scene? And in what ways are they themselves ‘inside looking out’ to international inspirations and references and to the global art/design scene? 

That’s an interesting and difficult question. Landscape one of the aspects of this country that has been highlighted the most, in quite an aggressive way, when communicating Norway to the outside world. Of the artists in this collection Ramona Salo is probably the one who uses the landscape in the most direct way in her artistic practice. She draws inspiration from her upbringing in Sápmi – the ancestral land of the indigenous Sámi peoples that spans Northern Norway, Sweden and Finland, that is under increasing pressure. The artists in this collection all have connections to other countries, places and landscapes, but they have Norway in common. The Norwegian and international artist communities are in constant dialogue, but the pandemic is challenging that. How do we maintain connections and networks when we can’t see each other? We’re all inside looking out.

How have the artists and makers responded to the restriction, isolation and solitude they experienced during lock-down and how does the work in this exhibition reflect this? 

The uncertainty of the pandemic has made planning difficult. Artists keep having to stop and start projects, which is not only inefficient, but also demotivating. The situation has made Kiyoshi Yamamoto rethink his production volumes and the amount of art pieces and commissions he is working on. Karen Klim usually works with advanced sandblasted and cutting techniques, so she’s been working with smaller vessels that she can manage herself more easily. Some of these smaller pieces are in the exhibition – they have a softer, more organic look than her more complex works, but they are equally stunning. Artists are used to a complex set of challenges and working in solitude is the norm for many. In some cases, the pandemic has given them more time to experiment. A slower pace might be the new norm for everyone.

Several of the artists and makers reused or repurposed existing work. Might this be an enduring shift beyond the current pandemic? 

It’s a natural consequence of material supplies being cut off and equipment being unavailable, that you work with what you have. There is also the financial risk of sourcing and buying new materials when you don’t know where your next job is coming from. That’s when you have to get really creative. I see this resourcefulness and conscientiousness in all five artists’ work, not only as a result of COVID-19, but as a result of having to manage within the artists’ economy. What is really going to allow artists to have sustainable artistic practices is a sustainable financial situation and the current situation has, sadly, not brought us any closer to that.

What messages does the exhibition have for visitors to the London Design Festival? 

I hope the exhibition conveys the magic of a makerspace, even in this virtual guise. So few people get to experience the inner workings of artistic creation, so I hope to shed some light on the amazing practices of Kiyoshi, Ramona, Sisse, Karen and Nathalie, and introduce a new audience to them. I also want to highlight that, despite everything being a little crazy and scary right now, wonderful things are still happening in enclosed and tucked away spaces. The contemporary crafts and design field (and indeed the whole visual arts field) is very resilient – and we should celebrate that.

To read the article at its source click here.

Studio Rope Turns Dust From Stone Processing Into Pottery Glazes (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

Studio-Rope

.

Studio-Rope

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 Shizuoka, Japan. My hometown was rich in nature and I spent a lot of time in the forest. When I was nine years old, I made a wooden chair for my father, which was my first design experience. Because of this childhood, I am naturally interested in creativity, design and sustainability and those interests have a strong influence on my own current works. I hold Master’s Degree in product design from ECAL and work in a design studio in Germany at this moment.

Studio-Rope

How would you describe your Stone Pottery project?

“Any waste can be special,” The Stone pottery project started with this phrase. In general, stone factories have a huge quantity of stone powder, which is made by the machining of cutting, grinding, drilling and milling process for stones. Usually, it would have been turned into urban road material. However, I felt there was a lot of potential with this material, in other uses. Through the material investigation, I figured out that this waste undergoes a special reaction after the baking process – a foaming phenomenon. And then I decided to use the reaction as a special glaze on the surface of pottery which provides a satisfying grip and heat insulation. In the end, I designed a family of coffee cup and a carafe, as examples, to visualize these material characteristics.

Studio-Rope

What inspired this project?

A traditionally-made glaze from raw material.

Studio-Rope

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

I sourced waste stone powder from a stone processing factory based in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Studio-Rope

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

I had noticed this waste when I visited the factory coincidentally. At that time, I knew that many minerals are used in traditional glazes, so I felt the same potential with stone powder of marble or natural stones.

Studio-Rope

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

First, we had to build a good partnership between a particular pottery manufacturer and stone factories. And it was also necessary to put in place a mechanism that enables stable production as a new type of glaze.

Studio-Rope

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

In this project, the final product is the glaze made out of stone powder waste. The project extends the lifespan of the waste before it becomes urban road material, which is not really part of the circular economy but it is valuable. The circular economy argues for keeping materials in use indefinitely – this project extends the period of time for which this is possible.

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

I felt that my prediction of potential went in the right direction. However, I also felt there were many barriers to realize it. In fact, this project is still a prototype and has not yet been realized in society.

How have people reacted to this project?

I have received some collaboration inquiries from porcelain manufacturers but to build a good partnership between stone factories can be a big barrier for this project, in terms of investment.

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

To be used as a raw material, waste often needs a lot of processing, which adds to the production costs in general. That means that in order to use waste, we have to present a special value beyond the processing cost. Actually this realistic opinion hasn’t changed a lot. The use of waste can only be moved forward by accumulating special value creation cases.

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

I feel there is a huge opportunity. In fact, many designers are realizing great designs with waste raw materials.

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

StoneCycling Turns Industrial and Demolition Waste Into Bricks (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

.

The circular economy is a proposed alternative to our traditional ‘take–make–waste’ model of production and consumption – one that offers hope in the face of environmental catastrophes from climate change to ocean plastic. Designing out waste and pollution, keeping materials and products in use and regenerating our natural environment are so important to contemporary design that we have created a dedicated space for the projects bringing these ideas to life. Circular by Design, a fortnightly column by longtime contributor Katie Treggiden, starts by exploring the reuse of waste as a way to keep materials in use and bring the legacy of the linear system full circle.

When Tom van Soest was a student at Design Academy Eindhoven in The Netherlands, he developed a way of upcycling waste he found in nearby vacant buildings awaiting demolition. He ground, crushed and mixed this rubble in a homemade industrial blender and, after much trial and error, found a way to create new materials that were both resilient and appealing. On graduation, he established StoneCycling with long-time friend Ward Massa to build upon what he called his ‘WasteBasedBrick,’ officially launched in 2015. The bricks now appear in buildings, in private homes and offices, Starbucks and Cos stores from Amsterdam to New York. We spoke to Massa 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.

