Abundance of blooms at New Designers Part 1

holmesAesthetic beauty was blooming at New Designers Part 1, the first chapter of an exhibition that shows work from over 3000 UK graduate designers over two weeks.  Part 1 showcased textiles, fashion, contemporary applied arts (including ceramics and glass), jewellery and metalwork.

Fauna and particularly flora (Laura Holmes pictured left) provided a deep well of inspiration for many of this year’s graduates, with bold, outsized, colourful prints of flowers greeting you as soon as you walked. Flashes of tropical colour from Sophie Painter,  Loughborough University, who garnered a “John Lewis Loves” label sat alongside, the ethereal, wintry prints from Robyn Dark.  Amy Malcolmson, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, also won a “John Lewis Loves” label for her clean, crisp spring and autumn floral series.  Her hand-painted wallpaper samples echo the fresh, vibrant, if whimsical florals of Dame Elizabeth Blackadder.

cravenLayering images to depth and structure to floral was a popular technique.  Ellie-rose McFall‘s handprinted textiles, which overlay wildflowers on cracked surfaces, are inspired by the Garden Bridge, planned for London in 2016.  Sophie Tattersall, De Montford University, Leicester, uses layered photographs to create delicate floral patterns.  Sophie Thompson, Nottingham Trent University, builds up layers of detail taking inspiration from nature, enhancing hand drawn imagery with digital techniques.  I was drawn to “In the Undergrowth”, with a mix of birds, bugs and silhouettes.  Charlotte Raven‘s wallpaper (pictured right) is a like of snapshot of a summer garden in bloom.  Malin-Charlotte Ødemark work draws on landscapes creating a subtle, earthy palette that worked to great effect as upholstery on Ercol’s classic sofa.

buchanan

Natural beauty went more than skin deep for Emily Buchanan, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design.  Her work, Living+Dying displays the wonderful array of colours accessible from nature using traditional craft methods.  Red cabbage, red onion, eucalyptus, and other plants dyes, two mordants, time and a couple of serendipitous accidents were used to dye peace silk a rich spectrum of soothing tones.  buchanan2Peace silk allows the silkworm to emerge from their cocoons. The silk is degummed and spun like other fibre, instead of being reeled.  Conventional silk is made by boiling the intact cocoons, which kills the silk worms.  Emily is a passionate advocate of the joys, and beauty, of natural dyes.  She continues to run workshops with schools and interested groups.  There were a couple of interested parties at the show.

From the natural, to the utterly fabricated, Laura Holmes makes fantastical floral displays from recycled plastics.  Laura works with milk bottles, coke bottles, offcuts of acetates, sequin film and all manner of plastics.  They are cut, painted and flocked inspired by colours from the aquarium.  The result is almost fantastical.

healy2Karoline Healy‘s Domestic Mining is also an ethos that makes good use of the things that we find in our homes.  Karoline was first inspired by reading0 Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart.  A visit to India and encounters with street vendors and road-side workshops prompted Karoline to design a kiosk.  The kiosk is constructed from household objects, an old shredder, file, bicycle chain. Discarded plastic bottles are shredded, moulded, marked with the appropriate recycle sign and then a watch assembled from the flat pack kit.  No glues, nails, paints, or varnishes are used, so the watch can be readily repaired or recycled.

rosakSophie Rosak’s table lamp with a shade of naturally-tanned leather, and copper, is simply constructed and so easily dissembled at its end of life. Its industrial style is softened by the warm tones of the leather and copper.  priceA simple aesthetic defines Rebecca Price’s work.  Scouted by the Design Council’s ‘One to Watch’, her food storage jars (pictured left) are covetable for any contemporary kitchen.  The lid of each vessel is also a portion measure.  What is more the vessels nestle snuggly together saving precious space on your worktop.

