The ultimate materials boy’s challenge to Clerkenwell Design Week

braungart

“Celebrate life, rather than minimise damage”, a perfect rallying cry to kick off Clerkenwell Design Week from Professor Michael Braungart, speaking at the launch of the SCIN Gallery‘s new Green Room.

Clerkenwell is home to more creative businesses and architects per square mile than anywhere else, and as this design week celebrates ever more brands, more product launches and more visitors, the #Being Human talk reminded us that beneath the superlatives, materials are the basis or everything.  As a chemist, and co-author, with William McDonough, of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (2002), Braungart is perhaps the ultimate materials boy.  Readers of that key sustainability text will know that materials provide the foundation for a “transformation of human industry through ecologically intelligent design.”

Braungart began by debunking a few eco-design fallacies.  He cautioned us not to romanticise nature, “the most toxic chemicals to us are the most natural chemicals”.  Neither should environmental considerations be presented as the ethical option, abandoned under conditions of stress. Timothy Devinney’s thorough description of “The Careless Consumer” in a recent article for the RSA Journal explained the attitude-behaviour gap “if you are attempting to sell an ethical product you cannot expect individuals to sacrifice any aspect of the other things that matter”, such as price and quality.

Conventional design approaches to environmentalism have focused reducing, reusing and recycling. World Business Council for Sustainable Development coined the term eco-efficiency in Changing Course: A Global Business Perspective on Development and the Environment”, “It is going to be next to impossible for a business to be competitive without also being ‘eco-efficient’ – adding more value to a good or service while using fewer resources and releasing less pollution”. Becoming more eco-efficient has bolstered many businesses’ bottom line, and had a beneficial environmental impact.

However, efficiencies only slow down the rate of depletion or destruction. This is what John Mathers, CEO of the Design Council described as “disjointed incrementalism” (in a recent article, “Design Intervention”), and often leads to perverse outcomes. When the EU banned asbestos from brake pads several major car manufacturers advertised their products as “free-from” asbestos.  But, antimony sulphide, a stronger carcinogen, was substituted for asbestos.  Products designed without their end of life in mind are usually ‘down-cycled’ as contaminants lower the quality of recycled materials. Neither do efficiencies always reveal their full impact. Braungart provided many examples of “products plus” where you get the product you bought, plus additives you did not, such as a polyester shirt containing toxic dyes that leach into your skin when you sweat.

“Less bad” is an underwhelming goal, and not an inspirational brand value. Braungart reminded the designers and architects in the audience that efficiencies rarely make hearts sing. Design for eco-effectiveness, rather than eco-efficiency.
In nature, waste equals food, and so too in the Cradle-to-Cradle design paradigm. Safe materials are disassembled and recycled as technical nutrients or composted as biological nutrients in two distinct, closed-loop systems.  The biosphere contains products for consumption, such as food, books, textiles, that are made of renewable materials that can be safely returned to water or soil without synthetic or toxic contaminants.  Braungart and McDonough’s latest book, “Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability – Designing for Abundance” is one of the first to be printed from materials that could be safely composted or burnt, as this video from the printer, Gugler, explains.

prof-dr-michael-braungart-rsm-erasmus-university-november-30th-2011-28-728-1In contrast, in the technosphere, non-renewable materials are fully recycled into high-quality service products for generations.  For example, Orangebox’s Ara ‘task’ (office) chair uses materials and assembly techniques that make it easy to repair and completely recycle. Desso take back their own carpets, and those of competitors. The yarn and backing are separated into two material streams, the yarn is recycled, and the bitumen backing used as raw material for roofs or roads.

glA point of differentiation with the circular economy framework is Braungart’s emphasis on continuous improvement. Circular economy diagrams illustrate technical materials cascading through loops of maintenance, reuse, refurbish to recycle. At the heart of the Cradle-to-Cradle is the intention to design for environmental health and abundance, “a rich human experience with all that entails—fun, beauty, enjoyment, inspiration and poetry.” In the SCIN Gallery’s Green Room, Trash Surface Bureau’s beautiful and playful glass tiles and slabs reflect this design intention. The products are created from the local collection, processing, and transformation of glass in central London’s Soho.

At the micro, or company level the Cradle-to-Cradle principles are: material health; material reutilization; operations powered by renewable energy; and water stewardship. The fifth principle of social fairness, celebrating all people and natural systems, aspires to macro-level transformation. In the Netherlands, a cross-sectoral network of organisations called Nutrient Platform signed an agreement in 2011 to close the nutrient cycle and end the imports of phosphate fertilisers by 2020. Phosphates are recovered from sewage, sludge and municipal organic waste and manure to be processed into products such as fertilizers. There is less waste, less use of fertilizer and less contamination of surface water. Excess phosphate can be exported, and agriculture has a more secure supply chain. Government has a clear role to play, setting transparent, long-term, stable policies that create a framework for abundant growth. We all have a role to play, defining how we want to live, in five or twenty years time. We need to redesign not just products but systems, through dynamic public policy, cross-sectoral collaboration and transparency of environmental and social impacts. Braungart challenged the Clerkenwell Design Week community to become co-creators in abundance.

Related links:

http://www.cradletocradle.com

http://www.mbdc.com

Image credits: SCIN Gallery; Prof Michael Braungart

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Where are nature’s stewards?

Post_TNC_PineTreeWe instinctively have a sense of the value of nature, whether the sound of the ocean or the warmth of winter sun.  Signs of the strains on our relationship with nature confront us almost daily: an article in the Financial Times described the Ganges, India’s holy river, as deadly, after “pollution has turned the sacred waters into a lethal cocktail of industrial and human waste.” Species extinction rates are more than a 1,000 times the background rate, driven primarily by our over-exploitation of natural resources, pollution and climate change.  Today, China’s premier Li Keqiang announced new targets to use of coal and chronic air pollution levels.  In recent days investors, commentators and journalists have speculated on the impact of ‘Under the Dome‘, a Chinese-made documentary charting the impact of air pollution on citizens, viewed over 160 million times since its release last weekend.  With praise from government ministers and state media, the documentary is causing a surge in public awareness of the impact of pursuit of economic growth above all else.

At the Intelligence Squared debate, “Money can grow on trees chaired by Matthew Taylor, the auditorium was packed to the rafters for the discussion of whether nature and business have a competitive or collaborative relationship.  In his opening remarks, Peter Karieva, Chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy, made a compelling business case for nature: “in the long run business doesn’t stand a chance without nature”. The “long run” is important, as Karieva notes, the greatest tension between nature and business is their incompatible time horizons.

