The Business of Antiques

Katie joined Toma Clarke Haines, The Antique Diva on her podcast The Business of Antiques.

You can listen to the full episode here

In today’s episode, Toma Clark Haines, CEO of The Antiques Diva & Co and founder of The Republic of Toma, talks with Katie Treggiden – author, journalist, podcaster, keynote speaker, and the founder and director of Making Design Circular, a membership community and online learning platform for designers, makers, craftspeople, and artists who want to become more sustainable. This episode is a journey from Katie’s idyllic childhood growing up in Cornwall, surrounded by beaches, moors, and the countryside, going fishing after school on sunny afternoons and having barbecues on the beach for tea to the bright lights of university and then a career in advertising. However, with the disillusionment surrounding what the career in advertising was giving – as Katie puts it,“the simultaneously devastating and the best thing that had ever happened” her at that time in life, and the sudden loss of her job due to the closing of her firm’s London office; this is when Katie Treggiden really started living the design writer’s life she had dreamed of as a child.

Katie’s love for design was the spark that kindled her love of writing, and her severance package bought her six months to makeover her life into that of a full time writer and do that, which she did! Katie’s story, at times, seems straight out of a movie. Her passion and perseverance are an inspiration to listeners who are on their own journeys launching their dream careers in design and antiques. When Toma saw Katie Treggiden’s latest book title–Broken, and the subtitle Mending and Repair in a Throwaway World, she knew she must have this longtime colleague and friend on The Business of Antiques podcast. Broken “celebrates 25 artists, curators, designers and makers who have rejected the allure of the fast, disposable and easy in favor of the patina of use, the stories of age and the longevity of care and repair. Accompanying these profiles, six in-depth essays explore the societal, cultural and environmental roles of mending in a throwaway world.” 

“I think the environmental crisis brings up a lot of feelings and emotions and you can’t create a space that is addressing the environmental crisis without holding space for those emotions you know I talk a lot about,” Katie explains. “Defiant hope and that’s not about passive optimism – that’s about waking up every morning and choosing to believe in a better world and acting accordingly but you can’t do that by bypassing the fear, right? You’ve got to hold space for the fear and hopelessness and the defeat that we all feel and then enable people to move through those feelings and empower them with what they need to take action.” This episode leaves listeners empowered and inspired to carefully and thoughtfully craft their own best lives harnessing their defiant hope to spark meaningful change as Katie Treggiden has.

Learn more about Katie, Making Design Circular, tackling the environmental crisis, and more at katietreggiden.com.

The Antiques Diva & Co: Antique buying tours and sourcing services in 16 countries on 3 continents

Antique Dealer Training Program: Antique dealer training and mentorship & services for new and experienced dealers

Republic of Toma Business and Brand Consulting services:   Consulting services for entrepreneurs helping you to clarify your vision of your business and how it fits in with your personal goals. 

Republic of Toma Fashion: Custom jewelry designed by Toma, inspired by her love of antiques and travel

The Business of Antiques: Podcast on making your antiques business sexy, modern and fun… and PROFITABLE!

The Antiques Diva Furniture Collection By Aidan Gray: Reproductions using classic design mixed with modern materials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photography by Katie Treggiden.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photography by Katie Treggiden.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photography by Katie Treggiden.

How dare we look to young people for hope? (STIR World)

The last time I visited Dutch Design Week was in 2015. I remember the Design Academy Eindhoven show in particular: it fizzed with possibility. “The problems of the world are so deep, so profound, that thinking of solutions will not help us,” said Thomas Widdershoven, the creative director at the time, in his welcome address. “If you narrow down a problem to solve it, then you have a narrow mind, and it will not be profound enough to come up with real alternatives. What I see my students do is sometimes clumsy, sometimes funny, sometimes nonsense, and sometimes spot on, but they address social issues.”

Eight years on, I can’t remember what the pressing issues of the day were, but I do remember graduate projects that included a light-hearted reflection on the social media-driven popularity of the monstera plant (by Daniela Treija and Sara Sturges), a Willy-Wonka-inspired reinvention of the popcorn maker (by Jolene Carlier), and Simone Post’s multi-layered, multi-coloured glass pendant lamps inspired by the drawings of a seven-year-old boy. Of course, there were also more serious projects addressing topics such as migration, unemployment and premature birth, but the tone—as Widdershoven indicated—was light. The projects did address the issues of the day, but they did so with a sense of optimism.

Why Don’t You Throw it Away by Blanche Vivet /// Image: Courtesy of Nicole Marnati
Our Beloved and Sacred Sun by Adam Bialek /// Image: Courtesy of Carlfried Verwaayen
Look Up With Me by Linting Min /// Image: Courtesy of Nicole Marnati
Feeling Flemish, Felting Flemish by Nell Maher /// Image: Courtesy of Femke Reijerman

The majority of this year’s BA graduates started at DAE in the autumn of 2019. COVID reached the Netherlands on February 27, 2020, when the country’s first case was confirmed in Tilburg. To date, almost seven million people have died worldwide. In May of the same year, 44-year-old white police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black American man, in Minneapolis, prompting a global reckoning with historical racism and police brutality. Within a year, 229 more Black people had been killed by the police in America.

In 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that human activity is changing the climate in unprecedented and irreversible ways and within a year, the oceans and 28 countries had all experienced their warmest year on record. Russia launched a military invasion of Ukraine in a steep escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian War, and there are currently major armed conflicts in seven separate parts of the world, including in Gaza where the death toll has already eclipsed that of Ukraine.

Machine by Myrna De Bruijn /// Image: Courtesy of Carlfried Verwaayen
Ensnared Identity by Yawen Cong /// Image: Courtesy of Femke Reijerman
Unearthed by Szymon Klejborowski /// Image: Courtesy of Nicole Marnati

In 2022, ‘Roe vs Wade,’ the 1973 landmark case after which abortion was made legal across the US, was overturned, and more than 60 countries have criminalised consensual same-sex activity. Still, more have laws and policies that threaten the very existence of members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Widdershoven described the world problems of 2015 as “so deep, so profound.” I am not sure what he would have to say about the issues this year’s DAE graduates have been grappling with, but their show felt anything but clumsy, funny or nonsense. Instead, there was a real sense of heaviness that feels hard to shake off even as I write this two weeks later.

After the Pyrocene by Nico Neves /// Image: Courtesy of Femke Reijerman
The Big Pile of Cardboard Boxes by Gabriel Richard /// Image: Courtesy of Ronals Smits

Nico Neves’ work, After the Pyrocene, was an imagined landscape of burnt trees—a ‘scorched forest made of digital textures’ to highlight the impact of digital technologies on our relationship with the natural world. The project draws on his own experience of having to watch his grandmother’s village in Portugal burn via his mobile phone and news footage. It aims to evoke ‘solastalgia’—the emotional distress caused by environmental change—in those who engage with it.

The Columns of Cardboard Boxes by Gabriel eszo Richard were totem-like piles of discarded cardboard boxes he had collected on the streets on Eindhoven and covered in black illustrations to depict ‘how much is experienced in daily life.’ With images that include grotesque faces piled on top of one another, trees grouped into dark forests and a person lying in bed, underlined eyes fully open, next to an alarm that has stopped ringing, the experience of walking among them was overwhelming to say the least.

Sonic Footprints by Louis Möckel /// Image: Courtesy of Nicole Marnati
The Intangible Performance by Marie King /// Image: Courtesy of Pierre Castignola

Audio projects such as Louis Möckel’s Sonic Footprints added to the feeling of claustrophobia and rising panic. He investigated the environmental impact of industrial sound emissions, treating them as ecological footprints. A mass-produced PVC toy dolphin affixed to a vinyl record playing recordings of all the sounds that had been generated during its manufacture and transportation demonstrated their disruption to ecological systems.

There were of course more optimistic projects and some brilliant ideas offering real alternatives, but many projects felt like an expression of very personal pain—a cry for help rather than an optimistic vision of the future.

With the rise of youth activism, and figures such as Greta Thunberg, Mikaela Loach and Clover Hogan gaining prominence, it can be tempting to think the next generation has taken on the challenge of resolving the problems we face, but as Thunberg said to world leaders at a UN Youth Summit in New York in 2019, “You all come to us young people for hope. How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.” I couldn’t help but hear her words echo around my mind as I walked around this show—a 44-year-old adult looking to the next generation for inspiration; for hope.

Staring at Empty Spaces by Lea Wurthmann /// Image: Courtesy of Ronald Smits
Crafts of Resistance by Daniela Tokashiki Kunigami /// Image: Courtesy of Pierre Castignola
The Prescription: A Consolation for Melancholic Souls by Alissa Guillouet /// Image: Courtesy of Carlfried Verwaayen
he Popping Sound of Bubble Wrap by Ilaria Cavaglia /// Image: Courtesy of Carlfried Verwaayen

Perhaps it’s about time we, as leaders in business, in government, in our own damn lives, started to take genuine action. Maybe it’s time the grown-ups offered some real alternatives and provide these young people with some hope rather than looking to them to fix the messes we have made.