More covetable vessels were on display as part of One Year On, which showcases the work of 50 emerging designers in their first year of business. I was delighted to catch up with Isatu Hyde, who I met at New Designers 2013.  hydeAfter a stint with Kilner to develop her foraging project, Isatu is now an apprentice with Marches Pottery in Ludlow.  Isatu has worked with terracotta for the first time to throw distinctive coffee drippers, carafes, cups, and milk jugs, as well as continuing to develop her own distinct style.  I fell in love with these bowls, inspired by those used by Medieval monks.

boonsNext door was Sofie Boons, the Alchemical Jeweller, a graduate of the RCA, 2013.  Available as a recipe book and kit, with an elegant silver pin, I was lucky enough to experience Sofie’s solid perfume.  Grapefruit zest, TicTacs, mint, cardamon, coconut and salt were put in small pouch and pinned as a brooch to my chest. My daughters thought it smelt good enough to eat.  I was reminded of Lauren Davies Alchemists Design Table, encouraging a transparency and honesty about what we put on our skin.

The show was a feast for the senses.  Appreciation of the environment was visually evident, but scrabble around in the undergrowth and the homage rarely has the opportunity to go deeper.  There was a desire to design textiles and surfaces that take their appreciation of the natural world to a more tangible level, constrained by cost, college facilities, and a sense that demand is limited.  As the exhibition for emerging design it would be great to see more innovative and sustainable textiles on show as they begin to be adopted more widely, especially by contract clients.

New Designers Part 2 will be at the Business Design Centre in Islington from 2nd until 5th July.

Related links:

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2013/07/08/new-designers-2013-2/

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Show RCA ringing the changes

RCA1Show RCA 2014 is the Royal College of Art‘s annual graduate show.  With 575 art, design and humanities postgraduate students, from over 40 countries, six different Schools, and 22 programmes in total exhibiting their work, the breadth and scale of the show is almost overwhelming.  For SustainRCA, the RCA’s specialist sustainability department, it has been a fantastic year. Sustain’s annual awards scheme welcomed nearly 100 applications, of whom nearly 70 made the long-list (denoted by a * below).

Students at the RCA are encouraged to tackle concepts with freedom.  I was immediately struck by the search for better alternatives to current forms of democracy and economic development.  Alternatives on smaller scales, shaped by new technologies and reflecting different values.  isobeldaviesIsobel Davies*, State of Emergencyimagines nuclear survivals kits and strategic infrastructure for a domesday scenario.  Images of a Romantic English landscape contrast with the infinite greys of a post-Apocolyptic landscape (pictured right).  Michael Currin’s* My Resilient Community is an off-grid platform for urban communities to mobilise when extreme weather events disrupt telecommunications networks.  Kathryn Fleming’s* Endless Forms/ Endless Species foresees a new age of wildlife parks, and asks what will be the outcome of our selective protection of charismatic species.  In lighter tones, Tom Price* (Indispensable Infrastructure) designs housing developments that reuse the structures of decommissioned oil platforms, and Ja Yoon-Yoon* hopes to re-appr0priate disused petrol stations as “wellness centres” (or Breaks!).

breadcompanionCommoning the Cloud started with a cartographic study of a personal ISP address which routed via 22 companies to causing Matthew Powell* to question the tacit contracts we enter without understanding the value of our data. Commoning the Cloud describes a meshed network run as a community co-operative to retake ownership of our data.  Mohammed J Ali’*s A New Enlightenment plays out an imagined Scottish independence based on the sharing of energy, goods services and information fuelled by peer-to-peer energy grids.  Matthew Lydiatt‘*s byMe is a local marketplace based on trust and great homemade food, perhaps including Julia Georgallis*, Bread Companionthe travelling bakery that encourages sharing an honest loaf (pictured left).  This theme of disaffection or dissociation from the global and passion for local initiatives chimes with a new report from the Fabian Society, Pride of Placerecently discussed by Lucy Siegle in the Guardian.

Other projects address our consumer culture, whether Adam Peacock’s* cautionary tale of the Validation Junky in all his disproportionate forms focused on individual contentment, or Zoe Hough’s* Smile, the fiction has already begun which questions the pursuit of happiness as a political goal after the 2011 UN resolution that encouraged all member states to measure happiness.

hgf02-8tct_IsixKfgucsy4VO7YNsksQ5fI_rcU7Jg0Some question how our values can be translated into action.  Fotini Markopoulo’s* Cityzen is a digital voting system that aims to make voting easier, to provide clearer mandates as a better resource for government and spur greater civic engagement when you see your vote can count.  Pierre Paslier’s* Advanced Activism is a playful, open-source toolkit for direct action.  Disclosed, by Marion Ferrec* and Kate Wakely* (MA Service Design), is a transparency tool to facilitate more mindful consumption (pictured right).  In a market-based economy, shopping choices matter, and with Disclosed, customers can align purchases with their values, whether environmental or health.  The invisible hand of market economics allocates resources efficiently, but only with perfect information.  With imperfect information, customers send retailers unintended signals.  Disclosed starts to bridge the information gap with a little nudge to change to behaviour.