The primacy of quarterly profit reporting, and management incentives aligned to short-term key performance indicators, means that benefits which are not swiftly evidenced, such as avoiding environmental damage, are overlooked.  Policy makers grapple with similar tensions. Green Alliance’s report, “Green liberalism: Reforming the Treasury for long term policy” described the tension between HM Treasury’s dual responsibilities for the nation’s finances and economic growth.  It is standard practice to assume costs or benefits experienced now are worth more than those expected in the future, and to discount accordingly.  The higher level of “discount rate”,  the greater the future benefits have to be.  This matters for environmental policies which often come with short term costs, and pay-offs long in the future.  HM Treasury uses a higher discount rate for future impacts than some of its European peers, so it is comparatively more difficult to make the case of environmental investments in the UK. The Green Alliance report asks, “Do we want to keep £100 in our pockets today at the expense of, for instance, more than £1,000 cost in damage to the natural environment that our grandchildren would inherit?”  A challenge for campaigners is that climate change, while vital, is for many intangible, with impacts occurring in the seemingly distant future, or distant geographies.

These horizons no longer seem so far away.  Weather events closer to home, such as flooding in the UK, are changing public perceptions of climate risk.  After decades of campaigning, Tony Juniper, called on the environmental movement to show the financial risk of not acting.  This approach has gone mainstream with the fossil fuel divestment movement and discussion of stranded assets (i.e. assets that have suffered from unanticipated or premature write-downs, devaluations, or conversion to liabilities as a result of risks such as changing social norms, regulation, emergence of clean technology).  Other ecosystems, such as water and soil, are providing feedback within five years, time frames that sit comfortably in a business planning framework.  Since 2011 companies have spent more than $84bn worldwide to improve the way they conserve, manage or obtain water, according to sources reported in the FT in July 2014.

UnknownThe myopia is not just temporal, as Juniper noted, “we see environmental problems as environmental, when they are economic failures”.  Business has long enjoyed the benefits of ecosystem services for free, or at least far below their true cost.  Juniper’s new book, “What Nature Does For Britain” describes the clean water and secure food we take for granted on the back of nature’s capital, estimated by the O.N.S.to be worth £1.5 trillion in the UK.  Quantifying nature’s contribution to the bottom line in cash terms, is not easy, but B & Q, Marks & Spencer, and Unilever are among the small-group of pioneers beginning to recognise, measure and account for the value of nature to their businesses.

Jeremy Oppenhiem, leader of McKinsey’s global practice on Sustainability and Resource Productivity, was adamant about the importance of pricing nature, and incorporating its spiritual and aesthetic benefits into valuation.  Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 21.04.10A great deal of work is being undertaken in this area, by the Nature Conservancy, Trucost and others.  For example, the Smith School of the Enterprise and the Environment published a short discussion paper on the development of a new asset framework for protected areas.  The image drawn from the paper illustrates the different forms of value that PAs generate.  The intention is to demonstrate the value generated by PAs in ways that are meaningful for different stakeholders in a rapidly changing world, where funding is constrained.  Understanding the value of protected areas enables enhanced risk management, and can attract new investment.

A more accurate reflection of the value of the ecosystem services that nature provides bring externalities back into the cost of doing business, slowly eroding the false dichotomy between business doing good and doing good business.  Perhaps even ultimately blurring the lines between mainstream investing and social impact investing.  As Oppenheim commented only by moving at scale will we be able to do what is required, and the US$90 trillion worth of new infrastructure investment expected over the next 15 years presents an opportunity take a responsible view of impacts.

As Programme Director of the New Climate Economy, Oppenheim drew on the conclusions of their recent report to emphasis the “opportunities for self-interested national action” at the national, and sub-national level.  “Better Growth, Better Climate”, The report provides a ten-point global action plan for governments and business to support better growth in a low-carbon economy through strong political leadership, and credible, consistent policies.

B9w13EqIQAAVWCW.png-largeDoes the climate change compact signed by the three major party leaders represent the beginning of a shared, non-partisan approach to a low-carbon economy?  Few observers expect the general election in May to deliver an outright majority, so in the absence of strong political leadership, where are nature’s stewards?  Does the civil service have a role to play as custodians of nature, particularly for future generations?

Tony Juniper urged us all to echo The Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB’s calls for a Nature and Wellbeing Act for England to support significant improvements in the health and wellbeing of people, society and the economy.  Well-being may sound ambiguous, but the O.N.S. began measuring national well-being in 2012 to try and capture some of the complex impacts of policy, and address the limitations of economic models.  For example, the Green Alliance reports that while the fourth carbon budget includes the financial costs of environmental policies, it misses the benefits such as improvements to health from better air quality, lower congestion, accelerated innovation or reduced risk to future UK growth from climate change.

Lucy Siegle, journalist at The Guardian, and Nick Dearden, Director of the World Development Movement, were both sceptical of businesses’ ability to manage their rapacious appetites for nature’s resources without significant pressure.  However social media and technology are making it easier for consumers and campaigners to be the conscience of policy makers and business.  Brands are susceptible to pressure from civil society.  We must demand more of all those who act on our behalf to reshape the norms of business and politics.

In the meantime, experience nature, it will give you the energy to do something about it, urged Karieva.  Ultimately, we protect what we love, and then act in enlightened self-interest!

Related links:

http://www.intelligencesquared.com/podcast/

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/dadfae24-b23e-11e4-b380-00144feab7de.html#slide0

http://green-alliance.org.uk/resources/Green%20liberalism_reforming%20the%20treasury.pdf

Here Today. Gone Tomorrow?

logoIn conversation recently, Edward Wilson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, reminded us we are stewards, not owners of the biosphere.  Wilson is a primary authority in the disciplines of sociobiology and biodiversity whose career spans more than sixty years, and it is from this vantage point that he cautions “the attack on biodiversity, in an attack on ourselves”. Wilson was in the UK to promote his latest book, The Meaning of Human Existence, and launch the MEMO (Mass Extinction Monitoring Observatory) Project.  MEMO’s mission to inform, to educate, and inspire action to protect biodiversity. The monumental stone building spiralling out of the ancient Jurassic Coast will embody images of species lost to extinction in recent times.  Species extinction rates are more than a 1,000 times the background rate, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that more than 22,000 of the 73,600 assessed species, are threatened with extinction.  Assessed species represent only a fraction of the 1,889,587 described species. Without assessment we can not know the full extent of the damage, but we do know biodiversity ensures resilience.

The main threats to species are from human activities, primarily those driving habitat loss and degradation, introduction of alien species, over-exploitation of natural resources, pollution and climate change.  Awareness of the fragility of our ecosystems, is growing, but action is lagging.