Despair is not the soil in which creativity thrives. If we really want the help—and respect—of this emerging generation of designers, we need to take the pressure off a little, give them back the freedom to explore, to respond to the reality we have built for them in clumsy, funny, nonsense or serious ways. Perhaps some of them will show us the path to addressing social and environmental issues, but they should be free to do so without bearing the weight of the assumption that these are their problems to fix, when, if we are really honest with ourselves, we know they are ours.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position of STIR or its Editors.)

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

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

Photo: Katie Treggiden

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

Photo: Katie Treggiden

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

Photo: Raw Color

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

Photo: Raw Color

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

Photo: Katie Treggiden

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

Photo: Raw Color

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

Photo: Raw Color

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

Photo: Katie Treggiden

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

Photo: Katie Treggiden

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

Photo: Katie Treggiden

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

Photo: Katie Treggiden

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

Photo: Raw Colour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kiki: Structuring Chaos \\\ Photo: Katie Treggiden

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

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

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

Joost: Brassbars \\\ Photo: Katie Treggiden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photography by Katie Treggiden.

Fight to Repair Podcast

The Fight to Repair Podcast: Weekly dispatches from the front lines of the global fight for the right to repair, including interviews with repair warriors on the front lines hosted by Paul Roberts, the founder of SecuRepairs.org and The Security Ledger and Jack Monahan.

Katie Treggiden featured as a guest in episode 019 of the Fight to Repair podcast exploring the surprisingly simple approach to environmentalism that you probably haven’t thought much about is “craft.” talking about why repairers need hope, not guilt!

You can listen to the full episode here

This week we welcome Katie Treggiden, a speaker, podcaster (https://katietreggiden.com/podcast/), and author known for her expertise in craft, design, and sustainability.

Katie’s journey into the world of environmentalism took a unique path. Before she delved into issues like sustainability and circularity, she was a craft and design journalist. What sets Katie apart in her approach to environmentalism is her ability to see the world through the lens of craft.

For her, repair is not just about fixing what’s broken; it’s about storytelling and connection. She believes in the beauty of mending, where ordinary people can breathe new life into items using readily available materials and simple skills.

Katie’s perspective on repair extends beyond the individual level. She envisions a world where repair becomes a cultural norm, where we value objects for their history and the stories they carry. The intersection of environmentalism and repair, as seen through Katie’s eyes, isn’t about sacrifice; it’s about creating a future filled with joy and connection. Nor is repair just a means to do less harm, instead seeing it as a tool for a path towards doing more good.

Katie’s most recent book is all about repair, and we talk through how it relates to everything from human connection to solving our oversized waste problem.

Learn more about Katie’s work:

Wasted: When Trash Becomes Treasure

Broken: Mending and Repair in a Throwaway World

Making Design Circular Membership Community

Circular podcast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How would you describe this project or body of work?

Playful, experimental, and hopeful.

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

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

Which repair techniques are you using and why? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think the future holds for repair?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photography by Katie Treggiden.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photography by Katie Treggiden.

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

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

Photo: Megan Taylor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Courtesy of Spark & Bell

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

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

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

All other photography by Katie Treggiden.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photography by Katie Treggiden.

Materials matter at Material Matters 2023 (STIR World)

Material Matters is a show that feels like a magazine, with a mission to ‘make the world a bit better,’ and it (mostly) succeeds.

Imagine visiting a design show that feels like walking through the pages of a magazine. There is a visually striking installation that doubles as an eye-catching front cover; a ‘news section’ exploring material innovation, bigger exhibitions that mimic in-depth features and a marketplace and talks space that evoke the back pages. That’s exactly what Grant Gibson, former editor of both Blueprint and Crafts, and his co-founder William Knight, have pulled off in the second edition of Material Matters.

First up, the cover story: Walk into the airy, yet industrial atrium of the Bargehouse on London’s Southbank during the London Design Festival. You are met by the usual team of enthusiastic badge-zappers anplad a hotel-worthy reception desk fashioned from recycled plastic by SmilePlastics. But wait, there is more. Suspended from the double-height ceiling, 10 textile pieces—made from hemp and yarn spun from oranges, seaweed and pineapple—sway gently in the breeze, setting the tone for what is to come. Planted, an installation by Danish designer Tanja Kirst invites visitors ‘to experience new degradable and circular materials through experimental processes,’ and encourages them to turn the page by heading upstairs and into the show proper.

Planted by Tanja Kirst // Image: Courtesy of Material Matters

The first floor is the ‘news section’, where exhibitors are showcasing experimental material innovation, from Gareth Neal’s collaboration with the New Raw that programmes imperfections into 3D-printed, three-times-recycled polymer vessels to Silklab’s intelligent fabrics that can change colour to indicate anything from pollution to yeast infections.

Recycled polymer vessels designed by Gareth Neal // Image: Courtesy of Material Matters

Gibson describes the second floor as the ‘features section,’ where applied material innovations in the industry are given more space, and in many ways, he’s right. The show’s ‘Designer of the Year,’ Pearson Lloyd, fulfils this brief particularly well with a gently educational exhibition that reflects on their changing use of materials over time. Themes such as ‘design with waste,’ ‘design with data’ and ‘design for circularity’ feel comprehensive and don’t shy away from potentially controversial decisions such as replacing the plywood component with more lightweight recycled expanded polypropylene competent for the furniture which lowers the carbon footprint and increases the recycled and recyclable content. Contributions to this floor such as Norwegian aluminium giant Hydro and British lighting brand Bert Frank are both beautiful and interesting, but perhaps read more like glossy ads than in-depth features.

Camira Pupa by Pearson Lloyd // Image: Courtesy of Material Matters

Moving up the stairs, ever smaller stands recreate the feeling of flipping to the back half of a magazine: the third floor is conceived as a marketplace with commercially ready content. Social enterprise Goldfinger showcases its ‘treecycling’ initiative that sees timber felled due to weather, urban development or disease, saved from the chipper by being turned into furniture—in this case, a collection of tables and benches originally created for London’s Tate Modern. Interior leatherwork studio Bill Amberg exhibits its collaboration with the Knepp Estate, renowned for the ground-breaking ‘wilding’ project. A simple diagram on the wall demonstrates the efficient cutting pattern that enabled the most respectful use of leather from Knepp’s cattle.

Bill Amberg Studio x Knepp Estate’s Knepp Furniture Collection // Image: David Cleveland

Half of the third floor is given over to Isola, the design district more readily associated with Milan Design Week, and the bar, resulting in a slightly more chaotic feel, but no less interesting projects. My favourite was Simon Frend’s ‘ephemeral eco cremation vessels.’ Made from recycled materials such as coffee grounds and newspaper and designed to biodegrade with ‘zero environmental impact’, they are perfectly pot-bellied vessels that honour one of the toughest moments of many of our lives with more respect for the oft-quoted line ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust’ than the stuff of most end-of-life paraphernalia.

Simon Frend’s Eco Urns collection // Image: ©Matt Theodore

The top floor, within the eaves of the building, holds smaller stands and the talk space. Highlights include Yair Neuman—who makes lighting and spectacles from the display lenses that pop out of Cubitts frames when you have them made up with your prescription—and Solidwool, purchased in 2020 by Roger Oates Design from founders Hannah and Justin Floyd. It is good to see that the Hembury Chair, the seat of which is made from British wool and bio-resin, has kept its soul after a lengthy process of re-engineering, redesign and production development.

Hembury Chair designed by Solidwool // Image: Courtesy of Material Matters

Material Matters worked with The Collective and MCM Design Consultancy to create the talks space from waste EchoPanel offcuts. This enabled its construction to walk the circular talk of its content and created a highly functional and inclusive space, even for those with hearing difficulties and auditory-processing issues, for whom the open layout would otherwise simply not have worked.

Talks space at Material Matters 2023 // Image: Sophie Mutevelian

But it is in the programming that design festivals usually fall short. Epitomising ‘pale, male and stale,’ they are often nothing more than a talking shop for show sponsors and the organisers’ social network, invited to rehash old ideas despite a distinct lack of expertise or fresh perspectives. At Material Matters, nothing could be further from the truth. The panel I see, Scaling Up: Biomaterials Meet AI, ably chaired by STIR’s curatorial director Samta Nadeem, is representative of a programme of diverse speakers tackling the pertinent issues facing the industry, such as decarbonisation, waste and regenerative design. It features a stellar line-up of brilliant women, namely Asli Dirik, research assistant at Silklab; Nancy Diniz, the co-founder of bioMATTERS; Liz Corbin, the director of Fraqter; and Loulou van Ravensteijn, founder of ChangeAutomation—who don’t shy away from flexing their collective intellect to explore the topic with the nuance and complexity required to do it justice.