Information Experience Design, a new programme (as are Interior Design and Service Design), is about transforming information into experiences, making the intangible, tangible through cross-disciplinary collaborations. In a world increasingly driven by data with virtual connections mediated via digital platforms, the exhibits delight and draw you into an engagement deeper, more complex and more intuitive than most info graphics.

ShenaiChange Ringing,* a collaboration between artist Peter Shenai and composer Laurence Osborn, tells a sonic story of climate change during the 20th century.  Six bronze bells have been cast in forms derived from graphic statistical representations of summer temperatures at 17 year intervals over the last 102 years. Arranged, and struck in order, the bells voice an inharmonic spectra, a deviation from natural balance. On 28th June a 25 minute composition commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra will premiere at LSO St Luke’s, Old St, London. Affective media that hopes to ring some changes!

photo 3-2Health, wellbeing and responses to social challenges feature prominently at Show RCA 2014.  Magda Rok’s*, We Grow, is a community gardens network and social enterprise with GPs as advocates.  The project wants to further demonstrate the strong links between health, environment and social well-being.  Lais de Almeida’s* The Ladder is a time-bank service that matches local community needs with people’s skills, talents and aspirations, providing a valuable opportunity for those who are struggling to find meaningful work with a fair income.  The social enterprise could build social capital in communities, as well as confidence in individuals.  Alexandra Theunissen’s DYSsonance helps dyslexic people understand, read, play and compose music.  Colours represent the notes and cubes (crotchet), which is either divided or multiplied, represent the rhythm.  The result is visually stunning (pictured right).

No graduate show would be complete without gadgets, gizmos and new materials.  Peter Spence’s* ION (Imagination in Motion) is a magic box to spark creativity and invention in children.  It is a cube with an intelligent motor unit with modular attachments and adaptable fixtures. The ION can communicate wirelessly with smart devices that can act as a control interface.  Add wheels and a board and you could make yourself a remote control go-kart!

aycaUmbrellas are an essential bit of kit long due a design overhaul.  Ayca Dundar’s* drOp umbrella (pictured left), made of only 5 parts is repairable, recyclable and colourful, could make those mangled polyester carcasses left in city bins a thing of the past.  Ashley De Garmo’s* Mag-cooker uses magnets to create induction heat for a portable, self-contained cooker using renewable energy.

Sol Lee’s* Smart Festivals intelligent platform to rent camping equipment will not be there for this year’s Glastonbury, but I hope for next.  A three day festival creates around 130 tonnes of waste, with tents, mats and sleeping bags accounting for around a third of this is.  Sol’s project aims to enhances the festival-goers service, reduce the organisers clean up and divert a lot of waste from landfill.  Mireia Gordi Vila (Fragile) and Yu Chang Chou (RePack) designed reusable packaging to tackle material waste.

fuglerJess Fugler*’s leather tattooed with water-based inks applies s an ancient technique to stunning effect.  Hana Mitsui *(New Value of the Waste) and Neha Lad* (Beauty in the Discarded) have both transformed ‘waste’ into luxurious new materials.

FMPPtCeU_FO-k57Ilj0E4GS_OHxMEyG_LU6XMr-CJSgOne I want to try at home is Chuhan Liang’s Rice Water Project.  For hundreds of years the milky liquid left after washing rice has been used as a natural detergent.  Brilliant!  And my souvenir, a piece of Alicja Patanowska’s Plantation, a joyful combination of porcelain, discarded pub glass and a plant.

rieppelAnd just for sheer joy, Kate Varner Rieppel’Third Space beautiful tiles are made of silver plated copper etching and vitreous enamel.  The colours and forms are directly inspired by natural landscapes in Britain.

The SustainRCA finalists have just been announced, and Carefully Curated highlights are to follow.