ApsaraLast week as part of Sustainability Week @theHospitalClub, a private members club in London, the Marine Foundation launched a short film celebrating   Apsara, Spirits of the Sea, a living sculpture in the sea, inspired by ancient, beautiful, dancing Hindu spirits.  9am was early for a private view, but the audience were drawn by tales of mermaids and sea nymphs.  Celia Gregory, founder of the Marine Foundation and artist, knows we are visual creatures.  Images trigger an emotional response and can shift a mindset in a way that statistical lists can provoke scepticism.

The sea nymphs’ freedom and beauty belies their threatened habitat.  Coral reefs are among nature’s most diverse, breathtaking and critically endangered eco-systems, with 33% of reef building coral threatened.  Often damage to the oceans is unseen, hidden from view below the surface, or lost in its great scale.  Reef balls, eco-stars and coral nurseries are some of the techniques that have been used to rehabilitate reefs damaged by storms or human interventions.

unnamedEchoing another quote attributed Wilson, “You teach me, I forget. You show me, I remember. You involve me, I understand”, the Marine Foundation works at sites with where the coral reefs has been damaged, but there is eco-tourism potential, and crucially, the local community is involved. Ongoing management and marine spatial planning (removing predators, transplanting corals, controlling anchoring, establishing fishing restrictions, and opportunities for guardianship) are vital for restoration to be effective  Fishing restrictions around the reef create safe breeding grounds for fish and improve the catch nearby.  Sharing knowledge and information from the nearby Karang Lestari Biorock Coral Reef and Fisheries Restoration Project in Pemuteran, winner of the UN Equator Award for Community-Based Development and the Special UN Development Programme Award for Oceans and Coastal Zone Management in 2012, engaged the fishing community, who arranged for a blessing ceremony for Apsara (pictured above) and helped sink the sculpture.

Opening the same day, Here Today, curated by Artwise, celebrates the 50th Anniversary of The IUCN Red List of Threatened and Endangered Species, and supported by Baku Magazine.  Works of world famous artists such as Tracey Emin, Andy Warhol, Gavin Turk, Peter Blake, United Visual Artists, Douglas Gordon, and Julian Opie are interspersed with those of newer talents, all implicitly asking whether our endangered species will be gone tomorrow.

The first chapter entitled Human Footprint brings us face to face with some of our impacts.  Ocean plastic pollution is a relatively new problem, but vast: the UNEP Year Book 2014, states, “plastic waste causes financial damage of US$13billion to marine ecosystems each year”; the largest of four giant gyres (whirlpools of water trapping rubbish) is estimated to be the size of Texas, and contain 3.2million tonnes of plastic; 44% of all documented seabird species are found with plastic in their stomachs.  The Midway film shows the painful death throes of young marine birds fed plastics.  Alice Dunseath’s Plastic Shores Animations, (seeht3n at the SustainRCA Show) reminds us that these same micro plastics are entering our food chain.  Leyla Aliyeva’s experience Life, places a beating heart in the centre of a monochrome room of trees.  It is immersive and invites contemplation.  Chris Jordan and Rebecca Clark’s Silent Spring depicts 183,000 birds, the estimated number of birds that die in the United States every day from exposure to agricultural pesticides.  As with the 888,246 ceramic poppies planted for the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation the representation of an inconceivably large number is powerful.
ht1Stephanie Quayle‘s Congress, gathers clay sculptures of one of our closest, and most intelligent relatives, orang-utans in casual human poses, but bound for a gallery in shipping crates: for us to marvel, or because their habitat has been destroyed? The chapter Unsustainable Sea and Changing Landscapes explores the pressure that humanity is putting on nature with poignant works inspired by the disappearance and death of the Caspian and Aral Seas. ht2 Sayyora Muin’s Listen to the Silence of the Lost Sea, is a circle of women silently biding farewell to the Aral Sea, and their way of life  The world’s fourth largest saline lake until the 1960s when two rivers that fed it were diverted for agricultural use, and the sea has slowly desiccated since.
ht4The final chapter, Here for the Future, shares the six key policy solutions outlined in the WWF Climate Solutions Report,  next to Alicja Patanowksa‘s Plantation, an installation made of ceramics and discarded glasses,a n urban garden accessible to us all.  Plantation is one of the innovative, engaging responses from recent graduates of the Royal College of Art curated by Julian Melchiorri. melchiorriMelchiorri’s Silk Leaf made of a biological material made of silk protein and chloroplasts. Silk Leaf absorbs CO2 and produces oxygen and organic compounds through photosynthesis. Melchiorri envisages building clad in photosynthetic facade breathing life into our cities.  Other works revive materials turning ‘waste’ into luxurious textiles (Neha Lad), or human poo to clean fuel (Shruti Grover).  The works are too numerous to mention, but Here Today, is at The Old Sorting Office, 21-31 New Oxford Street, WC1, until 17th December, so go be inspired!
“The next millennium, if we are to avoid catastrophe, must be the green millennium…And the best,  most dramatic  and most reliable motivator of human behavioural change is beauty”, Elizabeth Farrelly.
Image credits: IUCN; The Marine Foundation

Related links:

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/07/23/sustainrca-show-and-award-2014-finalists/

A day of tear down and design up for the circular economy

Circular-Economy-ConceptAs part of the Disruptive Innovation Festival, SustainRCA, the Royal College of Art’s sustainability hub, hosted two events exploring innovation and the circular economy, practically and conceptually.  The hands on workshop, Business Modelling for a Circular Economy, was the perfect complement to the evening’s panel discussion, Peering into the Next Wave of Innovation. The phrase ‘circular economy’ is increasingly used by business, media and academia as a generic term for an economy that is regenerative by design.  As Ken Webster, Head of Innovation at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, described during the panel discussion, the circular economy is defined by a set of principles: two, separate cycles (pictured left): biological materials, designed to re-enter the biosphere, and technical materials, designed to circulate with minimal loss of quality; diversity provides strength and resilience; the shift towards an economy ultimately powered by renewable energy; embracing systems thinking, to reflect the real-world where systems are non-linear, feedback-rich, and interdependent; and thinking of cascades, as products are repaired, reused, remanufactured and recycled realising more value, and managing resources with less waste.

The conventional, linear ‘take, make, dispose’ model has relied on large quantities of easily accessible resources and energy.  We live in a diffiernt paradigm, bound by legacy systems and resource constraints.  Input prices, which declined for most of the 20th century, are rising and increasingly volatile, driven by physical, and, as Mark Shayler, director of agencies, Ape, and TicketyBoo, noted, by political access.  Rapid consumption patterns are losing a lot of value to landfill:  around $2.7trillion of the $3.2 trillion created by the FMCG industry each year, according to Jamie Butterworth, Ellen MacArthur Foundation speaking at another DIF event.  With 3 billion more middle class consumers by 2030 and a finite planet, we have to do things differently.  Not just more efficiently, but more effectively.