Tom and I have been friends since kindergarten and we started our first company when we were just 18 years old – a small design studio. We worked together for a few years and then parted ways professionally for almost a decade. In the meantime, Tom studied graphic design and then attended Design Academy Eindhoven, while I completed a Bachelor’s degree in digital communication, a Master’s in political communication – and then studied political science in India for another two years. These years were formative for both of us. Tom developed his skills and design thinking, while I focused on the global systems that shape the world. Tom became concerned about the waste from building demolition during the economic crisis of 2008, while I became fascinated by the Indian concept of ‘Jugaad’, which means something like ‘an improvised or makeshift solution using scarce resources’ – it’s a way of life in India, where washing machines are used to whip up yoghurt drinks, but it’s also an innovation theory that’s becoming increasingly influential in the West. So when Tom approached me after with the idea of creating new materials out of waste, I was intrigued. Having worked together before and knowing our skill sets were completely different (Tom: creative thinker, dreamer, do-er; me: analytic, systematic, entrepreneurial), I knew we would make a great team.

How would you describe your WasteBasedBricks® project?

WasteBasedBricks® are interior and exterior bricks made to the requirements of each project from at least 60% waste. Our mission is to move towards beautiful building materials made from 100% upcycled waste with a positive carbon impact on the planet. The WasteBasedBrick® is the first step but no more than that – there’s still so much more work to do to bring about genuine and lasting change. We invite people to join us on our mission, but we are realistic about the destination: it will take many steps. Maybe too many for this lifetime. But each step is one step closer.

What inspired this project?

Tom was studying at Design Academy Eindhoven when the economic crisis hit its peak. Companies went bankrupt, buildings became empty and were demolished on a large scale. Tom started to wonder what happened to all the waste and didn’t like the answers he found: It is often ‘down-cycled’ into backfill under roads or the foundations for buildings. Since most of the infrastructure in The Netherlands is in place, we can’t use it all, so it is transported to other countries or dumped up in landfill sites. There is not a single definition for construction and demolition waste and it can contain many different materials – concrete, ceramics (toilet pots, sinks, tiles, bricks), steel, wood, gypsum and glass are all common. Construction and demolition waste comprises about 30-40% of all the waste we generate in most European countries – in the Netherlands this is 25 million tons each year. Virgin materials such as like construction sand and high-quality clay are running out – the construction industry requires grain sizes and rough shapes that are only found in river beds, lakes and the oceans – desert sand is too smooth. Construction sand has become such a scarce resource that even sand-rich countries like Saudi Arabia import sand. Tom wanted to address all of these issues.

What waste materials are the products made from, how did you select that particular material and how do you source it?

The WasteBasedBrick® is made from 60% upcycled waste materials. Each brick contains mineral waste, most of which would otherwise end up in landfill. We use various waste streams, some of which are mentioned above.

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

During Tom’s graduation at the Design Academy. The biggest driver, for both Tom and me, is the idea that, on the one hand, we are producing so many new products from virgin materials – depleting the earth – while, on the other hand, we’re creating so much waste that can have potential value.

What processes does the waste material have to undergo to become the finished product?

We carefully select waste streams from demolition and the industry that are of the ‘right’ quality for our products. We set up new protocols with our partners in the value chain to make sure we get the material in the right quantity, quality, color and grain size. (In some cases, we have developed an extra ‘cleaning’ process to make sure the material we use is safe, and adds to the aesthetic and technical quality of the WasteBasedBrick®.) We work with established production companies for the production of the WasteBasedBricks® – factories which often have more than 100 years experience in brick making. By teaming up, we can use their vast experience to ensure a perfect product and they can use our innovation power and creativity to innovate their processes. This part is a lot of fun! After mixing the recipe, the WasteBasedBricks® are molded and fired in a kiln. Our recipe allows for firing at a lower temperature and we use 100% forest compensated gas to further reduce our footprint.

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

Honestly, Tom tried for over a year in his own homemade lab. He encountered so many challenges that when the first prototypes appeared to be stable, he couldn’t quite believe it! Now, looking back at that moment, it’s hard to believe that this ‘little moment of success’ evolved into a company that collaborates with architects from around the world and is upcycling waste into buildings in cities like Amsterdam, Antwerp, London and New York!

What happens to the products at the end of their lives? Can they go back into the circular economy again?

Yes, absolutely – the product can be 100% recycled and used as an ingredient for new WasteBasedBricks®.

How have people reacted to this project?

Almost everybody likes it. It is a sympathetic project and I think our focus on both design and sustainability is a combination that really speaks to the minds and hearts of people (i.e. the idea that waste is beautiful).

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

We started out at the peak of the (previous) economic crisis. In general, the public was not really interested. This has completely changed over the last 10 years. Roughly speaking, we see three phases. First is the sympathy phase, in which the public and potential clients like the idea of sustainability and upcycling, but very few, early adopters, will actually buy your products. We cherish those customers that feel the intrinsic need to transform the way we build and live on this planet. I would say we were in this phase until as recently as last year. Then comes the benefits phase, when governments are implementing subsidies and fiscal stimulation packages to motivate real estate developers to develop sustainable real estate. The extra investments needed for products like ours are compensated by these benefits. We are now in this phase. These are much-needed government programs to really boost the transition. The early majority is waking up and using these benefits more and more. Next will come the penalty phase: governments will implement penalties if you are not creating sustainable real estate. This phase will probably take another 10 years and will motivate the big majority as well. In our opinion there’s only one way forward: governments need to heavily invest in phase two and already hint at phase three. We don’t see another way for this transition to happen.

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

Our production processes are usually based on efficiency and predictability with high volumes and low margins. This only works if you are using resources (mostly virgin) that are always of the same quality. This allows for mass production of the same products everywhere, but this system will not last. It’s not resilient and it’s boring. We expect that using waste as resource will really put pressure on this system. If you have to work with the materials you are confronted with (i.e. waste), your production process has to become more flexible – the result will be more diverse, more colorful and local. This should mean that the role of the architect will become even more important. It will boost creativity because the choice will be vast but also connected to a certain time frame relating to the materials that are available when the building is being built. I think it will become more fun. Exceptions will become the rule instead of standardization. I think the concept of Jugaad will become an important factor in our lives. Let’s learn from India – let’s create a Jugaad mindset.

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

The Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council Empowers Women in the Middle East + Beyond (Design Milk)

irthi-contemporary-crafts-council

.

The Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council is on a mission to empower women practicing craft skills across the Middle East, North Africa and South and Central Asia by building a female-driven artisan economy while preserving the area’s cultural heritage for future generations.

irthi-contemporary-crafts-council

“Heritage crafts are usually performed by women in communal groups,” explains Irthi’s curator, Farah Nasri. “Championing the role of women in the crafts sector is vital in creating a new narrative and social standing for women within marginalized communities. Investment in specific areas, identified as centers of knowledge for crafts, in the form of the BIDWA Centers has a noticeable effect on those communities.”

irthi-contemporary-crafts-council

Craftswomen benefit economically as well as receiving support to develop new opportunities and undertake vocational training. Irthi’s most recent efforts have led to Sharjah being recognized as a city of Crafts & Folk Art for the craft of Talli in 2019 by UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network.

irthi-contemporary-crafts-council
Oud Oil Container – Adi Toch

The Bidwa Social Development Programme, employs 40 artisans, provides them with vocational training and helps them to find new markets for their skills through commercial collaborations and regional artisan exchange programs.

irthi-contemporary-crafts-council
Camel Bag by Jennifer Zurick

Irthi runs Design Labs – along the same lines as art residencies – to enable an exchange of crafts, design and knowledge between international or regional designers and Bidwa artisans and trainees. “The designers bring in new production techniques and crafts into the Bidwa Centre, while the Bidwa Centre offers the space and productive capacity of Emirati artisans and trainees for collaboration, and product manifestation,” says Nasri.

irthi-contemporary-crafts-council
Hajar Chair by Architecture + Other Things

“The most valuable insight the artisans practicing crafts at the Bidwa Center gain is the confidence and trust in the design thinking that they have acquired through the many design exercises they have taken up,” says Nasri. “Sometimes the designers might be asked to engage with a craft or exercise a craft in a non-traditional manner – at that time I’m sure they didn’t always entirely grasp why they were doing what they were doing or weren’t fully convinced that the design process they were taking up would eventually lead to the magnificent products that they have created.”

irthi-contemporary-crafts-council
Safeefah x Clay Stools and Tables by Abdallah Al Mulla & Pepa Reverter

The resulting Design Labs collection is now available to purchase at digital craft and design gallery Adorno: “Irthi has launched two significant collections on Adorno, bringing craft traditions that have defined Emirati making for centuries to the attention of the wider world, and making Irthi crafted products commercially available to its biggest audience yet,” says Nasri. Featured artists and designers include Meher and Farhana of The Lél Collection, Kazuhito Takadoi, Patricia Swannell, Dima Srouji of Hollow Forms Studio; Nada Taryam, Faisal Tabarrah and Khawla Al Hashimi of Architecture + Other Things Studio, Alia Bin Omair of Alia Bin Omair Jewellery; Jennifer Zurick, Khuloud Al Thani of Bint Thani Studio; and Adi Toch.

irthi-contemporary-crafts-council
Sheikha Bin Dhaher & Adrian Salvador Candella

The second collection is Crafts Dialogue – which is, in fact, a series of four limited-edition collections – the result of collaborations between Emirati and European designers. “Crafts Dialogue seeks to merge the arts and crafts of the UAE with global crafts,” says Nasri, who co-curated the collection with Samer Yamani. This collaboration sparks endless possibilities and opportunities.” Again, Crafts Dialogue is available to purchase on Adorno and this time, featured designers include Fatima Al Zaabiof Studio D04, Matteo Silverio, Sheikha Bin Dhaher of Abjaad Studio, Adrian Salvador Candella of Estudio Savage, Ghaya Bin Mesmar, Mermelada Estudio, Abdallah Al Mulla, and Pepa Reverter.

irthi-contemporary-crafts-council
Abdallah Al Mulla & Pepa Reverter

Both collections can be explored at Irthi’s Virtual Gallery – a chance to escape the reality of lockdown for a while and take a stroll around the sun-drenched Hamriya Studios in Sharjah, see the pieces in situ in the courtyard garden and the gallery itself, as well as enjoying a full multi-sensory experience as you listen to audio recordings of Bidwa artisans singing as they weave.

irthi-contemporary-crafts-council
Ghaya Bin Mesmar & Mermelada Estudio

But what effect has all of this had on the craftswomen of the Middle East, North Africa and South and Central Asia? “It wasn’t difficult to visualize the positive impact these initiatives would have on the craft and culture of the region and specifically the craftswomen themselves, as they went through a laborious learning curve in less than a year’s time and can now just about respond to any design request or bespoke order,” says Nasri.

irthi-contemporary-crafts-council

“But what I did find surprising was the international brand positioning that these collections, designers and artisans managed to attain through the UAE Pavilion launch at the London Design Fair, gaining Guest Country Pavilion of the year,” she continues. “The artisans of the Bidwa Social Development Programme are capable of catering to the international market – their skills have been honed to compete at international standards.”

irthi-contemporary-crafts-council

Despite the contemporary international success each collection has earned, Irthi is still committed to the region’s traditional craft practices and finding ways to balance the two. “Linking traditional crafts to today’s luxury and design markets means retaining the heritage process of making whilst decontextualizing, deconstructing, or infusing the craft with new functionality to fit today’s modern aesthetics and needs,” Nasri explains.

irthi-contemporary-crafts-council

Hopefully, this balanced approach will mean future generations of craftswomen will have the same opportunities to honor and explore the traditions of their ancestors while taking their place in a growing female-driven artisan economy that crosses national boundaries.

irthi-contemporary-crafts-council
Safeefah x Clay Stools and Tables by Abdallah Al Mulla & Pepa Reverter

To read the article at its source click here.

Wendy Andreu Turns Selvedges Into Innovative New Material (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

The circular economy is a proposed alternative to our traditional ‘take, make, waste’ model of production and consumption – one that offers hope in the face of environmental catastrophes from climate change to ocean plastic. Designing out waste and pollution, keeping materials and products in use and regenerating our natural environment are so important to contemporary design that we wanted to create a dedicated space for the projects bringing these ideas to life. Circular by Design, a fortnightly column by longtime contributor Katie Treggiden, starts by exploring the potential of waste as a valuable new raw material.

Paris-based designer-maker Wendy Andreu uses materials as a means of communication, experimenting to find surprising outcomes that can be translated into functional design proposals. She collaborated with performance fabric manufacturer Sunbrella to create a new innovative material from its waste selvedges – the woven or knitted edges of textile rolls that are usually discarded.