Show RCA 2014 runs simultaneously across the Battersea and Kensington campuses until 29th June, and is open 12-8pm daily.

It is also the first anniversary of Carefully Curated!

Related links:

We’re losing faith in global change as local causes boom | Lucy Seigle http://gu.com/p/3q55q/tw

Chelsea Flower Show: why gardening is good for the body and mind – FT.com http://on.ft.com/1qK28eY

My, my i3

gwiz My love affair with our little electric car, the G-Wizz has been long, but flawed.  We had a lot of fun whiz-zing around town, sneaking down side streets (and the occasional cycle way such is its size), squeezing nose to kerb, and revelling in free parking in Westminster and zero congestion charge. But our family has literally outgrown its diminutive proportions, and there are safer, and sexier options available.

i3So here is our new i3.  As an early adopter, and optimist, I was hopeful when the BMW Park Lane showroom opened last July, but quietly concerned the realities of battery performance in the changeable British climate would still be a challenge. The i3 is all I hoped for, and more.  A great leap forward, and testament to BMW’s attention to detail and engineering.

It is a hot hatch, without compromise.  The high-voltage lithium ion battery provides 125 kW/170hp of power and torque of 250 Nm.  With electric motors full torque is available from standstill, instantly propelling the car 0-37mph in 4 seconds, and 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds.   And it is a very comfortable ride with super soft suspension.  Driver and passengers are all up high, sitting on top of the battery pack,  and my small children love the view. I may no longer be able to park nose to kerb, but it does have a turning circle to rival a London black cab.

interieur-design-02.jpg.resource.1375355091340The i3 is certainly eye-catching with a distinctive ‘Black Band’ that runs from the bonnet over the roof to the rear of the car and large 19inch alloy wheels.  The lightweight Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) passenger compartment is matched by the use of innovative, natural, and sustainable materials inside.  KENAF a fast-growing member of the cotton family is used for door panel livery.  The leather has been naturally-tanned, using olive leaves.  25% of the plastic used in the interior comes from recycled material or renewable resources and all the seat textiles are from recycled fibres.  I only hope as much design consideration was given to the end of the car’s life-cycle.

It is a revolution.  Driving an electric car is no longer an act of enlightened self-interest, but a pleasure, even in London traffic.  Now heads turn from awe and admiration, rather than amusement.  As Elizabeth Farrelly said “the best, most dramatic and most reliable motivator of human behavioural change is beauty”.  Judging by the looks on people’s faces as I drive by the i3 is desirable.  All reputational risk has been removed.  I have even spotted drivers usually associated with a Land Rover Evoque gliding through the West End in an i3.

So how far can you go?  The all electric i3 has a real world range of 100 miles (depending on driving style, traffic situation and road conditions) in the Comfort setting.  The ECO PRO+ mode extends the range by about 25% by reducing the top speed to 55mph, and deactivating heating and air-conditioning.  The Range Extender (a small petrol engine) enables a range of up to 186 miles, with the usual caveats about driving style.  In 2012, the average trip length in the UK was 7 miles (according to the National Traffic Survey). It is an average, so some of us drive much further, but 66% of trips are less than 5 miles and 95% of trips are less than 25 miles.  The average car in Britain travels around 20 miles a day, so well within range.

For longer journeys, the electric super highway is becoming a reality.  In fact, the BMW i3 we test drove had made a trip to Old Trafford.  In July 2011, Ecotricity installed their first electric vehicle charge point at a Welcome Break.  Ecotricity are also installing charge points at IKEA.  AC fast-charging can take less than 3 hours (0-80%), so a typical IKEA trip would probably top you up enough to get home!

stand2Electric cars are kinder to urban air quality, but they can not improve congestion levels.  To have fewer cars on the roads we need different transport models.  Car clubs and car sharing have grown in popularity in recent years.  Although London accounts for around 137,000 car club members (80% of the national total, Carplus annual survey 2013/14) and 2,230 cars, schemes are being rolled out in a number of other major UK cities.  At Show RCA 2014 this week, I met Jaana Tarma (pictured left), graduating from the RCA MA Service Design programme.  Her final project, Worksparks, is  a platform that provides ad-hoc, immediate travel for commuters who could even be matched to drivers with similar interests.  The app for geo-location enabled smartphones allows commuters to request a lift from colleagues either in advance, or in real time.  In an organisational setting, participating drivers could receive preferential parking or even financial rewards as savings from building or leasing few parking spaces provide a saving.  I wonder if I can get the new school run Mums to trial it in September?  The incentive, a ride in the i3.