Hugo Spowers of Riversimple began the panel discussion with a complete circular economy vision for car use, from ownership to mobility, a redesign of the car, business model and corporate governance.  Citing Joanna Macy, Spowers called for a simultaneous shift in method, methodology and mindset.  A service dominant logic places the user at its centre, as in We All Design‘s Circular Business Board which was presented by founder Rob Maslin, as a framework for the business modelling workshop.  At its heart are the ‘User Profile’, and the ‘Function’ (the problem or user need such as washing, rather than the machine), and ‘Solution’, how can we effectively, or optimally, meet the need. bm1

Against this backdrop, our first enquiry was a product ‘tear down’.  We huddled round an Apple MacBook with tiny screw drivers.  ‘Tear down’ suggests a heady abandonment, this was a more precise and forensic exercise.  Carefully teasing the tiny screws passed battery, RAM, circuit boards, and disk-drive, (its intricacy perhaps a clue to their redundancy) until ultimately a mucky keyboard.  Well-versed in product design, my colleagues were focused on the device’s limitations for repair and disassembly.  Many of the environmental challenges device manufacturers face are around resource scarcity and price volatility, yet these challenges are often missing from the designer’s brief, says Shayler.  The post-mortem revealed death by latte on keyboard, so our method imagined a keyboard that could be readily replaced, repaired or personalised.

We sketched out a tiered service (methodology) and pricing plan.  A confident and engaged user would buy their device outright, and any parts for repair or upgrade from the manufacturer or a reseller such as iFixit.or Restart Project.  A second profile, a fashion-conscious, brand-lover, desiring the latest device would pay a premium to customise their keyboard, laser-etch the case, and be one of the first 1000 automatic upgrades for new releases.  A third user profile, someone for whom their laptop is a service platform, predominantly for email and the internet.  This user would own their device for longer, and buy a service contract without either the confidence or inclination to tinker themselves.  This service-based model minimises the environmental, social and governance issues in the supply chain (using less raw materials); remodels delivery logistics to provide for the return of the physical asset; provides a tiered service plan, where the level of engagement or contract matched their service need. Barry Waddilove, Home Product Design, and team designed a network of technology clubs in charity shops for kids and young adults, making use of the ‘waste’ electronics they are given to create educational workshops and with an electronics brand as strategic partner, others kettles, hairdryers and other small electronics.Hugo-new
In leasing or buy-back model, product recovery is key to retaining valuable material resources.  The opportunities are greatest for durables.  The manufacturer has every incentive to design for product disassembly and material recovery, rather than obsolescence.   If Riversimple‘s car design is revolutionary, emitting only a tiny amount of water, and more than the equivalent of 200 mpg., then its business service model is even more so.  Based around a subscription, with a fixed element, and a variable element reflecting usage, Riversimple aims to maximise life-cycle profitability.  The user buys an ongoing service where the product is refurbished, upgraded and replaced as required, made from higher quality materials.

The potential scope is much greater than decoupling product design from raw materials.   As we are five years away from losing key skills into retirement, Shayler argues, there are compelling reasons to boost innovation and engineering enterprise in the UK.  There are barriers, but the mindset is shifting, with a Government report, arguing there are, “potentially billions of pounds of benefits for UK businesses in becoming more resource efficient.”, and calling for producer responsibility regulations and lower VAT on recycled goods.  Spowers called for a more sustainable financial system, and also on the podium, Andy James, Founder and Managing Director of Six Degree People, described the need for greater collabbm2oration and advisory boards to support CEOs embarking on disruptive innovation strategies.  A few days later Andy’s comments were echoed by Professor Vlatka Hlupic at the launch of her new book, The Management Shift.  Her research demonstrates that a collaborative culture is central to developing organisations that are more resilient, more innovative and generate better returns for all stakeholders.  Innovation is joyful!

Image credits: Ellen MacArthur Foundation; Riversimple

Joining the Dots in the supply chain

pp_1The first talk of the SustainRCA 2014/15 year, Joining the Dots, drew quite a crowd.  Held in collaboration with the People’s Parliament the event was held in a House of Commons committee room.  A fitting location as transparency, accountability and human rights are at the heart of the push to join the dots on the supply chain.  Baroness Lola Young introduced the speakers, and the evening, in the context of the Modern Slavery Bill.  The Bill, due for its second reading in the House of Lords on 17th November 2014, will compel large companies to annually disclose what they have done to ensure their supply chains are “slavery free”.  As well as regulatory pressure, customers increasingly expect businesses to delivery great products and services responsibly.  The demand for greater transparency is matched with growing interest in the narrative behind products, a desire for authenticity, the result of a centrifugal force driving remote, homogenous, global brands at one extreme, and a revival of artisan, heritage and craft at the other.