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 a rural area of the South West of France. Growing up with a father who was a technician in an aeronautic factory and a mother who was an insurance agent, I felt that my perspective there was quite narrow. I wanted to explore art and culture, so at the age of 14, I decided to study applied arts at a boarding school in the Basque country. There, I discovered the potential of the creative industries and knew what I wanted to do with my life. At 17, I moved to Paris to study metal craftsmanship at the Ecole Boulle, gaining a traditional and technical education. In 2012, I was accepted into the Design Academy Eindhoven. There, I was able to be a craftsperson as well as a designer – making and thinking all at the same time. I was really inspired by that approach and pushed out of my comfort zone to try things I would never have thought about trying. I graduated cum laude in 2016 with a collection of rainproof accessories made with a textile I had developed myself – and won the Dorothy Waxman textile prize and the public prize for fashion accessories at the Villa Noailles, Hyères.

How would you describe your Solid Selvedges collaboration with Sunbrella?

Sunbrella makes performance fabrics for awning and shade structures, as well as marine canvas and upholstery for both outdoor and indoor applications. I was introduced to them by The New Order of Fashion [formerly Modebelofte – a platform for interdisciplinary collaborations with emerging fashion talents] with the idea of sustainability and tackling waste in mind. Most of Sunbrella’s products are made with solution-dyed acrylic, a high-quality textile fiber that provides long-lasting colors and strong products. During production, the selvedges (the edge of a fabric – usually woven or knit so that it will not fray) of the textile rolls are discarded. Focusing on these selvedges, I created a composite material in which the discarded fiber from Sunbrella could become one of the raw materials.

What inspired this project?

I experiment with materials to understand their potential – I like to understand traditional techniques and then re-think how things are made. I am also very interested in small scale craftsmanship and I am very proud to produce only a few pieces each year, working with European suppliers and manufacturers. Sustainability is linked to how we produce goods – and this is a question that I ask myself every day. Which design choice will lead to the least waste? Which choice will create less pollution? By carefully thinking through all the options, applying knowledge and creativity, the best design outcomes can be reached. This particular research project was inspired by the material itself. The acrylic waste, once coated with a resin to make it waterproof, cannot be recycled, so I had to think about other ways to step in. I went to Lille to visit the Sunbrella factory and to understand the processes. I researched acrylic and acrylic properties. I spoke with people from the factory and try to understand the context and how this waste product be related to the same context? I was also inspired by carbon and glass fiber techniques, in which fibers are used to reinforce a resin – and I decided to give the Sunbrella fibers the same function. I didn’t want to use harmful transformation processes such as burning or melting, or use hazardous resins such as polyester or epoxy.

 

What waste materials are the products made from, how did you select that particular material, and how do you source it?

I limited myself to the selvedge. By focusing on a single type of waste, I was able to be efficient and precise in my research. Each waste stream has its own potential that can lead to its very own beauty. The key is to understand where the beauty stands, dig it out and translate it into a tangible proposal. Then waste becomes valuable. The Lille production site generates 70 tons of selvedges waste every year, so there is huge potential.

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

I designed my first piece with waste as a raw material in 2018 in response to a brief from Laura Houseley and James Shaw to make a textile piece using plastic for the Plasticscene Exhibition they curated for LDF the same year. I contacted my rope suppliers, the Société Choletaise de Fabrication, and asked them if they could send me discarded polyester rope. I received a random selection of hiking boot laces in a diversity of colors and patterns. I bonded these laces together with a black polyurethane paste in order to create a rug. The use of waste always involves the randomness of the leftover and it was interesting to make a piece without being totally in control of the colors – I like to take advantage of this randomness as it always generates unique objects.

What processes does the waste material have to undergo to become the finished fabric?

The Sunbrella selvedges are cut into tiny squares and then reduced to fine fibers. These fibers are mixed with water-based, solvent-free acrylic resin to create a hard material. The acrylic fiber makes the material stronger by bonding with the acrylic paste – and gives the plaster-like resin a color. The resin can be poured into molds or coated onto existing forms. This process transforms soft and colorful textiles into a stone-like building material, extending the spectrum into which the Sunbrella textile can be applied. At this stage, the project is only a promising research project, but I would like to be able to push it further.

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

I work step by step, so the first tests were small, flat, samples. They were promising as I liked their materiality and tactility. I was very keen to create molds as they allow production without waste. I designed molds in aluminum and kept the objects interesting, light and yet very abstract so people could envision many more possibilities with them. Everything worked out pretty well and I was very happy with the result. You can see and guess the fibers stuck in the resin – and some details of the colored fibers are quite beautiful as they layer in a very lively composition. It is very important to me that the designs I make are appealing and desirable.

What happens to the products at the end of their lives? Can they go back into the circular economy again?

Neither of the materials (the original waste selvedge fibers nor the resin) is biodegradable and neither can be recycled, unfortunately. However, I have turned a waste material which couldn’t be recycled into something that is made to last and won’t be destroyed easily, extending its lifespan.

How have people reacted to this project?

People were intrigued first and curious about the material – lots of people expected it to be much lighter than it is. It is interesting to notice the new aesthetics that can be created with waste – people could envision them for retail environments, interior design, objects, furniture… They also were craving to touch the material as it is quite tactile. I think these type of alternative materials are increasingly sought after as people become more and more interested in working with them. Companies big and small – be they manufacturers, retailers, or the fashion industry as a whole – will soon have no other choice but to think about their environmental footprint. Customers, then politics and laws, will push industries in this direction. In my opinion, the companies who don’t respond will decline fast.

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

The idea is still disgusting for many people, including designers – waste and garbage are not the most appealing things in the world. However, with a little bit more education on materials and how things are made, perhaps people can better envision products made from waste. It is the role of designers to create positive interpretations of waste or discarded products in order to create beauty. I wish that more industries and manufacturers would be open-minded enough to hire designers not only for their main objects, but also to think about their waste. It could be profitable for them on an ecological and economical basis. It is important to create appealing products and not make too much of the “trash aesthetic” that is often associated with waste.

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

Waste is the result of the Anthropocene. The amount of garbage is growing while available natural resources are becoming more and more scarce. Waste barely exists in the natural environment as nature works in cycles. Each element has a role and the outputs of one process simply become the inputs for another. It is easy to foresee a future in which waste becomes a raw material and an available resource. Waste is one of the materials of the future. In France a new law against overproduction comes into force next year: manufacturers and companies won’t be able to throw away or destroy their unsold products anymore. These products will need to be either donated or recycled. These very clean waste streams might be the beginning of a new perspective for materiality and production.