For a the full technical specification visit the BMWi3 website.  The BMW i3 is around £25,ooo including the government grant.

Image credit: BMW, Jaana Tarma  & my own!

 

 

Designs of the Year 2014 @Design Museum

DM1The Designs of the Year, now in its seventh year at London’s Design Museum, capture the desires, concerns and needs of the moment.  This year’s exhibition of the most innovative international design projects of the last 12 months across seven categories: architecture, product, fashion, furniture, graphics, digital and transport is stimulating, as ever.  Whether through materials, technology, or design, the projects and products simply help make life better.

PETlampThe themes: Connect; Thought; Delight; Care; and Situation provide rough clusters of projects, with Care for the environment influencing many of the designers.  Two projects tackle the huge amount of discarded plastic blighting landscapes and harming eco-systems.  The PET Lamps (which caught my eye at Decorex 2013) are made from plastic bottles washed up along the Amazon river to make joyful pendant lights.

clevercapsEqually colourful, and playful, Clever Caps are bottle tops that can be used as building blocks.  Bottle tops can be thrown into the toy box rather than the rubbish bin.  A redesign that adds fun to function, and can be played with forever.

RippletableThe red Ripple Table, designed by Benjamin Hubert, is made out of corrugated birch plywood.  Ply is corrugated through pressure lamination, a new process developed by Benjamin in collaboration with Corelam. The corrugated ply is topped with a flat sheet and sits on A-frame legs.  The 2.5m table weighs only 9kg, and uses roughly 70% less material than a normal timber table.  Lightweight and easy to transport in flat-pack form, providing further economies of energy and materials.

LuffaMauricio Affonso’s final year project from the RCA Design Products programme, Luffa Lab, provides a Cinderella transformation of our humble bathroom friend, the luffa.  Luffa is antimicrobial, biodegradable, lightweight, breathable, strong and highly absorbent.  These natural virtues lend the material to surprising applications such as a low-cost splint made by compression-moulding and a water-based thermoset binder.  Mauricio’s acoustictile_detailLuffa Acoustic Tiles caught my eye at the Show RCA last summer, and then at the SustainRCA Awards 2013, where Mauricio won the Visionary Processes category.  The tiles get their distinctive tonal colour from soaking up toxic indigo dyes out of the wastewater from denim production, preventing the harmful dyes being discharged.  Once finished the tiles act as sound insulation, with a soothing aesthetic.

alchemiststableThe Alchemist’s Dressing Table is a set of elegant utensils and vessels to explore the cosmetic properties of flowers, herbs and minerals.  Lauren Davies, a fellow graduate of the RCA’s Design Products programme, and finalist at the SustainRCA Awards 2013, used traditional materials such as copper and cork to craft a most understated, but luxurious, kit for DIY organic skin care.  The work is intended as a dialogue about nature and materials.  It lays bare what we use on our skin with beautiful transparency.

Transparency is the theme of two technology exhibits.  Phonebloks has just been announced the winner of the social vote.  As the name suggests Phonebloks have a vision of consumer electronics that are modular so that products are easy to repair, easy to upgrade and long lasting.  Starting with mobile phones, Phonebloks want to change product development and production to end planned obsolescence and reduce electronic waste-streams.  Demand for these increasingly scarce resources is driving the ethical and environmental tensions that are the focus of Friends of the Earth‘s Make it Better campaign.  Phonebloks have reached 380million people on social media, so they have sparked a lot of interest, and caught the industry’s attention.  Phonebloks have just announced a partnership with another Design of the Year exhibitor, Fairphone.

frontThe Fairphone, from a social enterprise funded on Kickstarter, is a a smartphone where every aspect of its lifecycle is open and ethical.  From conflict-free materials to safe manufacturing conditions, fair wages and worker representation to repair guides with iFixit, Fairphone wants to change the way products are made, so we tread lightly, and with awareness.  You can order yours now.