logo@2Celebrating materials, maker and method gives meaning to a product, in fact the object derives greater meaning from the sum of these stories, and here lies the rationale for Provenance, a new online retail proposition from RCA graduate Jess Baker.  Every product has a story in its supply chain, and “not all products are created equal”.  Baker felt that retail experiences where look and price are the only metrics available are missing something and she suggested customers would pay up to 70% more if they knew that the benefits were going to the local community.  Observation made, Baker, with a PhD in computer science, is optimistic that technology can help us be better citizens, redressing the informational asymmetry that currently defines the retail experience.  Provenance tells the story of the people, places, processes and materials behind products.  Oh joy to discover I live a stone’s throw away from where Prestat, chocolate purveyor to H.M. The Queen is making dark salted caramel truffles!  The Provenance  API offers makers a host of smart perks, such as the ability to serve stories on other sites, but essentially it is the products’ stories that provide the marketing clout.
The second speaker, Leah Borromeo took us to the other end of the spectrum with the trailer for her documentary, “The Cotton Film: Dirty White Gold”.  The film shines a light on the cotton industry in India, where around 300,000 cotton farmers have committed suicide to escape debt.  The political, social, cultural and economic context is such that 28.5% of the Indian population (343.5mn) are destitute and the estimated net worth of the top ten was $102.1 bn, around 5.5% of GDP in 2013.  The plight of cotton farmers is part of a web of relationships and pressures more complex than can be tackled in this film, but it poses some tough questions.
Cotton is just one commodity at the base of complex, dynamic, global supply chains increasingly under scrutiny.  Tim Wilson, Historic Futures, works with a range of multinational firms to map the value-chains (a term Wilson prefers to supply chain) from where raw materials are sourced to the retail distribution of products in a format that can be rapidly updated.  80% of social and environmental impact is in the value chain, and typically organisations have limited tools to measure this accurately.  We know deforestation, climate change and biodiversity loss are increasingly cause for concern, and that the rates of change of going up.  Yet lack of accurate, complete information undermines an organisation’s ability to make informed and reliable sourcing decisions.  Without the ability to convey their best practice to management or buyers, participants in the value chain can not differentiate themselves from less responsible competitors, and justify what may be a higher cost or investment.
We should not underestimate the complexity of these relationships.  For example, working with Marks & Spencer, Historic Futures, mapped 12.5 million items over 15 months, from more than 700 third party suppliers, and more than 6,500 retail points of sale.  It can be done with accuracy and precision.  Historic Future’s String 3 is working on a platform that is verifiable but does not reveal the suppliers, so enabling companies to share information, and preserve their competitive advantage.
Demand for this data is growing.  Earlier this year, PricewaterhouseCoopers bought Geo-Traceability, a company that uses GPS mapping, Geographic Information System (GIS) technology and mobile phone and bar coding systems to track products from origin to shop floor.   GeoTraceability has collected data from 113,000 small holder farmers in developing countries and is developing new approaches to trace conflict minerals, and monitor of key biodiversity indicators. Ian Powell, Chairman and Senior Partner, said: “Resource scarcity and supply chain management are significant issues for our clients. The acquisition of GeoTraceability is another example of how we are investing in innovative technologies and services that enable our clients to make better business decisions, establish trust and reduce their risk.”  For the smallholders the platform provides information to help improve their production, farming practices and build a more sustainable livelihood.
6114_pcThe final speaker, Bruno Pieters, designer and founder of Honest by, is striving to be the first company in the world to offer customers price transparency.  Pieters is an entrepreneur, fashion designer and art director well-known for his sharp tailoring developed while working with designers such as Martin Margiela, Thimister and Christian Lacroix.  Pieters returned from a sabbatical in India, with a deep-seated concern for the environment, and wider impact of fashion industry.  His vision brings radical transparency to the entire supply chain.  Click on an item that catches your eye and, in addition, to conventional information about the garment’s size and care, scroll down for details of the material, manufacture, carbon footprint, and price calculation: with 0.5 euros of thread, and the retail mark-up.  What a fascinating exercise!
Many of these ESG (environmental, social and governance) impacts materialise in the medium or longer term, beyond the horizons of quarterly returns or short-term profitability.  Momentum supporting a culture of long-termism, transparency and accountability in business, and the finance industry, is developing on several fronts.  Following the Kay Review of UK Equity Markets and Long–Term Decision Making, the recent establishment of the Investor Forum, is the latest in a series of initiatives that will drive demand for integrated analysis incorporating ESG factors into standard financial valuations.  These developments reflect a wider discussion about the role of business, and banks, as corporate citizens, such as the Blueprint for Better Business, Aviva’s Roadmap for sustainable capital markets and the Banking Standards Review.  In a survey of 30,000 consumers across twenty countries in five continents carried out by the UN Global Compact-Accenture Study on Sustainability, in collaboration with Havas Media, found “72% of people globally say business is failing to take care of the planet and society as a whole”.
Joining the dots on the supply chain is only the first part of a linear model of manufacture and consumption, characterised by “take, make, consume and throw away”.  Measuring and valuing resources reveals the real business benefits opportunities of using them more efficiently, and effectively.  The Disruptive Innovation Festival, was a virtual festival ideas from leading thinkers, entrepreneurs and businesses sharing knowledge about the circular economy, an economic model that is restorative by design.  Environmental scientists have long urged us to recognised that we live in a closed system or biosphere.  Mapping impacts is the beginning of better decisions, to borrow the words of Maya Angelou, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
P.S. Andrew Hill will interview Honest By Founder & CEO Bruno Pieters at 12pm GMT on Day 2 of the FT Innovate 2014 conference in London, ” The Digital Big Bang, how digital technologies and practices are transforming the way companies innovate and do business.”
Related links:
 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/253457/bis-12-1188-equity-markets-support-growth-response-to-kay-review.pdf

Warm, wonderful and woollen: the Interiors Collection @woolweek

wi2Campaign for Wool’s fifth annual Wool Week is celebrating the beauty and versatility of wool for fashion and interiors, and where better to hide from the blustery showers than in the pop-up Interiors Collection gallery in Southwark Cathedral.  The curated collection of more than fiftyl wool products features fabrics, flooring and furnishings from the high street to bespoke and designer pieces commissioned for commercial clients.  Here are my top ten:

wi3Roger Oates Stromness runner (70cm wide x 230cm long) is woven from pure un-dyed Shetland Wool in the UK.  Four natural colours, ivory white, light and deep grey and ebony, create bold stripes with a contrasting border.  The subtle hues of the un-dyed wool lend themselves perfectly to the geometric and monochrome trends of the moment.

wi10The Røros Tweed storm blanket (120x180cm, £195) from Toast, also uses the natural monochrome tones of un-dyed wool, this time from Norway.  Røros, established as a mining town in 1646, is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. In 1789, when the director of the mine, Peder Hiort, died childless, he bequeathed his entire fortune to a foundation set up to provide training to the poor in handicraft and textile production.  Røros Tweed was established in 1940 to sell handmade textiles, and continues to ensure the whole process from raw wool to finished product stays in Norway.

wi9Mary Goodman‘s Seating Spheres, launched at Tent London, are a mix of British Swaledale and Herdwick wools.  The spheres are made to order and are a fun addition to any home office.

wi8For a less energetic seating solution, Galvin Brothers  (Completely) Imperfect Day Bed, upholstered in Melton Earth Cobalt and Boutique Islington grey from Abraham Moon would be a very sophisticated place to recline with a good book or simply find a moment of calm.  Firm, flat and fit for a daytime ‘power-nap’, it is also a single bed worthy of any overnight guests.  Made of solid oak and finished with Danish oil, the bed (180 x 44 x 80cm, £1,985) has the Galvin Brothers signature turned leg.  Their partnership with local supplier Abraham Moon, established in 1837 and one of one of Britain’s last remaining vertical woollen mills, means this piece of furniture is Yorkshire through and through.

wi4Bailey Hills’ Comati Stripe Metallic cushion has the striking motif digitally printed on to 100% wool twill.  The metallic shimmer is the perfect complement to Jonathan Adler‘s luxurious handcrafted Ingmar Chair (£2,250) with its shearling-lined seat.  What an indulgence.  wi6Kit Kemp for Christopher Farr Cloth’s folklore embroidered fabric, 100% wool with cotton embroidery (£280/m), is luxury with a colourful and artisanal flair.