Process photos: Neige Thébault. Final presentation photos: GJ Van Rooij. To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Wendy here.

Susana Godinho Turns Offcuts + Cork into Rugs (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

The circular economy is a proposed alternative to our traditional ‘take, make, waste’ model of production and consumption – one that offers hope in the face of environmental catastrophes from climate change to ocean plastic. Designing out waste and pollution, keeping materials and products in use and regenerating our natural environment are so important to contemporary design that we wanted to create a dedicated space for the projects bringing these ideas to life. Circular by Design, a new fortnightly column by longtime contributor Katie Treggiden, will start by exploring the potential of waste as a valuable new raw material.

Portuguese designer Susana Godinho established Sugo Cork Rugs in 2017. Using contemporary design to inject life into traditional weaving techniques, she combines the performance of highly sustainable cork with recycled and recovered fabrics from the fashion and textiles industries. Based in the North of Portugal, the brand is committed to not only working in harmony with the natural world but also providing employment opportunities for people living with disabilities.

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 a small village near the sea, 20 minutes from Oporto. As my parents were very young when I was born, we lived with my grandparents. My grandfather was an excellent tailor and he worked from home. His work must have affected my childhood and education because I ended up studying textile and fashion design. He was, without doubt, the major influence on my life and he only left us recently at almost 99 years old.

How would you describe Sugo Cork Rugs?

Sugo Cork Rugs are traditionally hand-woven rugs with a contemporary design, differentiated by the use of an innovative cork solution and waste textiles in a manufacturing process that brings artisan weaving techniques back to life. Cork is a natural, renewable and very sustainable material. It is light, moisture-proof, extremely flexible, absorbs heat and sound, is hypoallergenic and soft to the touch. It is the perfect material to combine with waste textiles to make high-quality rugs.

What inspired this project?

My favorite skill in my degree was weaving, so I went straight into the rug industry when I graduated and I have worked in the textile industry for almost 20 years now. Weaving is a constant challenge and tapestry captured my imagination because it showcases weaving on a bigger scale. After all these years of experience in the rug industry, during which I have mostly worked with natural and recycled materials, the opportunity came about to introduce a new, and very Portuguese, material – cork.

What are the rugs made from, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them?

The rugs combine cork and raw linen with recovered and recycled cotton, jersey knit and elastane from large industrial productions – such as the swimming costume offcuts we used in our All The Way collaboration with Ligne Roset. We work closely with our suppliers to ensure a fully rounded ethical process. Our cork is supplied by the world’s largest cork company, the Amorim Group, whose activities are crucial to the sustainable management of Portugal’s cork oak forests and the best environmental and social practices.

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

I have always worked with wasted cotton, so it’s a natural feeling for me – I look at it as a normal material. I also worked for many years in the fashion industry, mostly in knitting garments, so these kind of waste materials are really familiar – I look at them as any other materials but in smaller sizes or quantities.

What processes does the material have to undergo to become the finished product?

We have a special process to transform the cork into a format which can be introduced to the loom. The jersey is cut into strips and we spin the bouclé or loop cotton into a new kind of yarn from weaving leftovers. These yarns are then threaded onto the loom and woven into rugs using traditional weaving techniques, following contemporary designs.

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

This material is so familiar that I look at it as a normal material, so the outcome wasn’t that surprising to me. The real difference is the reduction in waste quantities or cutting edges.

What happens to the rugs at the end of their lives? Can they go back into the circular economy?

Yes, absolutely – in fact, the Ushuaia rug was made from one of the first rugs I originally weaved 18 years ago. That piece had a little accident and was ruined, so I used almost all the jersey material to create a new one.

How have people reacted to the rugs?

The reaction has been great, especially in the last two years as people are becoming more focused on sustainable and eco-materials. But I think my design signature – using graphic details or color-blocks in a classic type of weaving – attracts people too. That and the insertion of the cork in the rugs, which results in a unique and innovative product. Of course, they meet an interior design trend at the moment, so many people come to us exactly for that – we try to stay committed to our cause by creating a product that respects the environment from several perspectives, allied with good practices.

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

If you had told me some years ago that luxury and 5-star hotels and resorts would specify rugs made from cork and cotton waste, I will not have believed you. But now it happens – and frequently. Interior designers come to us looking for a concept and a story to tell their special clients. We have proven that you can have quality, design and innovation using waste, raw and ecological materials while being friendly towards the planet and our health. My only question is why this didn’t happen decades ago?

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

It’s a worldwide trend, not only in fashion or textiles and I think it will become more and more prevalent. We have to act to protect our planet – we are all receiving the signals that we need to change our lives, our habits and practices. We do not need to be extreme, we only need to be more conscious and it will come naturally.

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

Studio Woojai Turns Waste Paper Into Bricks and Furniture (Circular by Design, Design Milk)

The circular economy is a proposed alternative to our traditional ‘take, make, waste’ model of production and consumption – one that offers hope in the face of environmental catastrophes from climate change to ocean plastic. Designing out waste and pollution, keeping materials and products in use and regenerating our natural environment are so important to contemporary design that we wanted to create a dedicated space for the projects bringing these ideas to life. Circular by Design, a new weekly column by longtime contributor Katie Treggiden, will start by exploring the potential of waste as a valuable new raw material.

Photo: Cos

Eindhoven-based Studio Woojai is run by Korean New Zealander WooJai Lee, a designer motivated by exploring and experimenting with the hidden potential of sometimes surprising materials. We caught up about one project in particular that repurposes waste paper into functional bricks and sculptural furniture.

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 Korea and moved with my family to New Zealand when I was 10 years old. Growing up in New Zealand, I was exposed to the greenery and nature all around me. I wasn’t particularly interested or fond of nature as a child, but I guess it influenced me unknowingly. I still find the characteristics and forms of nature very interesting in my design language. Both my parents are from creative backgrounds, so following a creative path seemed quite natural as well. I moved to The Netherlands and studied at Design Academy Eindhoven, graduating with a Bachelors degree in 2016 with my project ‘PaperBricks‘. I have been practicing in my own design studio in Eindhoven ever since. I am also part of Collaboration O, a collective of young designers in Eindhoven. We share a workspace and also collaborate on various projects and exhibitions together.

Photo: Cos

How would you describe your Paper Bricks, Paper Bricks Sculpt Series, and Paper Bricks Pallet Series?