A2BAfter ‘T” for transparency, it is “U” for the urban commute made easier with two bicycles. The Obree electric bicycle runs on a removable lithium ion battery that is 80% charged in two hours.  The bike can reach around 15m.p.h, run for 62 miles and propel from a standing start or just give you a boost uphill.  It looks like a grown-up BMX, so you can arrive looking sporty, but cool, in more ways than one.  IFmoveThe ‘IF’ in IFmove Bicycle stands for integrated folding.  At 10kg, it is lightweight and can be wheeled rather than carried.  The covered chain keeps grease and grime off those business casual cloths.  The addition of a retractable Plume Mudguard will keep the spray off your suit on a rainy day too.  For the full fit out you could get a pair of the appropriately named reflector “Geek” bike shoes from Tracey tneulsNeuls.  The shoes contain a small piece of reflective material, for safe cycling (or walking) at night.  The whole shoe has been designed with cycling in mind, and now the ‘Fern‘ is a heel that you can cycle in.  Smart, simple, and calling to my inner geek, and I don’t know if I can wait until Christmas for these shoes.

HERO_XL1_1For the (sub)urban commuter there are two cars on show.  Super sleek curves, and light-weight carbon fibre frame and seats boost the aerodynamics of Volkswagen’s XL1 Concept car, winner of the Transport category  Coupled with a highly engineered dual diesel-electric engine, the XL1 can travel 100km on just 1 litre of diesel, or 313 mpg on the combined cycle while emitting 24 g/km of CO2. It accelerates from 0 to 70kmph in just under 12 seconds and has a top speed of 99mph.  Speedy as well as stylish, it sets the bar in conventional car design very high, and who can resist a gull wing door?

toyota-2013-news-concept-me-we-urban-sharp-3col_tcm280-1226075The ME.WE Concept car, designed by Jean-Marie Massaud and Toyota ED2, is intended as a new concept in personal travel, “a car that reflects the values of forward-thinking individuals, rather than simply reflecting their social status”.  Made of expanded polypropylene panels (100% recyclable) on a tubular aluminium chassis, it is 20% lighter (hence more energy efficient) than many similar size cars.  The interior is bamboo (a fast-growing, natural material) and while not ‘roomy’ the car can be reconfigured to create more space. The back seat can fold under the front, and the tailgate can drop down like a pick-up truck.  It is a playful (switching from 2 to 4-wheel drive) dialogue with many of the conventions of the automotive industry.  Massaud aims to maximise pleasure, rather than status, balancing ME (individual freedom) with WE (responsibility for society).

The CC’s edit is only a tiny sample of the fascinating and fantastic exhibits that demonstrate how our everyday lives are shaped by and experienced through design.   The show asks the viewer “what is good design?”, the public voted for Phonebloks, not just a product, but a vision of a circular economy for that most ubiquitous of modern aids, the mobile.

Image Credit:  Fairphone; Luffa Lab, Toyota ME.WE, Volkswagen XL1

 

 

A furniture painting Masterclass with Out of the Dark

62a668_de9d61af450ef7ade2bab3aeead88800.png_srz_140_135_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_png_srzSometimes there is no substitute for experience.  Out of the Dark have plenty of experience of “How to Revamp Your Furniture” and this week ran an evening workshop at Heal’s on Tottenham Court Road to share some of the tips of their trade.

If you haven’t heard of Out of the Dark, they are a charitable social enterprise that recycles and restores salvaged furniture employing young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and training them in furniture making and restoration.  Based in High Wycombe, the 19th century chair-making capital of the world, think the classic Windsor chair and Chiltern woodlands, Out of the Dark is proud to draw on this rich heritage of traditional skills.  Much of their work is for boutique hotels and commercial clients (they just shipped a hundred chairs to Kuwait), but their work is available to all online.

ottd1The three hour workshop at Heal’s drew an attentive crowd with smartphones full of images of projects in the pipeline.  The evening started with tips on where to source furniture: keep an eye out for skip finds; for more economical furniture source further afield from London; or drop into Out of the Dark and have a look at their unpainted stock.  Look for a solid piece of furniture in a shape you like, and free your imagination.