The Tetrahedron and Falling Cubes cushions (£95) made for Pentreath and Hall by Fine Cell Work, a social enterprise that trains prisoners in paid, skilled, creative needlework, bring colour to geometric designs. Georgia Bosson’s Skeleton ‘Crosses’ cushion is made from industrial wool felt waste material overlaid on linewi7n.  From £55 each, the cushions are limited edition, and by the nature of their materials unique.

From the decorative to the utilitarian for the last of my picks, Hey-Sign’s collection wi5of laundry baskets made from 100% wool felt with 30°, 60°, 90° (35 × 27 × 75 cm) motif.

Wool’s versatile aesthetic appeal is long-lasting, as it is a resilient performance fibre.  Wool has many virtues being natural, renewable and biodegradable (if pure wool).  It is also multi-climatic, keeping you warm in winter, and breathable to keep you cool in summer.  In the home, wool is an effective insulator with anti-bacterial and hypoallergenic properties and is naturally fire-retardant.

wi1With such a strong British wool heritage, I look forward to an exhibition that captures stories from native breeds and traditional crafts to outstanding contemporary design and innovative materials.

The Interiors Collection is on display at London’s Southwark Cathedral during Wool Week – open from the 5th – 12th October 10am – 7pm daily (8pm on Thursday).  Admission is free.  If you can not make it there, then have a look at OneWool, the new online gallery showcasing the largest collection of wool interiors products.

Looking Forwards & Instigating Change @SustainRCA Awards

RCA.SustainThe SustainRCA Show & Awards 2014 preview was at the heart of my London Design Festival.  The event celebrates the work of some of the brightest of this year’s graduates from the Royal College of Art, addressing the big social and environmental challenges of our day.  This year is the strongest yet, with more than 100 applicants, 60 students shortlisted and 35 selected as finalists from across all RCA.  This was the first opportunity to see all the finalists together in a curated show, and together they present a powerful body of work charged with potential.  There are projects that take an innovative look at waste, water and other resources, but collectively the works show that sustainability is about more than efficiencies or climate science.  Rather sustainability is about our values and relationships with one another, and the environment, in its broadest sense.  In fact many of the tangible things we associate with sustainability are the symptoms or representations of imbalanced relationships that are at odds with values that many of us identify with.

srca1An independent, expert judging panel had spent the day deliberating over who to crown in each of four categories under the broad theme, “Looking Forwards“.  The theme suggests purpose and action.  The first category, Moving Minds confronts head-on the apathy that mention of ‘sustainability’ often generates. Works in this category might present the viewer with some uncomfortable realities or challenge the viewer to think about things we often do not.  As I walked into the Show, having criss-crossed London on my bike that day, I immediately connected with Tino Seubert’s The Colour of Air which filters Particulate Matter (PM) from car exhausts to produce lead for pencils, ink, or, as exhibited, dyes an outdoor sports outfit, PM_DYE.  The smog produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels polluting the air we breathe becomes tangible, even wearable, to those who inhale it everyday.  Wiping my ‘glowing’ brow, my handkerchief collects enough PM to make a contribution to Tino’s next piece, and a reminder that London’s record on air pollution is dire.

Nearby, another warning, this time of the often unseen impact of our relationship with so-called disposable plastics.    Alice Dunseath’s, Plastic Shores, are three stop-motion animations from bits of plastic found washed up on shores in Britain and Hawaii.  A simple, colourful story that reveals the impact of a throw ‘away’ culture in our closed, connected eco-system.rusak

Runner-up or Honourable Mention was given to Peter Shenai’s Change Ringing.  The haunting dissonance of six bronze bells cast in shapes mathematically derived from temperature data over the twentieth century sound the imbalance of our changing climate. Winner, Marcin Rusak’Flowering Transition explores the significant impact of flowers cultivated for the global cut-flower industry. with intensive use of fossil fuels, pesticides, water and genetic redesign.  The final chapter of Rusak’s design research project presents Flower Monster, the 3D-printed model  flowering chimera of commercial virtues.  Beware the monster we create in the search for the superlative colour, scent, shipping tolerant bloom.

4989ef0484eda1bc9d82d25501f719ebInspired Products emerge as a response to category one: once you have captured people’s attention, you need to offer them something they can do, otherwise a sense of impotence floods in.  Dunseath’s Plastic Shores animations were commissioned for a feature length documentary of the same name.  In 2011 global plastic production reached 300 million tonnes, over a third was for the disposable packaging industry.  An estimated 6 million tonnes of litter enters rivers and oceans every year.  As well as litter, every ton of PET produced for plastic bottles creates around three tonnes of CO2.  By way of response, Pierre Paslier, Guillaume Couche, Rodrigo García González’s Ooho!, winner of this category, and of the Lexus Design Award 2014, is an alternative way of packaging water inspired by nature’s use of membranes.  Ooho! uses brown algae, calcium chloride and the surface tension of the water to create a double gelatinous membrane; a process known as “spherification”.  A simple, cheap, biodegradable (even edible) alternative to disposable plastic bottles and as it is currently developed under Creative Commons license you can DIY at home!

fe3312e06ca52c99d4e956741d2612bfSolutions for Society is about scaling up interventions from products to systems and services that facilitate a fairer, more ethical and sustainable society.  The winner, with double honours, was Pierre Paslier‘s Advanced Activism, an open-source toolkit to inspire activists and campaigner.  Inspired by street art, the irreverent and playful tools include a remote-controlled drone (pictured right) to flyer hard to reach places, literally finding new platforms for alternative voices.  The instructions are available on streettoolbox, a collaborative platform for activists underpinned by the knowledge that debate and plurality are fundamental to healthy democracy.

nbennettVisionary Processes are new collaborations to facilitate Solutions for Society by stimulating innovation, or making production better.  Runner up in this category was Nell Bennett’s Coral3whose sacrificial alkaline structures are designed to be deposited by divers around coral reefs to help neutralise ocean acidification, one of the causes of coral reef degradation. Designed as part of a conservation programme that provides education, and sustainable livelihoods for the local communities, the sacrificial sculptures are the centrepiece of a system that engages and empowers a wide network of stakeholders.

mitsuiWinner Hana Mitsui’s New Value of Waste, transforms fabrics using a technique derived from a traditional Japanese process, ‘sakori’ to extended the life of worn fabrics.  Waste fabrics are shredded into thin strips and then woven over a fresh warp creating new luxurious clothes with distinct textures and patterns.  This tale of rags to riches highlights the value that is lost when we are so quick to dispose, and that can be restored with ingenuity and creativity.