Like any magazine, there are parts of Material Matters I skim over or flick past, and parts I devour and want to know more about, and that’s what making a magazine—or a show like this one—is all about.

There are a lot of shows around these days, many of them struggling to find their purpose in this ever-changing digital, post-Brexit, ‘living with’ COVID era. This show is not among them. Beyond its perspective-shifting focus on materials, there is one thing that everybody involved in Material Matters has in common. “We are trying to showcase people who are trying to make the world a bit better,” says Gibson, simply. And it shows—from the front cover all the way through to the back page.

London Design Festival is back! In its 21st edition, the faceted fair adorns London with installations, exhibitions, and talks from major design districts including Shoreditch Design Triangle, Greenwich Peninsula, Brompton, Design London, Clerkenwell Design Trail, Mayfair, Bankside, King’s Cross, and more. Click here to explore STIR’s highlights from the London Design Festival 2023.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position of STIR or its Editors.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interplay by Giles Nartey \\\ Photo: Katie Treggiden

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

Interplay by Giles Nartey \\\ Photo: Katie Treggiden

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

Gonzo’s Underground Mix Vol 7 by Yumura Teruhiko

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

The design industry needs to let go of its obsession with the new (Deezen)

“What’s new?” is often the first question a journalist asks of a design brand when stepping onto their stand at a trade show or beginning an interview.

Annual stylistic tweaks have driven unnecessary upgrades to cars since the concept was introduced by General Motors in 1923. The emergence of pre-packaged food and disposable drinks bottles in the mid-20th century enabled people to buy instead of make, replace instead of repair, and reclassify objects and materials as waste, rather than holding on to them as resources. This made ordinary people feel rich, fuelling an insatiable desire for the new.

There has already been a real shift towards designers using waste or “second-life” materials

In her 1999 book Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash, Susan Strasser coined the term “the veneration of newness”. It is a phenomenon that emerged in 1950s America, ushering in the throwaway culture that came to define the second half of the 20th century and continues today with fast fashion, fast furniture and even fast tech.

It’s time for change. The design industry needs to let go of its obsession with the new and instead start venerating the patina of age, and lead the transition to a circular economy.

The second tenet of the circular economy, as defined by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, is to “keep materials and objects in use”. There has already been a real shift towards designers using waste or “second-life” materials and talk of “design for disassembly”. We’ve started to get our heads around the idea of keeping materials in use, but what about the objects themselves?

Fashion might have led the design industry towards “fast furniture”, but it’s also leading the way back towards repair. British brand Toast now employs as many repair specialists as it does designers, and not only offers clothes-swapping events and repair services, but also Toast Renewed – a collection of repaired clothes and home accessories.

The pieces cost more than their original RRP, adding value to stock that would have once been destined for outlet stores and demonstrating a business model for repair. “As a matter of integrity, brands have a responsibility to incorporate repair, rental or resale into their business models,” said Toast’s Madeleine Michell. “These steps come with challenges, but they are essential for a transition towards a more circular system.”

We need to start questioning whether new products and furniture are always the answer

Raeburn is another fashion brand built on circular principles. It was launched in 2009 with a collection of eight garments made from a single pilot’s parachute and has continued the themes of reuse and repair to this day. “It’s apparent that repair and mending is becoming part of the mainstream again,” founder Christopher Raeburn told me. “I’d like to think that the future will see repair celebrated as it used to be, but it’s also important that this comes in tandem with better product design.”

A handful of product and furniture brands are starting to take note. TAKT launched Spoke (pictured), a sofa that is designed for repair, during Copenhagen’s 3 Days of Design in June. “The change we need is to design products that have exposed, visible fixings that can be operated with simple, accessible tools – if tools are required at all,” said its designer Tørbjorn Anderssen. “We need to ensure that recyclable mono-materials are used wherever possible and we need to provide customers with spare parts that extend the life of products.”

If design is about solving problems, perhaps we need to start questioning whether new products and furniture are always the answer. “We don’t make lights, we find them” is the strapline of Skinflint – a certified B Corp that has saved more than 50,000 vintage lights from landfill.

The brand salvages lamps from the 1920s to the 1970s, restores them to modern safety standards and then offers a lifetime guarantee, repair service and buy-back scheme. “We’ve demonstrated that a fully circular approach to lighting is absolutely possible,” said founder Chris Miller. “And we hope that other leaders in the industry will follow suit, bringing change to the sector as a whole.”

If we can stop asking “what’s new?” and instead celebrate what isn’t, perhaps we can let go of a 20th-century model that is no longer serving us, and lead the way in the transition to a circular economy.

Katie Treggiden is the founder and director of Making Design Circular, a membership community and online-learning platform for sustainable designers and makers, and the author of Broken: Mending and Repair in a Throwaway World (Ludion, 2023).

The photography is by Claudia Vega.

If you care, then repair – Design Anthology UK, Issue 15

There are a few moments in history to where you can trace the explosion of our single-use society. A New York industry event in 1950, when American clothing retailer B. Earl Puckett announced that “utility cannot be the foundation of a prosperous apparel industry. We must accelerate obsolescence.” Five years later, the cover of Life magazine depicted a family throwing plastic into the air with glee, under the headline “Throwaway Living”. And a comment that was made in 1956 that plastic’s future was “in the garbage can” (requoted in the 1997 book American Plastic: A Cultural History) – referring to the fact its profit lay not in the durability for which it was engineered, but in its disposability.

Today, fashion is fast, disposability is the norm and it is often easier to replace than repair. But we are starting to understand that this “take-make-waste” approach is not sustainable on a finite planet. We are running out of raw materials to take from the earth, generating too much carbon, making more and more stuff, and running out of space to safely dispose of our waste. We need to move towards a circular economy; one in which (as defined by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation) we design out waste and pollution, keep materials and objects in use, and regenerate natural systems. It is just possible that we are witnessing the moments in history at which that is starting to happen.

Venice’s Architecture Biennale in May was criticised by Zaha Hadid Architects principal Patrik Schumacher for not showing enough architecture. He drew particular attention to the German Pavilion, which he described as full of “piles of construction material”. But
perhaps he missed the point. The event, curated by Lesley Lokko, was lauded by other visitors for being the first major design and architecture event to take on some of the world’s biggest problems. And the German Pavilion? A material bank for Venice repair projects to “keep materials and objects in use”.

It’s not only architects who are putting repair at the heart of their thinking. British lighting company Anglepoise now offers a lifetime guarantee on new lamps and a repair service for vintage models. “We have for many years been sold products that are designed to fail at some point, while also being sold the ridiculous notion that something is better replaced in its entirety than repaired,” says chairman Simon Terry. “The design industry is distracting itself by moving the conversation towards recyclable or recycled materials but, of course, that isn’t enough. It needs to broaden its scope and stop churning out new things for the sake of it.”

Danish furniture company Takt is doing just that. Its first sofa, Spoke – launched in June – is designed to be repaired at home. “I hope we are part of a repair movement,” says Takt’s founder and CEO Henrik Taudorf Lorensen. “Besides the environmental benefits of extending the lifespan of products, our customers have become emotionally attached to the furniture that they have repaired.”

When people repair their own objects, whether it’s a sofa, a lamp or the knee of a child’s trouser leg, they don’t only increase the functional and emotional durability of that object, they also reclaim their own power. They start to ask questions about a system that has such little respect for the finite materials we have taken out of the earth and the labour that has shaped them into the objects we use every day.

Lebanese-British artist Aya Haidar creates installations that highlight the hidden labour of care and repair. “The personal agency that comes with repair goes against consumerism and represents a challenge to a broken system,” she says. “If there’s going to be any sustainable long-term change, everyone needs to take into account this responsibility and negotiate a bit of personal agency for themselves.” Perhaps that’s why repair is really important. It represents not only one practical solution to the environmental crisis, but a shift in mindset, a growing desire to challenge the systems that make fashion fast, disposability the norm and a broken object easier to replace than repair. I really hope we will look back on moments like the German Pavilion at the Venice Biennale as more than “piles of construction material” but as a physical marker of the moment when the circular economy really started to gather pace.

Image credit: Yeshen Venema Photography

This article was written for Design Anthology UK, Issue 15 published in September 2023.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How would you describe this project or body of work?

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

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

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

Which repair techniques are you using and why? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think the future holds for repair?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How would you describe this project?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which repair techniques are you using and why? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think the future holds for repair?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which repair techniques are you using and why? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think the future holds for repair?

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

You can find out more about TOAST Renewed here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

You can find out more about skinflint here.

BROKEN – Book Launch

In May 2023, Katie celebrated the launch of her sixth book, BROKEN: Mending and Repair in a throwaway world at RAEBURN Lab E20.