PaperBricks are made from recycled newspapers. They are very strong and have the stone-like marbling aesthetic of a construction material, and at the same time as having the warmth and soft tactility of the paper. The PaperBricks Pallet Series was created using PaperBricks to show how they can be used constructively. With the PaperBricks Sculpt series, I also wanted to explore the contrasting characteristics of a material. Paper can be both soft and hard, rough and smooth, systematic and irregular, all of which can be seen in this series – the soft surfaces, rigid shapes in contrast to rough and natural forms. The contrast is also in the way of working. The mold manufactured bricks to freely sculpted legs.

Photo: Cos

What inspired this project?

One day I was taking out my rubbish for recycling and noticed a big pile of paper. Most of the paper was newspapers and advertisements, which we only glance for a few minutes and throw away. I felt pity for this material, which seemed to have such a short life span. Through research, I also found out that paper is one of the most recycled materials, but every time it is recycled, it is down-graded until eventually, it cannot be recycled anymore. I wanted to give this material a new life. A life in which it can be much stronger and used for different purposes, other than the fragile and short life it usually has.

Photo: Cos

What are they made from, how did you select that particular material, and how do you source it?

In the process of printing newspapers, there are always lots of newspapers which are being misprinted or overprinted. I use these newspapers to create my works.

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

As a design or art student, you are constantly faced with the twin dilemmas of using new materials (the cost of which can also be a problem) and producing ‘waste’. I always tried to find different ways to re-use and source materials which are considered ‘waste’ or leftovers from previous projects. Soon, these ‘wastes’ became ‘treasures’ for me to work with.

What processes does the material have to undergo to become the finished product?

The newspapers are first soaked in water and made into a pulp. Then they are mixed with adhesive to create a mixture which is shaped into a mold to form bricks. The PaperBricks are dried and treated for the final form.

What happens to your products at the end of their lives? Can they go back into the circular economy?

To be completely honest, I have not yet seen the end of their lives to give you a definite answer. However, from my experience with samples, they could be turned back into pulp, which could be used again to make other accessories or back into PaperBricks.

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

It was very surprising to see the strength of the outcome and also how, at the same time, it was smooth and soft in its tactility. I really liked how it held the contrasting characteristics together in one outcome.

How have people reacted to this project?

I really enjoy people’s reaction when I tell them that it is made out of paper. Without any explanation, they tend to mistake it for marble or other mineral material. When they touch it and feel the soft and warm tactility of the bricks, they start to get curious about its true material and are always surprised when I tell them its made out of paper. I would like to see how this project can inspire others to think differently of a material which we are so familiar with. A material which is very much integrated into our lives, such as paper, can also have different potentials if we can just pay a little more attention.

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

With the current COVID-19 situation and through the absence of human activity, our negative impact on the natural environment became much more visible. Re-used waste materials have been praised as a concept for a long time, but real belief and trust in them has seemed rather minimal. I think the current situation could really push people to take much more sustainable choices.

Photo: Cos

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

As resources become ever more scarce, and our attention to the environment becomes greater, I believe the demand and attention to waste as raw material will continue to grow. Designers and artists are not scientists or engineers but, as creatives, we can always suggest concepts and ideas which look at things from outside the box, showing the hidden potentials of different materials, breaking down stereotypes around a particular material, and giving positive images for new directions.

Photo: Cos

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

PURPOSE-DRIVEN DESIGN MARKETPLACE GOODEE POPS UP IN NEW YORK (DESIGN MILK)

.

If you find it difficult to hear the name GOODEE without following it up with a silent ‘two shoes’, you’re not alone, but in this case the moniker is earnestly deserved. Goodee, founded in 2019 by twin brothers Byron and Dexter Peart, is a carefully curated e-commerce platform that brings together good design, good people, and good purpose. The brand’s first New York City pop-up, running alongside the Whitney Museum’s Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950-2019 exhibition, offers handmade goods from around the globe, chosen for their social or environmental impact. GOODEE aims to empower creators, makers, and consumers to make a social impact by fostering transparent sourcing, waste reduction, upcycling, and ethical treatment of its people. For this month’s Design Store(y), we caught up with Byron and Dexter to find out more about GOODEE’s exploration of the dialogue between art and craft in the making of objects in its temporary New York home.

GOODEE at the Whitney Shop_07 (1).jpg

Why did you pick this city/neighborhood/storefront?
We are Canadian, but we have long lived and worked in New York’s Chelsea district. We are intensely inspired by arts, architecture, design, and the environment and have a strong connection to life in NYC, especially around the Highline and the Hudson. We could not have dreamed of a more appropriate location for our first American pop-up.

Where did you get the name for the store?
GOODEE was conceived as the quintessential destination for good people, good design, and good impact. As this retail collaboration was a first of its kind in the United States, it seemed natural only to name the exclusive pop-up simply GOODEE at The Whitney Shop.

GOODEE at the Whitney Shop_09 (1).jpg

Has it changed much since it opened? How?
The pop-up opened to coincide with the opening of the Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950-2019 exhibition, celebrating some of the finest examples of connected craft and art from the 1950s to the present day. As the launch was just in November, just in time for the Holidays, much of the excitement was around discovering thoughtful, handmade gifts from around the globe for loved ones.

What’s one of the challenges you have with the business?

GOODEE was conceived to connect ethical makers with conscious consumers. We are motivated to share deep and meaningful stories with our audience through our pop-ups and e-commerce store, so having enough time to make those human connections is sometimes a challenge, but always worth the effort.

What other stores have you worked on before opening this one?

We launched our first Canadian pop-up last summer in our hometown of Montreal, at the widely respected art and new media institution, Centre Phi. It was designed as an artist’s studio and very well received. We were able to connect with the local community through innovative and educational programming and help to connect makers with consumers.

GOODEE at the Whitney Shop_13 (1).jpg

What is this season’s theme/inspiration/story?
It’s not really a theme, but the entire concept is centered around the “Art of Craft”. How through time-honored skills of making – weaving, carving, beading, pottery, and more – impassioned stories, traditions, and know-how can be passed along for generations to come.

Are you carrying any new products and/or undiscovered gems you’re particularly excited about?
There are several exclusive products (including upcycled fabric quilts from KTWP, and handcrafted PET lamps by ACdO) that can only be found in the States at the GOODEE at the Whitney Shop.

What’s been a consistent best seller?
There are truly several, but one standout we can share is that the handwoven baskets and fans by Baba Tree, each uniquely crafted by artisans in Ghana, have been selling great.