Reflecting on the breadth work at SustainRCA, judge John Thackara said: ‘Products are the results of systems and processes, and we have to look at the systems from which the bad things came if we’re going to refashion systems so that good things come. There’s a whole vision of looking, thinking, solving, mobilising and empowering here.’

There is much at SustainRCA Show & Awards to challenge, provoke and inspire, the great joy of the show is that the work also offers positive and creative steps to move forwards.  Visit the show, and the momentum will be infectious.

The SustainRCA Show and Awards runs from 18 September–3 October, Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, London SW7 2EU.

Image credits: Pierre Paslier; SustainRCA

Related links:

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/07/23/sustainrca-show-and-award-2014-finalists/

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2014-04/01/ooho-plastic-bottle

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/09/01/celebrating-and-sustaining-the-beauty-of-our-oceans/

Looking ahead to London Design Festival

logo Not that you can have failed to notice, but the London Design Festival started today, an event that promises to “celebrate and promote London as the design capital of the world.”  We can be certain it won’t disappoint, though perhaps less confident of seeing all there is to offer.

I will be making a beeline for the Victoria and Albert Museum to see The Wish List.  Sir Terence Conran, Benchmark, the London Design Festival and the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) paired ten emerging talents with ten design legends to design and make something that they have always wanted, but never been able to find.  The superlative bespoke commission, or ultra-mentoring scheme, however you choose to describe it, the results promise to be wonderful.

hadid-nealMy particular picks will be Sebastian Cox’s workspace for Terence Conran  and Gareth Neal’s carafe for Zaha Hadid. 

Also at the V&A is a demonstration of the circular economy in action as Ella Doran, Galapagos Designs, and the RSA’s Great Recovery Project deconstruct and refurbish several upholstered chairs in the V&A Design Studio.  The circular economy is a different approach to design, manufacture and material recovery that avoids losing valuable materials to landfill.  It might whet newlogoyour appetite to visit the Great Recovery’s new home, the Fab Lab London, which opens its doors on Friday 19th September.  There will be a Restart party to tend to broken electronics, ‘Fixperts’ and tear-down & design-up workshops happening all day to prompt visitors to think about products in a more circular way.

features_ecodb_materiallandscapeOpening on Wednesday 17th (and running to the 20th September at Earls Court) is 100% Design, the biggest of the contemporary design shows.  This is its twentieth year so there will be a rare vintage mix of design talent as well as five zones of British and international design products on show. I will be making a bee-line for the Eco, Design & Build hub, designed and curated by Thomas Matthews in partnership with SCIN Gallery. The Materials Landscape promises to take visitors to exciting new territory.  The Makers Carousel by Mette has caught my eye, with the Maker Library Network running a workshop making useful objects out of waste products on the 17th, including how to make bricks from business cards.  By the end of LDF we will probably all have collected enough raw material to join in!

jn1Elsewhere at 100% Design, I will be checking out Jennifer Newman Studio‘s M-Bamboo Table ; Lozi for his distinctive geometric furniture; Lucy Turner for her modern marquetry on upcycled mid-century furniture;  Pinch for the gorgeous, graceful pieces that I have been coveting for sometime; and the Wood Awards to see Namon Gaston‘s Fosse Desk and Sebastian Cox’s Ten Species Tall Boy.  The session entitled “The Big Question: What impact will synthetic biology have on design?” on Saturday 20th at 1pm featuring Daan Roosegarde, who has designed glow-in the dark trees using bio-luminscent qualities of jellyfish to replace street lamps, and Rachel Armstrong who designs buildings that repair themselves, sounds like an invitation to wonderland.

hgf02-8tct_IsixKfgucsy4VO7YNsksQ5fI_rcU7Jg0After a full day planned at 100%design, the evening of the 17th September is the SustainRCA Show preview and Awards.  With 36 finalists working with the value of waste, the plight of bees, great gadgets and smarter systems (the smart shopping app, Disclosed, is pictured left), the judges have a tough call.  Perhaps Mohammed J Ali’s A New Enlightenment which imagines a sharing economy around renewable energy, shared goods, services and information will triumph?  Ali used an independent Scotland as a case study, so by the end of this week it may no longer be an imagined scenario.

product_541062b2967991410359986145940Heading east is designjunction, taking place at the Old Sorting Office, New Oxford St. London from the 18th to the 21st of September.  I’ll be dropping in to see Made in Ratio’s updated Supernova table, with a new 100% recycled aluminium finish; marvelling at master craftsmen from Waterford Crystal and Bert & May at the Flash Factories; admiring ercol‘s and Anglepoise timeless classics given a bespoke overhaul as the part of the ‘A Child’s Dream’ silent auction (Tom Dixon’s design is pictured right); checking out Anthony Dickens light for new brand Made in the ForgeHend Krichen, cherchbi, Kristjana Williams, Africa Calling and Tom Raffield.  If it didn’t clash with the climate march, I would be back to hear Kathy Shenoy, Shake the Dust, and Heath Nash, South African designer and British Council ‘Maker Librarian’ discussing the rise in interest in regional artisans, craft and design work from around the world on Sunday 21st at 1.30pm.

sc1Further east still to Tent London at the Old Truman Brewery (18th-21st September) to catch up with (in no particular order) Daniel Heath glorious decorative finishes; Galvin Brothers new Cross Lap collection; Seascape Curiousities one year after launch; Sebastian Cox (Shake Cabinet, pictured left), as I can not attend an event where he is exhibiting without coveting his products; Seven Gauge Studios new woven cotton collection; and Tracey Tubb‘s geometric, 3-dimensional, folded wallpapers.

Around the fringe, The Big Small Show, at the Hoxton Basement Gallery (15th – 19th September) promises to be a thought-provoking with a group of recent graduates from the Royal College of Art’s Design Products course engage with contemporary contradictions of global versus local, craft versus mass-manufacture and more.

Bq_-6yMCQAALj3fAnother recent RCA graduate, Diana Simpson, is now designer in residence at 19 Greek Street, an innovative interior design studio, gallery,and materials library.  Simpson’s Glass Lab turns discards glass bottles into hand-crafted architectural materials, not least of which is the bar top at London’s newest private members club, Library (pictured right).