We live in a single-use society, where fashion is fast, disposability is the norm and it is easier to replace than to repair. We don’t need to mend things anymore – and yet we do. What is it about Homo faber – man the maker – that cannot resist fixing what is broken?

As we start to decouple from the linear take-make-waste model that has dominated Western economies since the Industrial Revolution and seek something more circular, an enquiry into what mending means has never been more urgent.

With a foreword by The Repair Shop’s Jay Blades, this new book by craft and circularity advocate Katie Treggiden celebrates 25 artists, curators, menders and re-makers who have rejected the allure of the fast, disposable and easy in favour of the patina of use, the stories of age and the longevity of care and repair. Accompanying these profiles, six in-depth essays explore the societal, cultural and environmental roles of mending in a throwaway world.

Katie was interviewed about her book by Yasmin Jones-Henry, a writer and strategist with specialisms across sustainability, design, fashion & culture.

The Lab E20 is designed & produced by RÆBURN: regenerating London’s creative industries, rethinking retail and bringing circular economy design to the built environment.

You can purchase your copy of the book here

 

Boardroom 2030

Boardroom 2030? Watch this space

We invited journalist, author, podcaster and founder and director of Making Design Circular, Katie Treggiden, to join us for Cornwall Boardroom 2030 at the Eden Project in 2022. Here she reflects on her experience and the ripple effects it has had for her since.

Close your eyes and imagine a boardroom. What is the décor like? What sort of table is in the centre of the room? What does it have on it? What are the chairs like? What is hung on the walls?

Now imagine the board meeting is in full swing. Who is sitting at the head of the table, leading the meeting? Who is speaking? Who else is sitting around the table?

Now, let me make some guesses about what you might have imagined.

A glass or oak-panelled room? A big impressive table, with notebooks, laptops and coffee cups? Black office chairs or maybe something more akin to a dining chair. Maybe a plate of biscuits, sandwiches or croissants in the middle? And on the walls, a big screen and maybe some artworks?

As for the people in the room: lots of tall*, white, middle-aged men in suits? Maybe a couple of smartly dressed women?

Did you see any people of colour? Any elderly or younger people – any children? Did you see people with disabilities or neurodiversity? Members of the LGBTQIA+ community – or members of the local community? Did you see junior employees, customers or suppliers? Did you see designers or scientists? Anyone who went to state school – or art-school? Anyone in jeans, even? How about someone with blue hair, a tattoo or a facial piercing?! Did you see trees, rivers or birds – or at least any advocates for nature?

The question that poses is – does the homogenous collection of mostly tall, able-bodied, public-school-educated, neurotypical, cis-gendered, straight, white men that comprise most boards have what it takes to get us there?

Whoever is in the room, a board of directors is the group of people appointed to jointly supervise the activities of an organisation – and therefore are the people ultimately responsible for its impact on both people and planet.

The 2030 Agenda, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Goals – the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs – to improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.

The question that poses is – does the homogenous collection of mostly tall, able-bodied, public-school-educated, neurotypical, cis-gendered, straight, white men that comprise most boards have what it takes to get us there?

Or do we need more diversity, more perspectives, more worldviews, more lived experiences, more voices in the room? More advocates for the communities (both human and non-human) most affected by climate change?

This time last year, I was lucky enough to be invited by Leap to Cornwall Boardroom 2030 to see first-hand the difference that including more voices in the conversation can make to the quality of questions asked and decisions made.

We heard from Good Energy’s youth panel – an advisory board of young people that represent the concerns of the future. They meet formally and are also involved in the ongoing conversations through an open-communications channel hosted on Slack.

We saw a mock board for the Eden Project that raised such good questions that Eden have asked them to come back for real conversations with their board.

The power of diversity to drive better conversations and therefore better decisions was palpable.

But not all companies are big enough to have a formal board of directors. I run an online course called The Seed, that empowers designers and makers to explore, find and define their unique contribution to environmentalism. Most of them are tiny companies often comprising just one or two people.

Undeterred, I took inspiration from Cornwall Boardroom 2030, and one of the exercises we undertook was to put together an imaginary board. People – alive or dead, known to them or famous – that they could call on informally or even just hypothetically. The results blew my mind.

Katie Treggiden photographed by Emma Oates

A British furniture-maker who works predominantly with wood, included an oak tree on his board, so that the needs of the forest would be represented. He now goes and meets with that tree weekly.

A Swedish maker who upcycles waste plastic in her work, invited the ocean to join her board.

A Belgian-Congolese fashion designer included an empty chair. Despite having put together the most diverse group of people she could think of, she wanted to make space for potential blind spots, and conscious of the phrase ‘if there isn’t room for you at the table, bring your own chair,’ she wanted to make sure no-one would ever have to.

The Seed forms part of Making Design Circular – the membership community and online learning platform for designers, makers, craftspeople and artists, who I encourage to “rewild their creative practices, so that they, their businesses and their planets can thrive.”

I am currently beginning the process of becoming a B Corp. The first section in the BIA (the B Corp Impact Assessment) is about governance and one of the questions asks whether you have an advisory board. Having experienced these incredible examples of the impact that bringing more voices into the conversation can have, my answer is ‘not yet, but watch this space.’

I have in front of me a list of 12 people I plan to invite to join the Making Design Circular advisory board. They include a 13-year-old girl who lives in Sweden and an 80-year-old retired dentist; advocates for zero-waste, repair and regeneration to represent the circular economy; members of my local community; a seaweed scientist; and that fashion designer and her empty chair.

Now does that collection of people have what it takes to help steward Making Design Circular towards the 2030 that the UN’s SDGs are aiming for? I don’t know, but they’ve got a damn sight more chance than I have of doing on my own.

– Katie

 

 *A study of Fortune 500 companies showed that (in America), something as arbitrary as height can be the key to the C-suite: 4% of adult men in the general US population are 6’2” or taller, but 30% in the CEO sample reached those heights. Source: https://www.creativereview.co.uk/rama-gheerawo-design-leadership/

 

To access the online article click here

The Restart Project – Restart Radio

The Restart Project helps people learn how to repair their broken electronics, and rethink how they consume them in the first place.

Katie Treggiden featured as a guest in episode 086 of the Restart Radio podcast talking about why repairers need hope, not guilt!

This month we talked to author and communicator, Katie Treggiden about her recent book entitled, Broken: Mending & Repair in a Throwaway World. Katie has put decades of thought into helping creatives and makers become more sustainable but also forgive themselves when they can’t be.

Back to her roots

Having grown up surrounded by nature in Cornwall, Katie tells us about her surprising origin story. She spent over a decade working in advertising before pivoting towards her life-long love of writing. With this, she also folded in a new interest – purpose-driven craft and design. Since then, she has explored what this actually means through writing dissertations, books, and hosting a podcast on the topic. With all this experience under her belt, she decided that she wanted to help makers develop their working practices to fit the circular future that we need to build.

How craftspeople are using repair

Katie has previously written about waste and reuse, and her new book Broken puts the focus on repair. She shares some standout case studies from the book of artists and craftspeople who are incorporating repair into their work. These include Celia Pym, Bridget Harvey, Ekta Kaul – all artists who explore repair in entirely different ways.

Katie notes her interest in the different ways repair can be used for example, as a tool to restore practical value, or to add artistic value, or even for self-care. We talk about where repair and hacking fits into the larger culture of craft, and more specifically the ‘craft of use’. She notes how much more difficult electronic repair often is compared to more traditional craft and making. This is especially true now that manufacturers make an effort to conceal the craftsmanship that goes into making (and therefore taking apart and repairing) our devices.

Letting go of guilt in order to move forward

While individual action is of course important, system change is essential for the scale of the problem we are dealing with. When running her courses for creatives, Katie really focuses on this point as key to forward movement. Instead of being weighed down by the personal guilt of climate breakdown, makers need to be led by curiosity and experimentation instead of sustainability perfectionism. We all have a part to play in helping the planet, but it is not our responsibility alone.

“I think really until companies are responsible for the things they sell for their whole lifetime, repair is not going to be the norm.”

Additionally, she stresses the need to be compassionate. There are so many reasons why people may not repair. These include social stigma, a lack of time or resources, or that their stuff is simply not designed to be repaired. Knocking down these barriers is not something anyone can do on their own, rather, we need collective action to change the system.

Practising ‘defiant hope’

It’s difficult to stay optimistic about our power to enact change but Katie believes hope is one of the most important tools we have. There isn’t a one size fits all solution to being sustainable, but what can join us all together in our efforts is our common goal.

“One of the most important parts of my job is staying hopeful and and helping to keep other people hopeful.”

Links:

To listen to the episode on Spotify click here.

Webinar: 5-stage path to sustainability, The Design Trust

Katie Treggiden was asked by The Design Trust to join as a guest speaker for The Business Club, with their topic focussing on creating more sustainable businesses – but not in just a ‘yeah, I do my recycling’ way – but really walking the talk when it comes to eco values – a session for giving really practical tips helping businesses move forwards with this properly and long term.