Do you have anything from the store in your own home?
>Yes. We have lots of items from the shop spread throughout both of our homes. At Byron’s place, he’s accessorized his living space with GOODEE pillows and a colorful Baba Tree basket. Dexter has an assortment of greenery throughout his home in Skagerak Edge pots.

GOODEE at the Whitney Shop_04 (1).jpg

What’s next for you and your store?
Only time will tell!

What’s one lesson you’ve learned since opening your store?
That there is such an appetite and interest among consumers for discovering a deeper understanding about how things are made and “why” it is important they exist.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to follow a similar path to yours, what would it be?

Make sure you identify the right location to truly capture your desired consumer’s attention and time. It is more important than ever to graciously meet them on their terms in the places that they live or most frequently visit.

To read the article at its source click here, or shop The Whitney edit here.

Camille Walala Brings Local Mauritian Color to SALT of Palmar Hotel (Design Milk)

Recently named one of Time Magazine’s ‘Greatest Places’ and a Mr & Mrs Smith ‘Local Hotel Hero’, the SALT of Palmar hotel on the east coast of Mauritius was originally created in 2005 by renowned Mauritian architect Maurice Giraud and has been given a blast of local color inside and out by London-based French artist Camille Walala, with a new interior scheme that runs through the hotel’s 59 rooms and public areas.

Walala, and long-standing collaborator Julia Jomaa, worked closely with Mauritian architect John-François Adams to realize a vision for the dramatic geometric building inspired by both the natural landscape and the man-made environment of the surrounding island. “I was blown away with how many vibrant and bold colors you find around the island,” said Walala. “People paint their houses in the most amazing tones that really stand out against the lush tropical setting. From the emerald green of the plants to the ever-changing colors of the sky, I wanted to marry these warm natural tones to my signature pop colors.”

ZETTELER_Camille-Walala_SALT-of-Palmar_bar_Photography-by-Tekla-Evelina-Severin_02.gif

Described by Time Magazine as “eye-popping Instagram bait”, SALT of Palmar’s beauty is more than screen-deep. The hotel was conceived to champion sustainability, connect with the local community, and introduce culturally curious travellers to the real Mauritius. “This isn’t a hotel that begrudgingly makes concessions to the environment,” said the Mr & Mrs Smith judging panel. “Salt of Palmar literally exists to serve the community and reduce the carbon footprint of the area. And it does so creatively and with tonnes of style, from the beach baskets made of recycled flotsam to the guidebook of the island, written by a team of talented locals.” The hotel has also eliminated all food waste and single-use plastics and sources food for the on-site restaurant from a bio-farm.

ZETTELER_Camille-Walala_SALT-of-Palmar_Photography-by-Tekla-Evelina-Severin_Rooftop.gif

Walala was invited to reimagine SALT’s interiors following her work at LUX* Grand Gaube, for which she created a spectacular mural for the resort’s Beach Rouge beach club, but this is her first architectural collaboration. Despite this, she was the obvious choice for The Lux Collective CEO and SALT creator Paul Jones. “Camille Walala’s relationship with color is precisely the same as most Mauritians,” he explains. “For both, color is a vehicle for joy and a means of expressing positivity. She is the ideal artist for SALT of Palmar; I must have been in the hotel 100 times as it developed over the last few months but, every time I see them, her designs make me smile.”

With such a natural fit, Walala might have been forgiven for resting on her laurels, but she and Jomaa still did their homework – exploring the island’s food, culture, and neighborhoods to get a real sense of the Mauritian aesthetic so she could weave that into the fabric of her interiors, helping guests to forge a meaningful connection with their surroundings. “I really wanted to bring what we saw on the road back to the hotel,” she says.

ZETTELER_Camille-Walala_SALT-of-Palmar_Photography-by-Tekla-Evelina-Severin_welcome-room-2.gif

This approach included recruiting local craftspeople to design bespoke pieces for the project, including basket weaver Reotee Buleeram, potter Janine Espitalier-Noel, and father-and-son rattan artisans Mawlabaccus and Said Moosbally.

The geography of the island precluded the sourcing of many of Walala’s go-to material choices. “Mauritius is a remote country, and although the selection of products and materials is wide, I had to think of many alternatives to things that I would have loved to use in the styling and build,” she explains. “Because SALT is by the sea and under a strong sun, we had to work with materials which could not be damaged by wind, heat, water, or light. However, I did grow to enjoy the challenge of finding alternatives in the local area – that, after all, is what the SALT philosophy is all about.”

ZETTELER_Camille-Walala_SALT-of-Palmar_Library_Photography-by-Tekla-Evelina-Severin_01.gif

What: SALT of Palmar Hotel
Where: SALT of Palmar Coastal Road, Palmar 41604, Mauritius
How much: From $195
Highlights: The black and white striped fountain at the riad-style heart of the hotel.
Design draw: Head South to explore the most unspoiled part of Mauritius and don’t miss The World of Seashells Museum, home to Eric Le Court’s personal collection of over 8000 shells collected on the island.
Book it: SALT of Palmar Hotel

Photography: Tekla Evelina Severin

Norwegian Threads: Hannah Ryggen and Contemporary Textile Art (Norwegian Arts)

.

‘During the Renaissance […] the once-prized art of needlework was relegated to the status of mere craft…’ So opens a new book by Charlotte Vannier entitled Threads: Contemporary Embroidered Art (Thames & Hudson) which seeks to rectify this relegation by celebrating the work of more than eighty artists for whom the needle is mightier than the brush. But the hierarchy that places art above craft, and in doing so the labour of men above ‘women’s work’, has a long history – one that author of The Craftsman Richard Sennett traces back to Aristotle, quoting Metaphysics:

‘We consider that the architects in every profession are more estimable and know more and are wiser than the artisans, because they the reasons of the things which are done.’

NA Schirn_Presse_Hannah_Ryggen_am_Webstuhl_um_1964_Adresseavisen.jpg
Hannah Ryggen at the loom, c.1964, Adresseavisen, Trondheim.

