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

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Jacqueline-de-a-Fuente

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

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

Jacqueline-de-la-Fuente

How would you describe your work?

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

Jacqueline-de-la-Fuente

What inspired this project?

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

Jacqueline-de-la-Fuente

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

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

Jacqueline-de-la-Fuente

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

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

Jacqueline-de-la-Fuente

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

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

Jacqueline-de-la-Fuente

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

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

Jacqueline-de-la-Fuente

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

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

Jacqueline-de-la-Fuente

How have people reacted to this project?

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

Jacqueline-de-la-Fuente

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

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

Jacqueline-de-la-Fuente

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post Adidas

Photo: Ronald Smits

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

Plastic Baroque

Photo: Rory Mulvey

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

Remember me

Photo: Saint James

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

Exploring Eden

Photo: Rory Mulvey

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

If Chairs Could Talk

Photo: Rory Mulvey

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

To read the article at its source click here.

 

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

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

Turn-Waste-Plastic-into-Upholstered-Chair

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

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

Turn-Waste-Plastic-into-Upholstered-Chair

How would you describe your Clean Up Plastic Camo Chair?

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

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

What inspired this project?

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

Turn-Waste-Plastic-into-Upholstered-Chair

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

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

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

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

Turn-Waste-Plastic-into-Upholstered-Chair

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

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

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

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

Turn-Waste-Plastic-into-Upholstered-Chair

How have people reacted to this project?

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

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

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

Turn-Waste-Plastic-into-Upholstered-Chair

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo: Mark Cocksedge

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

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

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Photo: Mark Cocksedge

How would you describe your Lens Light collection?

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

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What inspired this project?

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

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Photo: Yair Neuman

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

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

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

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

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Photo: Mark Cocksedge

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

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

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Photo: Mark Cocksedge

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

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

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Photo: Jonathan Minster

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

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

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Photo: Mark Cocksedge

How have people reacted to this project?

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

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Photo: Jonathan Minster

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

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

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Photo: Mark Cocksedge

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

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

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Photo: Mark Cocksedge

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A New Standard of Colour (ViewPoint Colour)

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

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

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

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

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