During this session, Katie shared her 5-stage Path to Sustainability, which helps makers to identify which stage of their journey they are at (Acord, Seedling, Sapling, Tree or Forest) and then provides actionable steps to help them move forward from wherever they are towards becoming a fully regenerative business.

She also shared the Making Design Circular framework which explores how they might choose to be rather than what they might choose to do in order to rewild their creative practice so it enables them, their business and the planet to thrive. This includes practices such as letting go of perfectionism and the idea that there is one “right” way to do sustainability and instead embracing imperfect progress towards a values-aligned approach.

We need a genuine restart that asks difficult questions about the role of Salone (Deezen)

Milan design week is an opportunity to showcase ingenious responses to climate change but the Salone del Mobile fair it relies on is still inherently unsustainable, writes Katie Treggiden.

Salone del Mobile is back in its usual April slot and Milan design week 2023 is being touted as a new beginning after the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Having consulted with 2,300 interviewees and working groups on the fair’s role post-covid, Salone is promising “a new trade-fair experience, an impactful cultural program, [and] an event that focuses on sustainability”.

Stands will be laid over the lower floor of the Rho Fiera Milano fairgrounds only, rather than on both as in previous years, and the lighting show Euroluce will get a new “ring-shaped” layout. There is an attempt to fold the cultural heart of Milan design week into the fair itself with exhibitions, talks, workshops and installations. And finally, there is a renewed commitment to sustainability.

The first two seem inward-looking at best, but after the pandemic all but shut down the industry, a fresh start with sustainability at its heart feels appropriate. That part of the promise comes in the form of a new Sustainability Policy and Green Guidelines, membership of the UN Global Compact, and pending ISO 20121 certification.

The Green Guidelines ask exhibitors to be “team players” in the fair’s attempts to become more eco-friendly, promoting circularity and reuse in installation, low-impact materials, safety and access for all, a traceable and responsible supply chain, and clear communication of their efforts. If there are any consequences to not being a “team player”, these are not specified.

The phrases “cutting down”,”prioritising” and “opting for” are repeated throughout the document, which rather loosely incentivises action with the notion that “sustainability represents a new opportunity for growth”.

But we know that reducing impact while pursuing growth is rarely an effective strategy in environmentalism. To really address climate change, we need a genuine moment of restart – one that asks difficult questions about the role of Salone instead of seeking ways to perpetuate business as usual. It is no longer enough to do less harm, we must actively find ways to regenerate natural systems and build a path towards global equity.

This year’s edition of Salone del Mobile will draw 1,962 exhibitors from all over the world with countless product, furniture and stand components that cost a lot of carbon to move, let alone make. Typically, the fair attracts more than 370,000 specialist visitors from more than 188 countries, 5,000 journalists, and 27,500 members of the public. That’s a lot of air miles.

And yet, Milan design week is also the world’s largest showcase of the types of design innovation that the planet does need. At Salone Satellite last year, Disharee Mathur demonstrated her Passive Cooling Tiles, which are made from waste glass and sanitaryware and absorb ambient moisture to prevent buildings from overheating – a climate-positive solution to fight the effects of global warming.

At Milan flagship show Alcova, Estuary of Riptide and Reunion by Forêt Atelier revealed the hidden flora in the waters of the Oosterschelde in the Netherlands and explored their potential for capturing carbon, reducing the methane emissions from cattle, and providing biodiverse habitats.

And Studio Swine’s waste-free exhibition for the American Hardwood Export Council at the triennale showcased the potential for renewable hardwoods, called for balance in the way we use natural materials and underlined the need to “address the greatest social and economic issue of our time: climate change”.

My hopes this year for Milan design week are, as always, that what I see will fill me with optimism. New ideas from bright, young designers more concerned with solving the world’s problems than designing the next bestseller; material innovations that might finally free us from the linear take-make-waste model; and brands that are not just doing less harm but genuinely working for the benefit of people and planet.

Increasingly, however, my greatest fear is that none of what’s good about Milan can exist without the very problems it is trying to solve. The temples to consumerism filled with the same products in new colourways that consign their perfectly good predecessors to landfill, the hundreds of thousands of visitors flying in for just a few days, the rife capitalism that makes even the most culturally important events possible.

I’m only one of 5,000 journalists, but will what I see in Milan – and any good that I can do a result – really offset my own contribution to the carbon footprint of this whole endeavour? I don’t have an easy answer.

Milan design week is the biggest showcase of design in the world, and if it’s not exploring creative solutions to the world’s biggest problems, then I’m not sure what it is doing. But as trendy as it has become to tell anyone who will listen that you “don’t bother with the fair anymore”, Salone is the reason all of this is here.

We can’t walk around the city, gelato in hand, and pretend that almost 2,000 international brands haven’t shipped or air-freighted their wares into the Rho Fiera Milano fairgrounds. And we can’t pretend that isn’t what makes this entire endeavour possible. Salone is the sun around which the rest of Milan design week orbits. And without the sun, there is no life.

As with so much of the climate debate, there are no perfect solutions. No amount of “cutting down” or “opting for” is going to fix this. “Better than before” is still pretty bad.

But for all the hyperbole undoubtedly attached to this so-called “restart”, and despite sidestepping existential questions that might enable meaningful change, I am still daring to be hopeful about Salone. I don’t believe it has got the balance right yet, but at least it has its eyes on the scales.

Katie Treggiden is an author, journalist, podcaster and keynote speaker championing a circular approach to design. She is the founder and director of Making Design Circular, a membership community for designer-makers who want to become more sustainable.

Milan design week 2023

Milan design week 2023 takes place from 17-23 April 2022. See our Milan design week 2023 guide on Dezeen Events Guide for information about the many other exhibitions, installations and talks taking place throughout the week.

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.

Why we need to let designer-makers get sustainability wrong (Deezen)

Why we need to let designer-makers get sustainability wrong

The fear of being called out for ‘greenwashing’ is paralysing designer-makers into doing nothing on the climate crisis, says founder and director of Making Design Circular, Katie Treggiden. It’s time to let them make mistakes.

‘Carbon washing is the new greenwashing.’ ‘H&M called out for “greenwashing” in its Conscious fashion collection,’ and ‘Greenwashing won’t wash’ – all Dezeen headlines from the past few years. In fact, the last one was mine. And it’s important that we call out greenwashing – the practice of making false environmental claims in order to sell products, services or policies.

With 66% of all shoppers, rising to 75% among millennials, saying they consider sustainability when making a purchase,[1] the reward is clear. But making products and services truly environmentally responsible takes time, money, and effort, and the road to get there is full of nuance, compromises and trade-offs – none of which makes for easy profits or simple advertising slogans, so companies lie, exaggerate and bend the truth to scoop those sales.

Advertising and sales are hardly known for being bastions of honesty, but there is a bigger downside to greenwashing than simply misleading consumers into buying something they didn’t want. All the time, money, and effort invested into these practices is not being spent on actually becoming more sustainable – and companies are let off the hook. Meanwhile, the consumers who are misled are not investing their money in the companies that are sincerely trying to do things better. ‘Greenwashing perpetuates the status quo because it leads specifiers, end users – everyone in the chain – to believe that they are doing better than they actually are from a sustainability point of view,’ says founder of content marketing agency Hattrick, Malin Cunningham. ‘Equally, the businesses doing the greenwashing have no incentive to improve.’

However, all these headlines are striking fear into the hearts of designers, makers, interior designers and architects who want to do the right thing, but haven’t quite got it all worked out yet. In a poll of my community of designer-makers, 100% said that fear of getting it wrong had stalled progress on sustainability-driven projects. Cancel culture and call-out culture are particularly prevalent on social media, which often lacks the nuance for proper discussions about environmentalism and yet, those are the very spaces in which small creative businesses are promoting their products and services.

The importance of failure in creativity is well documented: for example, the 5,126 failed prototypes James Dyson went through before finally cracking the technology behind his eponymous vacuum cleaner; the Thomas Edison quote: ‘I have not failed 700 times. I have succeeding in proving that those 700 ways will not work’; the fact that Walt Disney’s first film company went bankrupt before he turned 21. But perhaps we’ve heard them so many times that we’ve forgotten what they mean.

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear gives the example of a cohort of film photography students at the University of Florida. Their professor divided them into two groups – one would be graded solely on the quantity of photographs they produced – the more pictures, the higher the grade, no matter how good they were. The second group need only submit one photograph, but it would be judged on quality – to get an A, it needed to be near-perfect. The result? The better photographs came from the first group – the group being judged on quantity alone. The moral of the story? In order for creative people to succeed, they need to be given permission to fail. Or put another way, holding them to a standard of near-perfection doesn’t create the conditions for success. ‘The only way that we’re going to be able to tackle the huge challenges that humanity is facing is by trial and error,’ says Cunningham. ‘Small independent businesses are very well placed to help find these solutions and it’s essential that they are allowed to experiment without being hung out to dry in the process.’