As well as placing thinking above making, Aristotle uses the Greek word cheirotechnon or ‘handworker’ for artisan in place of the older word demioergos, which combined ‘public’ and ‘productive,’ placing craft at the heart of industrious communities. Craft was already becoming domesticated, and by extension feminised, in ancient Greece. Vannier suggests that it was in the 1960s and 1970s that female artists took up needlework and ‘asserted their status as artists in their own right’, but women have been using needles to subvert the restrictions placed upon them for far longer. In eighteenth and nineteenth-century Japan, peasants were restricted to wearing bast and hemp, fabrics with such a loose weave that they wore easily and let in the cold. Sashiko stitching emerged as a way to fill the gaps and strengthen and insulate the fabric, and women in the Nambu region developed highly decorative koginzashi and hishizashi stitches to subvert these punitive sumptuary laws. In the early-twentieth century, suffragettes countered arguments that only ‘unwomanly women’ wanted the vote by creating protest banners and handkerchiefs using highly accomplished, and defiantly feminine, needlework. And in 1923, just as Anni Albers (1899–1994) was subverting Walter Gropius’ expectations of the ‘beautiful sex’ at the Bauhaus in Germany, Swedish-Norwegian artist Hannah Ryggen (1894–1970) put down her paintbrush to take up weaving. Despite recognising the industriousness and perseverance required for her chosen medium, her fiancé’s response was typical of its time:

‘Weaving is women’s work from time immemorial, and […] it seems only natural that you who are such a true woman, decided to weave rather than paint art. Painting is in a way more men’s work.’

Undeterred, she set about creating a body of work that not only fused folk art traditions with contemporary art, but was also a damning critique of social inequality, injustices at home and abroad and the rising fascism of the time. Proclaimed a genius by (male) art critics and exhibited all over the world, she has since been written out of Norwegian art history and is only now being rediscovered. In 2017–2018 Modern Art Oxford mounted Hannah Ryggen: Woven Histories, an exhibition exploring Ryggen’s ‘intense relationship to the world around her’ and her ‘impassioned responses to the socio-political events of her time’, and on 20 September 2019, Hannah Ryggen: Woven Manifestos opened at The Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, Germany, a major monographic featuring 25 of her tapestries, which the Schrin describes as ‘spectacular visual attacks’. With 122 illustrations, Marit Paasche’s new book, Hannah Ryggen: Threads of Defiance (Thames & Hudson) seeks to reinsert Ryggen into art history where she belongs, but perhaps more importantly, repositions craft as a powerful tool in its own right.

Threads_cover.jpg
Threads: Contemporary Embroidered Art book cover

Ryggen’s tapestries can indeed be seen as art, but perhaps more accurately, also as activism. Fishing in a Sea of Debt (1933) depicts debt collectors ‘fishing in the bloody waters of financial ruin’ and doesn’t pull its punches – a woman’s body sinks to the bottom as a man struggles to keep the heads of two small children above water and a doctor takes coins from a dead man on the shore. Ryggen herself wrote a poem to describe Mother’s Heart (1947), which includes the lines ‘something happens to the child / the heart is broken into a thousand / pieces. She crawls around / to collect the shards / People watch helplessly.’ Other tapestries protest against the war between Italy and Ethiopia (Ethiopia, 1935), the treatment of Car von Ossietzky at the hands of the Third Reich (Death of Dreams, 1936) and the North Atlantic Treaty (Jul Kvale, 1956).

Ryggen inspired a generation of Norwegian women to express their own defiance through thread. One of the artists profiled in Threads: Contemporary Embroidered Art is Äsa Ljones. Her grandmother taught her hardangersaum, a type of needlework unique to the rural area on the west coast of Norway where she grew up. Her early work at the Bergen Art Academy involved stitching together locally sourced fish skins into large two- and three-dimensional forms and embroidering natural rubber with silk. Today, she still honours her ancestry and humble origins in the large-scale embroidered wall hangings which have been brought by Norway’s largest museums and the Norwegian Embassy in Nepal’s Kathmandu. She uses the primhol (‘prime hole’) technique particular to hardangersaum to create semi-transparent pieces which play with natural light to create a subtle, meditative quality. ‘I am looking for a silence that evokes something in the user,’ she tells Vannier.

cp_cp001_014.jpg
Norwegian Sweater – original damaged sweater from Annemor Sundbø’s Ragpile collection with white wool darning by Celia Pym, 2010.

British artist Celia Pym’s Norwegian Sweater is also featured in the book. When textiles designer Annemor Sundbø bought Torridal Tweed og Ulldynefabrikk, the last shoddy mill in Norway, she also acquired 16 tonnes of cast-off woollen sweaters, socks, mittens and underwear that ranged from 30 to 100 years old. They were all destined to be shredded for ‘shoddy’ or recycled yarn, but, realising the value of their record of ordinary working people’s skills she kept some of them and passed one in particular onto Pym, who is known for darning other people’s clothes. ‘It’s the most badly damaged object I have ever had to mend,’ Pym tells Vannier, ‘and also the first sweater that I have mended without knowing how the damage occurred.’ Inspired by the darned jumper her Grandfather wore holes in as he drew, she is interested in the patterns of use that damaged clothes reveal and how mending clothes often equates to caring for those who wear them.

While the defiance expressed by Pym, Sundbø and Ljones might be quieter than Ryggen’s, one contemporary artist is following more closely in her footsteps. Featured in another new book, Vitamin T: Threads & Textiles in Contemporary Art (Phaidon), Britta Marakatt-Labba was raised in a Sámi community in Sweden and went on to study in Norway. She created The Roots (2018) in response to right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik’s 2011 attacks in Norway, in which several young Sámi people lost their lives. Six trees, their roots severed, represent their lives cut short, and twelve figures their mourning mothers. Breivik not only shot 69 people on the island of Utøya that day, but also detonated a bomb that killed eight and injured more 30 more. It also damaged Hannah Ryggen’s We Are Living on a Star (1958). One of her more optimistic pieces, it took on new significance when it was restored and returned to its rightful place in the entrance hall of the Highrise, a government building in Oslo, next to a plaque that says, ‘The mysteries of the universe and love’s essential place in our world,’ – its faith in love as a personal and political force enduring in spite of everything. Pretty powerful for ‘mere craft.’

Broderie bureau.indb
Åse Ljones, View, Embroidery on linen, 2016.

This article was published on the Norwegian Arts website and can be read here. Top photograph: Hannah Ryggen’s We Are Living on a Star (1958) on view at Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2019. Photography: Norbert Miguletz.

Design News with Katie Treggiden (Monocle 24)

In September 2019, Katie Treggiden was invited into the Monocle24 studio to share a round-up of craft and making news. She and Josh Fehnert discussed Labour & Wait’s pop-up shop at Lassco and the secret of their success ahead of their 20th anniversary next year, the rise and rise of weaving and why Secret Universe, Company’s solo show at Design Museum Helsinki, is a good example of how to stay on the right side of the inspiration/appropriation divide when it comes to craft and culture.

Monocle radio Sept 2019.jpg

You can listen to the show