Do be deterred by a lot of chipboard, but not by a little wood worm.  The former needs sensitive handling to preserve the veneer, the later can be solved with some white spirit or worm treatment and left for 24 hours before painting.  If there are any wobbles tighten them up before you start preparing the piece.

ottd2Planning and preparation are key to achieving a polished look, and easier than tidying up a hurried piece at the end.  Jay, co-founder of Out of the Dark, Travis and Yasser talked us through sanding, priming, painting and finishing before unleashing us on some pine boards to have a go.

I have learnt from experience to always sand in the direction of the wood grain, and start painting chairs upside down.  I scribbled these and many more tips down in the notebook provided, but there is no substitute for actually painting a piece under the watchful eye of one of the Out of the Dark team.  They have a real attention to detail, patient perfectionists with paintbrushes!   You have to literally get a feel for it.  Tactile is a word that crops up a lot.

ottd3Heal’s were game to allow a group of amateurs loose with aprons and paint in their showrooms!  The evening was an intense transfer of Out of the Dark’s knowledge gained from working with all manner of pieces, and products.  Osmo finishes are a particular favourite for their performance and environmentally-friendly footprint.

ottd4It was engaging to chat to Travis about his quiet passion for the traditional crafts of caning, painting and upholstery, as well as appreciate the confidence he now has working with wood.  It may take a matter of minutes to spray paint a chair in a factory setting compared to the several days by hand, but the skill, satisfaction and story are far from comparable.

If you are short of time, or the inclination for lots of elbow grease then Out of the Dark run a commission service to spruce up your un/loved pieces.  If you are keen to try your hand, the event cost a very reasonable £15, and all proceeds went to support Out of the Dark’s work.  You can find out about future events at Heal’s here.  News of Out of the Dark events and workshops and open studios this June can be found here.

Out of the Dark have a very exciting collaboration in the pipeline for later this year which bring their work to a wider audience and deepen their knowledge and skill of traditional furniture-making. So watch this space!

Related link:

Out of the Dark: restoring furniture & direction to troubled teenagers

 

 

 

Virtuous circles of conscious consumption

UnknownIn the midst of exhibitors proudly displaying their new wares at May Design Series, Stephen Gee, Director of Resource hosted a discussion on the circular economy with Sophie Thomas, Co-Director of Design, RSA, Mark Shayler, Managing Director of Ticketyboo, and James Bell, Environmental Consultant at FIRA.

Our industrial economy can be described as a series of massive conveyor belts (“Remaking the industrial economy“, McKinsey Quarterly, Feb 2014), sucking in raw materials and resources at one end, channelling them through manufacturing and production processes, often located in different geographies, pushing products into retail networks, where they are consumed, then discarded and replaced with surprising rapidity.  90% of all products are waste within 6 months of purchase.

Resources are increasingly limited, and ever more in demand, so their prices are rising, and volatile.  As well as increasing costs of supply, demands for resources are growing with three billion more middle-class consumers forecast  by 2030 (from a presentation by Dr Markus Zils, CEO Returnity Partners).  The linear, one-way production model is under increasing under strain.

A circular economy aims to recover and restore products and materials, eradicating waste.  This is not simply recycling,  when large amounts of embedded energy and value are lost, or efficient manufacturing processes, but systemic redesign to create a continuous flow of products and components.

Circular-Economy-Concept“The circular economy is a generic term for an economy that is regenerative by design. Materials flows are of two types, biological materials, designed to reenter the biosphere, and technical materials, designed to circulate with minimal loss of quality, in turn entraining the shift towards an economy ultimately powered by renewable energy.” The Ellen McArthur Foundation

The system diagram (pictured above, from the Ellen McArthur Foundation) illustrates the necessarily distinct paths of biological and technical components or nutrients.  Biological nutrients can easily return to the biosphere without depositing synthetic materials or toxins. Technical nutrients can continuously circulate in closed loop industrial cycles.  We have some way to go.  At the moment, in the fast-moving consumer goods industry roughly 80% of the $3.2 trillion worth of materials used each year is not recovered.

sthomas1To illustrate what that means, the toothbrush, that humble, innocuous aid to our daily routine uses 1.5 kg of material in its manufacture (see the slide from Sophie’s presentation, left). We replace our toothbrush every few months, so that is 6kg per person, per annum, just on toothbrushes.  Sophie Thomas, designer, co-founder of the Great Recovery, is on a mission to create more circular systems through good product design.  “Waste really is a design flaw” (Kate Krebbs, ANRC), quotes Sophie, and a Design Council report notes that about 80% of environmental costs are pre-determined during the product conception an design stage.