The difficulty is that the main difference between greenwashing and honest, but imperfect progress is intent – and that can be difficult to discern. For designers and makers, Cunningham recommends transparency in their communications: ‘It is about having clarity around the environmental impact you’re making as a business and what your goals are – and then being transparent about where you are on your journey towards achieving those goals,’ she says. ‘It means taking action first and communicating second.’

And what about those us writing those headlines? It is, of course, crucial that journalists ‘speak truth to power’ and continue to call out companies that are knowingly making exaggerated or outright false environmental claims. But it’s also important that we encourage imperfect progress, that we recognise honest intent and that we ask the right questions to make sure we can tell the difference. In our coverage of sustainable design, we need to celebrate the journey as well as the destination. We need to let designer-makers get sustainability wrong, so that they can get it right. All our futures depend on it.

Katie Treggiden is an author, journalist, podcaster and keynote speaker championing a circular approach to design. She is also the founder and director of Making Design Circular, a membership community in which designer-makers get to feel proud of contributing to a thriving planet with every product they make.

To read the article at its source please click here.

Virtual Keynote, iChemE Sustainability Week

Katie Treggiden was asked by iChemE (The Institution of Chemical Engineers) to deliver a virtual keynote for their sustainability week, as they develop sustainability knowledge for chemical engineers.

The keynote challenged the very concept of waste – does it exist, or is it just a category into which we choose to place things? And if waste doesn’t exist, how can each of us contribute to a zero-waste society?

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.

2022 Zero Waste Conference, Vancouver

Katie speaking on stage at an international zero waste conference, wearing a grey shirt, jumpsuit, back glasses and hand expressions

You can watch the highlights here

Image Credit: Metrovancouver Zero Waste Conference 2022

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.

The Design industry needs to imagine a world where we use less energy, full stop! (Dezeen | Solar Revolution)

“The design industry needs to imagine a world in which we use less energy.”

The transition to green energy is vital, and solar power has a huge part to play, but designers also need to find ways to reduce our energy consumption overall, says founder and director of Making Design Circular Katie Treggiden.

2022 has seen a glut of solar-powered design projects, from watches and headphones to bikes and even the world’s first solar-powered car. And Friday 09 September sees the launch of the inaugural Solar Biennale in the Netherlands – an initiative from self-described ‘solar designers’ Marjan van Aubel and Pauline van Dongen. Has solar power reached a tipping point?

We have been hearing about the moment that solar energy finally goes mainstream for decades. The National Geographic published an article by Daniel M. Kammen in 2011, claiming that “the solar energy industry is at a tipping point,” arguing that “the solar industry worldwide is the fastest growing source of electricity generation,” but cautioning that geopolitics and American protectionism (China is a major producer of solar panels) might dampen its potential. In 2012, Green Age told us, “The solar power tipping-point is coming,” defining that point, also known as grid parity or the golden goal, as “the moment when solar produces power at the same price as electricity from the grid.”

But in 2021 solar became the cheapest source of electricity globally and now the perfect storm of factors, including the long, cold winter of 2021­–22, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and dwindling UK gas reserves, has sent energy prices sky rocketing, making everybody take a long hard look at green – and locally produced – energy. So, are we ready for a solar revolution? And if we are, what role can designers, makers and architects play in realising the true potential of this clean and renewable resource?

Democratising access to solar power is one of the aims of the Solar Biennale. “To facilitate a shift in our perception towards solar, it also needs to be more accessible to a larger group of people,” van Aubel told Dezeen last year. Her solar lamp Sunne is designed to hang in windows and, powered by photovoltaic cells on its reverse, mimics the changing light profile from sunrise until sunset. Central Saint Martins design graduate Mireille Steinhage’s solar-powered heated blanket, which she aims to retail for less than £10, has extra resonance for the UK’s impending cost of living crisis, in which many people are expected to face a choice between ‘eating and heating’ this winter. Design has a role to play in increasing efficacy too – by mimicking the structure of the wings of the rose butterfly, which has evolved over millions of years to absorb heat from the sun, scientists have been able to create thin film solar cells that outperform traditional fixed solar panels at much lower cost due to tiny holes that scatter the light. Researchers in Australia have even developed a solar paint that can absorb water vapour and use the energy from the sun to split it and generate hydrogen – arguably the cleanest source of energy of all. By taking inspiration from nature and collaborating with scientists and engineers, designers can take something that is usually high-tech and expensive and make it more beautiful, more effective and more accessible.

But none of this addresses the elephant in the room – the fact that global electricity demand is growing faster than renewables. An IEA report published in July 2021 found that ‘electricity generation from renewables – including hydropower, wind and solar PV – is on track to grow strongly around the world over the next two years […] But even with this strong growth, renewables will only be able to meet around half the projected increase in global electricity demand over those two years.’ The other half of the increase will be met by fossil fuels, so even as renewables grow, we are still using more fossil fuels, because we are using more energy overall.

It is of course vital that we divest from fossil fuels. The Carbon Majors Report published in 2017 found that half of global industrial emissions since 1988 – the year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established – can be traced to just 25 corporate and state-owned fossil fuel producers. The case for moving to green energy is clear, and architects, designers and makers have a significant role to play in our transition, both in terms of designing the products and buildings that are powered by renewables, and in bringing about the cultural shifts necessary.

But perhaps the design industry has an even bigger, more important part to play. Environmental consultant Mark Shayler says that “creativity is nothing more than imagining a world that hasn’t arrived yet.” The world we need to imagine involves more than a simple switch of energy source. Where we really need the creativity of the design industry is in ushering in a world in which we use less energy full stop.

Town planners can design tree-filled cities that are a pleasure to walk and cycle through, to reduce our reliance on cars – electric, solar-powered or otherwise. And they can go further – the Fab Cities model asks us to reimagine the fundamental systems on which we rely and conceive of cities that make everything they need using circular models of fabrication, with the only thing traveling between cities being data.

Architects can create buildings that are heated and cooled passively without the need for radiators or air conditioning. Projects like Disharee Mathur’s passive cooling tiles made from waste sanitaryware in Jaipur will make a bigger difference than solar-powered air-conditioning units. Buildings that have bicycle storage instead of carparks, community vegetable gardens instead of lawns, and rooftop running tracks instead of basement gyms will all help to reduce our energy usage.

Experiential designers can help us to fall in love with the idea of travelling locally, slowly and paying more attention, instead of simply jetting off to far-flung destinations. Industrial designers can make simple changes to electronic devices so that they switch off when not in use and are more easily repaired. And makers and craftspeople can show us the slow value of the handmade versus the mass-produced on next-day delivery.  

We need a transition to green energy (and we need it fast), but we also need so much more than that, something the organisers of the Solar Biennale recognise, ‘What defines solar design is that it is much more than a way to provide sustainable energy,’ they say. ‘Solar design shapes new relationships between people and their environment.’ It is here that architects, designers and makers have the biggest role to play – in imagining a world that hasn’t arrived yet, a world in which people recognise their interconnected relationships with their environment and build their lives, spaces and systems accordingly.

Katie Treggiden is an author, journalist, podcaster and keynote speaker championing a circular approach to design. She is also the founder and director of Making Design Circular, a membership community in which designer-makers get to feel proud of contributing to a thriving planet with every product they make.

To read the article at its source please click 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.

Design practices must lead the way in rethinking capitalism to save the planet (Dezeen)

The environmental crisis is rooted in the same systems of oppression as capitalism and colonialism. We cannot tackle one without addressing the other two.

I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t exchange products or services for money, but we do need to adopt business models that put people and planet alongside profit – and fast.

Markets and trade have been around for thousands of years but capitalism is a more recent construct. According to Andrew Zimbalist, Howard J. Sherman and Stuart Brown, capitalism is “a system wherein the means of production… are privately owned and run by the capitalist class for a profit, while most other people… work for a wage”.

It relies not just on the exchange of sufficient goods to meet our needs, but on the generation of surplus – and that means taking more from the Earth than we need.

Western history books tell us that capitalism replaced feudalism and is the better system. However, they often omit the period between the two from 1350 to 1500 when, according to author of Less Is More Jason Hickel, former serfs built co-operative societies, producing what they needed on common land.

As peasants regained control of the land (as much as 90 per cent in Germany), they restored a reciprocal relationship with nature, reversing the deforestation, loss of soil fertility and overgrazing that had occurred under feudalism. But they didn’t generate a surplus for the elite, so something had to change.

In a process called “enclosure”, common lands across Europe were seized, crops burned, and millions of peasants forced away from their livelihoods. Across the Global South, land and bodies were “enclosed” at a much greater scale.

As Hickel explains, “the rise of capitalism in Europe… hinged on commodities that were produced by enslaved workers, on lands stolen from colonised peoples, and processed in factories by European peasants who had been dispossessed by enclosure… bodies were appropriated for the sake of surplus accumulation”.

Enclosure and colonialism caused a shift away from stewardship of natural resources towards control for profit. More efficient farms and plantations with less “wasted” land reduced biodiversity. When you understand that, today, Indigenous peoples comprise less than 5 per cent of the global population and yet protect 80 per cent of what’s left of Earth’s biodiversity, you start to see the enormity of tearing them away from the environments they nurtured for millennia.

Capitalism relies not only on surplus, but also on growth. In proto-capitalist models, profit was invested into non-productive ventures such as cathedrals or pyramids. Today it is poured into expanding production capacity and increasing profit, resulting in a feedback loop that requires more and more extraction, energy and labour.

It doesn’t take a mathematician to work out that infinite growth on a finite planet doesn’t stack up. We are using 1.5 times the natural resources Earth can regenerate every year, and according to the authors of Waste to Wealth, Peter Lacy and Jakob Rutqvist, that figure is set to double in the next decade. The energy required to turn these increasingly scarce materials into products to sell for profit almost always generates carbon dioxide.

We can’t keep generating more carbon while simultaneously reducing emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 to reach net zero by 2050. Meeting these targets – part of the Paris Climate Change Agreement – is vital if we are to avoid passing a series of irreversible tipping points towards systems collapse.

In his review of the first two volumes of research to come out of Rem Koolhaas‘ graduate seminar at the Harvard School of Design, philosopher Fredric Jameson said “it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism”. Twenty years on, we are confronted with our own extinction daily, so perhaps it is about time we start to imagine decoupling from a system that lionises surplus and growth at all costs.

Publicly listed companies are legally obliged to serve shareholders’ “best interests”, often interpreted as maximising profit. B Lab – the organisation behind the social and environmental certification, B Corp – is trying to change this. Certification requires changing a business’ “articles of association” to create a legal obligation for directors to consider the interests of all stakeholders, i.e. people and planet, not just shareholders.

The design industry is well-placed to lead the charge. From architecture firm We Made That to lighting restoration brand Skinflint, companies are already getting on board.

Cornish design brand Green & Blue considers nature its primary stakeholder, making habitats for solitary bees, birds and bats. Sebastian Cox makes furniture not based on market demand but on what can be made from the timber that comes out of woodlands managed for biodiversity.

Boardroom 2030 is a model that encourages this type of thinking. The idea is to invite different stakeholders – young people, employees, representatives from marginalised groups, members of local communities, even advocates for the more-than-human world – to take part in board meetings. Watching the Eden Project’s mock youth board meeting live at Cornwall’s Boardroom 2030 activation earlier this year, it was exhilarating to see the perspectives of experienced board members shift as young people posed new and difficult questions.

Creative thinkers within architecture and design practices have been challenging traditional business models for decades. Architecture studio RSHP is owned not by its founders or directors, but by a charity. It does make a profit, but everyone gets a share and donates 20 per cent to good causes. In 2007, the firm’s late co-founder Richard Rogers said: “A very major part of my architecture is about trying to create a world which is influenced for the better through public space and private space.”

Amsterdam-based New Heroes operates a model co-founder Lucas de Man describes as “a social-freelance organisation”, in which no-one is directly employed, staff choose projects and roles, there are only two pay grades and all are entitled to sick pay. De Man argues that this trust-based system is better for the environment because it promotes collaboration, diversity and innovation.

We have just eight years to avoid existential catastrophe. The question is not whether we have time to rethink capitalism, but whether we have time not to. Design practices must lead the way in putting people and planet alongside profit if we are to get through this decisive decade with any hope for the future.

Katie Treggiden is an author, journalist, podcaster and keynote speaker championing a circular approach to design. She is the founder and director of Making Design Circular, a membership community for designer-makers who want to become more sustainable. She is also a Dezeen Awards judge.

To read the article at its source please click 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.

Tarkett Panel Discussion, Clerkenwell Design Week

Katie Treggiden chaired a panel for carpet and flooring company Tarkett during Clerkenwell Design Week 2022. The discussion covered how to break the take-make-waste model from every angle of circularity, what more needs to be done to ensure the right products and materials are specified, their lives are extended as much as possible, and then how materials are reused at the end of their first life.

Panel members:
Marcelo – Tarkett EMEA Sustainability Manager
Sunand Prasad – Principal – Penoyre Prasad
Zoe McLeod – Associate – Sustainability First
Lay Koon Tan – Nature Squared
Nadia Themistocleous – Trifle Creative

Header Image credit Tarkett

Caesar Ceramics Keynote, Clerkenwell Design Week

Katie Treggiden delivered a keynote for Caesar Ceramics as part of Clerkenwell Design Week.  Inspired by Katie’s book, Wasted: When Trash Becomes Treasure, the circular economy keynote explored the potential of waste as an exciting new raw material. Katie’s talk opened a Clerkenwell Design week-long discussion focusing on waste reduction and reuse of waste as part of a broader circular approach to design.

Header image credit Caesar Ceramics.

Johnson Tiles Keynote, Clerkenwell Design Week

Material Lab invited Katie Treggiden to host a live event at Clerkenwell Design Week – part four of their studio partner, Johnson Tiles‘ Making it Beautifully series of RIBA accredited CPDs. Katie’s presentation “Beauty Reversed: The ugly truth about waste” asked designers to consider beauty in the context of how beautifully a material performs, for how long and its impact on the environment.

The keynote speech was followed by a hands-on waste workshop led by surface designer Olivia Aspinall, member of Katie Treggiden’s private membership group Making Design Circular. Olivia guided attendees through the process of transforming discarded tiles into terrazzo art.

Image credits Material Lab.

Virtual Keynote, New Balance

Katie Treggiden was asked by footwear brand New Balance to deliver a virtual keynote for their global design team to kick off a week of thinking about how they could become even more sustainable.

The keynote explored the ways in which waste can be eliminated from production and even used as a raw material. 140 members of the company attended the talk, Katie invited the audience to ask questions asked at the end.

Design Hotels Arena 2022 conference, Crete

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.

Designers are not to blame for the climate crisis (Deezen)

Designers are not to blame for the climate crisis

Designers need to stop feeling guilty about putting ‘more stuff out into the world’ and start using their creativity to become part of the solution, says founder and director of Making Design Circular, Katie Treggiden.

There’s a statistic that gets banded about a lot in sustainability discussions: 80% of the environmental impact of an object is determined at design stage. It is usually credited to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and it is absolutely true. From material choices to end-of-life considerations, by the time an object goes into production, from a sustainability point of view, its fate is largely sealed. But when designers hear that statistic, what they often hear is, ‘80% of this mess is my fault.’ And it really isn’t.A report published in 2017 found that 71% of industrial greenhouse gas emissions since 1988 could be attributed to 100 fossil fuel producers. Much like the tobacco industry before it, the energy industry has not only contributed to the problem but worked hard to curb regulations and undermine public understanding. In 2015, an investigation by Inside Climate News found that Exxon had conducted cutting-edge climate research decades previously and then pivoted to ‘work at the forefront of climate denial, manufacturing doubt about the scientific consensus that its own scientists had confirmed.’ Luckily there were those who spoke up for the science:

‘It is mankind and his activities that are changing the environment of our planet in damaging and dangerous ways…The environmental challenge that confronts the whole world demands an equivalent response from the whole world. Every country will be affected and no one can opt out. Those countries who are industrialised must contribute more to help those who are not.’

It might surprise you to know that these are the words of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, from a speech she gave in 1989 – more than 30 years ago. The arguments she presented were not new, even then, but coming from her, they gained traction and environmentalism went mainstream.

However, her position was short-lived. In her autobiography, Statecraft, she writes, ‘By the end of my time as Prime Minister I was also becoming seriously concerned about the anti-capitalist arguments which the campaigners against global warming were deploying,’ and so in a perceived trade-off between planet and profit, she chose profit. Her policies in the UK led to urban sprawl that threatens biodiversity; to prioritising investment in roads over rail and bus services that could help us all reduce our carbon footprints; and to the privatisation of water companies that results in polluted rivers and oceans to this day. But her influence in the Global South was even more profound. Under her leadership, Britain, together with the US, led World Bank, IMF and World Trade Organisation moves that forced more than 100 indebted countries to undertake – now widely discredited ‘structural adjustment’ programmes, including the deregulation and privatisation that paved the way for global farming, mining and forestry companies to exploit natural resources on a global scale.

In her autobiography she credits, not scientific journals, but three books in particular for her dramatic U-turn: Julian Morris’s Climate Change: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom, Richard Lindzen’s Global Warming: The Origin and Nature of the Alleged Scientific Consensus and Fred Singer’s Climate Policy: From Rio to Kyoto: A Political Issue for 2000 and Beyond – all three authors were members of free-market think tanks receiving funding from the fossil fuel industry.