cc09a86259a7649b0ce694a3d5ac4650The Great Recovery project has sketched out four design models for a circular economy, represented by the multicoloured loops at the top of the page.  The inner loop is ‘design for longevity’.  Designing products that can be repaired or upgraded.,  Products that are well made and reliable so users have a strong emotional attachment, like your favourite pair of jeans.  If they are Nudie Jeans then you can get them repaired for free at Nudie Jeans Stores, or they can send you a repair kit free of charge.  If beyond the point of repair, then Nudie reuse them (and gives you 20% off a new pair), or recycle them.

20140531_WBP003_0The second (orange) loop is ‘design for leasing or service’.  Companies are constantly trying to deepen their relationship with us, urging us to register accounts, and sign up for newsletters. They might even speak of compelling customer service, but often still conceived as a linear consumption pattern.  But it is services, rather than the products themselves that we use, so voice calls, videos, hot water, and clean clothes rather than phones, tablets, boilers, and washing machines.  A service-based model changes the relationship.  The manufacturer owns the products, and materials (increasingly valuable assets), so keeping the value in the system.  Think Zip Car or Google’s vision for its driverless car,  Leasing products could allow for higher design specification.

1399989163490A02_ADEN_LargeThe third (yellow) loop is ‘design for re-use in manufacture’ where products are returned to the manufacturer for upgrade or new components.  These products are designed for disassembly via a reverse supply chain.  Two recent winners of the Furniture Makers’ Sustainability Award have taken responsibility for their products’ end of life to the heart of their businesses.  Senator International (2013 winners) and Orangebox (2012 winners, Aden chair pictured left), both suppliers to commercial clients, have their own dedicated recycling plants, and both target zero landfill.  Sometimes simple things, such as marking parts with a material identifier, means they can be recycled properly, other interventions require a more thorough design appraisal.  Good design means less material, more durable products, and less manufacturing time, easier to dissemble, repair and update.   What if legislation required producers to have responsibility for the end of life of their products?  When they don’t it is a cost to us all, directly, and indirectly to deal with the waste.

umbrellaThe outer (green) loop is fast-flowing products, such as packaging, that can be reprocessed (recycled) into new materials.  Designing with this in mind increases the value and ease of material recovery by reducing contamination.  For example a spray dispensing bottle made sole out of one type of plastic is easier to recycle than a bottle with multiple types of plastic and metal components.  Trying to recycle my child’s broken umbrella illustrates the challenge of mixed materials!

UnknownImprovements in technology and efficiency are central to more sustainable lifestyles, but there are other parts of the puzzle.  Mark Shayler challenges us think about our relationship with consumption.  Currently, around 80% of products are discarded after a single-use.  ‘Disposable’ products are a myth.  As Michael Braungart and  William McDonough, authors of “Cradle to Cradle: Re-Making the Way we Make Things, note the “away” in throw away does not really exist.  What is more, in spite of the fact that, we consume twice as much as we did in 1974, but we are not as happy.

206Shayler describes a transition from unconscious consumption to conscious consumption to conscious unconsumption, urging us to “buy right, buy once”.  For a revealing illustration of consumption in contemporary society visit the Victoria & Albert Museum to see the Prix Pictet, the global award in photography and sustainability.  I was captivated by Hong Hao’s My Things (pictured left), the result of daily scanning his consumed objects.

There is much to be said for moderation in all things.  This chimes with the first design model of longevity, through physical and emotional longevity, and the second loop of re-envisioned service-based business models.  There is value in the customer relationship.  What is more there are opportunities for companies to be champions through editing customer choice (removing unsustainable products), influencing customer choice through marketing messaging that reiterates a brand’s value, and production innovation.  Average, or ‘a bit less bad’ is not really an aspirational brand value.

And now I’m off to try and to upgrade and repair my laptop!

Image credit: Google, Hong Hao, Nudie Jeans, Orangebox

Related links:

Will Google’s self-driving pods spell the end of the road for car ownership? from the Guardian

Driverless cars: In the self-driving seat from The Economist