Had Exxon acted ethically on the results of its own research, had Margaret Thatcher stuck to her guns instead of being lured by the temptations of free-market economics, and had the momentum she created continued, the climate crisis might have been resolved before many of today’s designers were even born.

But the villains of this story aren’t all from decades past. As of this year, Amazon is selling – and shipping – $4,722 worth of products every second. With a business model built on what Greenpeace describes as ‘greed and speed’, many of those items are returned as fast as they are ordered and in 2021, an ITV investigation found that in just one week, a single UK warehouse marked more than 130,000 returned items “destroy”.

If you’re a designer, none of this is your fault. Not the climate crisis, not the waste crisis, not the sewage in our oceans. If we’re looking to apportion blame, let’s look to enterprises like Amazon making excessive profits while caring for neither people nor planet, the energy companies still expanding their fossil fuel operations, and the global leaders still lacking the courage to make meaningful commitments at COP26 in Glasgow last year. It might well be their fault. It is certainly not yours.

But what about that statistic? If 80% of the environmental impact of an object is determined at design stage, doesn’t telling designers that it’s not their fault let them off the hook? Quite the opposite. Think about the last time you had a brilliant idea, solved a problem, or came up with an innovative solution. How were you feeling at the time? Guilty? Overwhelmed? Hopeless? I’m guessing not, because those feelings are not the soil in which creativity thrives. I’m guessing you were feeling curious, optimistic and collaborative – all the impulses that draw designers to our industry in the first place. We need designers to stop feeling guilty, so they can reconnect with those feelings, tap into their creativity and become part of the solution.

The climate crisis is a ‘wicked problem’ – a term coined by design theorist Horst Rittel to describe social or cultural problems that seem unsolvable because of their complexity, their interconnectedness, their lack of clarity – and because they are subject to real-world constraints that thwart attempts to find and test solutions. In other words: there are no magic bullets. Previous generations might have kicked the can down the road hoping that future technology would save us, but we no longer have that luxury.

So, if you’re a designer, none of this is your fault, but it is your responsibility. To design is to solve problems – and this is the biggest problem humanity has ever faced. We have a unique – and perhaps the final – opportunity to tackle this issue head on and do something definitive. But we can’t do that mired in guilt. To overcome the climate crisis, we need to design, not from a position of pessimism and shame, but in the mode in which we all do our best work: when we are driven by curiosity and excited about a future that, together, we can help create.

Katie Treggiden is an author, journalist, podcaster and keynote speaker championing a circular approach to design. She is also the founder and director of Making Design Circular, a membership community in which designer-makers get to feel proud of contributing to a thriving planet with every product they make.

To read the article at its source please click here.

Designers are not to blame for the climate crisis (Dezeen)

Eighty per cent of the environmental impact of an object is determined at design stage. This statistic, which is usually credited to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, often gets bandied about in discussions about sustainability, and it is absolutely true. From material choices to end-of-life considerations, by the time an object goes into production its fate is largely sealed from a sustainability point of view.

But when designers hear that statistic, what they often hear is: “80 per cent of this mess is my fault.” And it really isn’t.

By the time an object goes into production its fate is largely sealed from a sustainability point of view

A report published in 2017 found that 71 per cent of industrial greenhouse gas emissions since 1988 could be attributed to 100 fossil fuel producers. Much like the tobacco industry before it, the energy industry has not only contributed to the problem but worked hard to curb regulations and undermine public understanding.

Oil and gas giant Exxon conducted cutting-edge climate research decades ago, and then pivoted to “work at the forefront of climate denial, manufacturing doubt about the scientific consensus that its own scientists had confirmed”, a 2015 investigation by Inside Climate News found.

In 1989, then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher gave a powerful speech at the UN. “It is mankind and his activities that are changing the environment of our planet in damaging and dangerous ways,” she warned. “Every country will be affected and no-one can opt out. Those countries who are industrialised must contribute more to help those who are not.”

These arguments were not new, even then, but coming from her they gained traction and environmentalism went mainstream.

However, Thatcher’s position was short-lived. In her autobiography, Statecraft, she writes: “By the end of my time as prime minister I was also becoming seriously concerned about the anti-capitalist arguments which the campaigners against global warming were deploying.”

And so, in a perceived trade-off between planet and profit, she chose profit.

The climate crisis might have been resolved before many of today’s designers were even born

Her policies in the UK led to urban sprawl that threatens biodiversity, to prioritising investment in roads over rail and bus services that could help us all reduce our carbon footprints, and to the privatisation of water companies that results in polluted rivers and oceans to this day.

But her influence in the Global South was even more profound. Under her leadership, Britain, together with the US, led World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organisation moves that forced more than 100 indebted countries to undertake now widely discredited “structural adjustment” programmes. These programmes pushed for deregulation and privatisation that paved the way for transnational farming, mining and forestry companies to exploit natural resources on a global scale.

In her autobiography she credits books by Julian Morris, Richard Lindzen and Fred Singer for her dramatic U-turn. All three authors were members of free-market think tanks receiving funding from the fossil fuel industry.

Had Exxon acted ethically on the results of its own research, had Margaret Thatcher stuck to her guns instead of being lured by the temptations of free-market economics, and had the momentum she galvanised continued, the climate crisis might have been resolved before many of today’s designers were even born.

If we’re looking to apportion blame, let’s look to enterprises making excessive profits while caring for neither people nor planet

But the villains of this story aren’t all from decades past. As of this year, Amazon is selling – and shipping – $4,722 worth of products every second. With a business model built on what Greenpeace describes as “greed and speed”, many of those items are returned as fast as they are ordered and in 2021, an ITV investigation found that in just one week, a single UK warehouse marked more than 130,000 returned items “destroy”.

If you’re a designer, none of this is your fault. Not the climate crisis, not the sewage in our oceans, not the waste crisis. If we’re looking to apportion blame, let’s look to enterprises making excessive profits while caring for neither people nor planet, the energy companies continuing to expand their fossil fuel operations, and the global leaders still lacking the courage to make meaningful commitments at COP26 in Glasgow last year.

It might well be their fault. It is certainly not yours.

But what about that statistic? If 80 per cent of the environmental impact of an object is determined at design stage, doesn’t telling designers that it’s not their fault let them off the hook? Quite the opposite.

Think about the last time you had a brilliant idea, solved a problem, or came up with an innovative solution. How were you feeling at the time? Guilty? Overwhelmed? Hopeless? I’m guessing not, because those feelings are not the soil in which creativity thrives. I’m guessing you were feeling curious, optimistic and collaborative – all the impulses that draw designers to our industry in the first place.

To design is to solve problems and this is the biggest problem humanity has ever faced

We need designers to stop feeling guilty, so they can reconnect with those feelings, tap into their creativity and become part of the solution.

The climate crisis is a “wicked problem” – a term coined by design theorist Horst Rittel to describe social or cultural problems that seem unsolvable because of their complexity, their interconnectedness, their lack of clarity, and because they are subject to real-world constraints that thwart attempts to find and test solutions.

In other words: there are no magic bullets. Previous generations might have kicked the can down the road hoping that future technology would save us, but we no longer have that luxury.

So, if you’re a designer, none of this is your fault, but it is your responsibility. To design is to solve problems and this is the biggest problem humanity has ever faced. It is not something the design industry can solve alone. Of course we need politicians and big corporations to get on board, but we can lead the way by demonstrating the power of creativity and innovation.

We have a unique, and perhaps the final, opportunity to tackle this issue head on and do something definitive. But we can’t do that mired in guilt.

To overcome the climate crisis, we need to design, not from a position of pessimism and shame, but in the mode in which we all do our best work: when we are driven by curiosity and excited about a future that, together, we can help create.

Katie Treggiden is an author, journalist, podcaster and keynote speaker championing a circular approach to design. She is the founder and director of Making Design Circular, a membership community for designer-makers who want to become more sustainable. She is also a Dezeen Awards judge.

To read the article at its source please click here.

Circle Events Talk, TOAST

Katie Treggiden was invited by clothing and lifestyle brand TOAST to talk as part of the launch or their clothes swapping initiative TOAST Circle. Since launching in 2019, over 1,500 garments have been swapped, fulfilling the second tenet of the circular economy to keep materials and objects in use.

Katie’s talk took place in TOAST’s Brighton store, exploring the ways in which mending and swapping clothes can contribute to both personal wellbeing and community building. The talk was followed by a Q&A and also broadcast live via TOAST’s Circle page.

Keynote for Sustainability Week, Populous

Katie Treggiden was invited to deliver a keynote for architecture firm Populous to kick off their annual Sustainability Week. Katie spoke at their London office and the keynote was also live-streamed to their other offices around the world.

‘I went to SXSW this year and Katie’s talk was every bit as inspirational and thought-provoking as the talks I heard in Austin.’ – Simon Borg.