If you missed seeing Tom Raffield at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, he will be creating a woodland workshop at at Adventures in Furniture, Islington as part of the new Islington Design District.  Elsewhere, there is the debut of the Queens Park Design District, where I hope to sneak a peak at Christoph Behling’s woven wood.

revised_tracey_neuls_dps_1Oh, and there is also home, (co-located with Top Drawer) at Olympia from 14th-16th September for all manner of design-led homewares and interior accessories brands.  It will be a whistle-stop tour at best for me with so much to pack into one week.  And then it will be Decorex!

I”ll certainly be taking advantage of the West London Design District Visa promotion to invest in a pair of Tracey Neuls‘ shoes to ease my cycling around the city!

 

Image credits:  Benchmark; designjunction/Teddy’s Wish; Diana Simpson; SustainRCA; Thomas Matthews; Tracey Neuls

Related links:

http://video.ft.com/3775193342001/London-Design-Festival-Made-in-Britain/Editors-Choice

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/04/10/what-a-lot-of-bottle-a-conversation-glass-lab/

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/06/25/show-rca-ringing-the-changes/

 

Last Chance to see Useful + Beautiful

ub1Over a hundred years ago William Morris advised “have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”.  The current exhibition at the Geffrye Museum useful + beautiful: contemporary design for the home revisits Morris’ ‘golden rule’ bringing together products from a range of emerging designers and established names. Each of the products is innovative in some way, whether through its use of a new material, technology or adaptation to the way we live today.

What is more, 2014 is the centenary of the former almshouses’ conversion into the Geffrye Museum, so it is fitting that the exhibition celebrates the local furniture-making trade of London, and Shoreditch in particular; one of the original aims of the museum.  

As Annabelle Campbell, Head of Exhibitions and Collections at the Crafts Council notes, “Good design is about innovation, it’s about elements of sustainability”.  Design is also dialogue, influencing the way we live, as well as responding to it.  The form and function of the objects around us influence our physical and emotional experience of a space.  ub2Climbing inside Freyja Sewell‘s felt cocoon, Hush, you have an immediate sense of retreat, even sanctuary in the midst of the museum. Our lives are so immersed in the omnipresent worldwide web, and constant connectivity of digital technology, solitude and respite are rare.  Hush creates an immediate moment of calm.  The pods are cut from a single piece of 10mm industrial wool felt and lined with padding made from recycled wool fibres, a by-product of the British carpet industry.  Wool is naturally flame retardant, breathable, durable, biodegradable, and provides great acoustic insulation, hence the name, Hush.

PLUMEN-in-John-Lewis-150-years-pop-up-exhibition-currated-by-Design-Museum-3-250x160Digital technologies are providing new materials, new ways of making and marketing products.  Crowdfunding sites offer designers the opportunity to leverage their fan base for financial support, for example, Hulger, the company behind designer-low energy light bulb brand, Plumen, raised the $20,000 they needed in a week on Kickstarter.com to launch their second product, 002, an energy efficient alternative to the 30W incandescent light bulb, in January 2014 (they eventually raised nearly $60,000).  The original Plumen 001 is exhibited at useful+beautiful, and as part of the Design Today exhibition (pictured left) celebrating 150 years of John Lewis  until August 31st.

ub3The internet enables distributed manufacturing models such as OpenDeska global platform that connects local makers and international designers.  As the customer you can browse a range of furniture collections, download and then make the furniture yourself, or get it made on demand by a maker close to you.   The Edie child’s stool (or bedside table) was designed by David Steiner and Joni Steiner to be made from a single piece of plywood on a CNC router with ‘air-fix’ construction. The OpenDesk platform provides an affordable route to designer products made in your community, and you can customise the finishes!

ub4Using the same technology as cardboard tubes, Seongyong Lee developed a process for making tubes from thin wood veneer.  The tubes are further strengthened with a coat of laquer and used as legs for the Plytube stool.  The stool weighs less than a kilo, making it more energy-efficient, and is very strong.  Plytube was part of the Craft Council’s Raw Craft exhibition earlier this year.   

ub5Both Plytube and William Warren‘s reinterpretation of the traditional woven-top stool reflect a renewed appreciation for traditional craftsmanship.  The Weave Stool is made from four identical plywood forms, with black  ash veneer, that slot together.  Simply elegant.  

Jack Smith’Folding Stool, also made of ash, is similarly clean and considered in its design, and so versatile.  The three hinged legs meet in a Y-shaped hole in the stool’s seat.  Sitting down gives it strength, yet stand, pick up the handle and the stool folds flat for easy storage in our space constrained homes.ub6   Pia Wüstenberg’s colourful, sensual and tactile vessels for Utopia & Utility illustrate Alvar Alto’s observation that “Beauty is the harmony of purpose and form”.  Stacked the vessels are decorative sculptures, but each of the ceramic, glass and wooden parts is a bowl with its own use.

With the aid of technology design can now be mass produced.  ub8Good design is available to everyone, along with the bad.  As prices of goods have fallen, so interiors now have seasonal colours and looks that are ‘bang on trend’.  The products on show at useful + beautiful have more than fleeting appeal.  Many of the designs have also consider the lifecycle of the product.  Piet Hein Eek‘s Scrapwood classic cupboard is made of new and found wood.  Hein Eek has been experimenting with offcuts and scrap wood for more than twenty years and the range now includes a chair, table, sideboard and wastepaper basket.  The Scrapwood collection is available from SCP.  ub7The Tip Ton chair, designed by Barber and Osgerby, is manufactured from a single mould, without any mechanical components. The chair is made entirely of polypropylene, so it is durable and 100% recyclable.  The chair’s forward tilt position helps to keep the spine and pelvis straight, allowing better circulation to core abdominal and back muscles while at work or rest. Greater well-being certainly makes everyday living more joyful!  The Tip Ton chair is available from Vitra, and other stockists, in eight colours. 

useful + beautiful is a wonderful prompt to consider more than the aesthetic of the things we choose to live with.  Products that have form and function are beautiful everyday!

useful + beautiful: contemporary design for the home runs until 25th August 2014 at the Geffrye Museum, so see it while you still can!  

 

 

Rethinking at New Designers Part 2

liddardPart 2 of New Designers 2014 welcomed graduates from furniture and product design, visual communications, motion arts and theatre design.  I was delighted to see Oliver Liddard’s Rethink Sink.  In last summer’s dry spell, I could regularly be seen emptying water from my kitchen sink into the garden to revive wilting peas and beans.  My efforts at grey water recycling would have been much more efficient with Oliver’s RSA Award winning design.  Rethink the Sink uses two basins to make users visually aware of how much water they are using.  The first basin is plug less, so you have to consciously pour or ‘throw away’ water into the second basin.  This act enables users to intervene and recycle the grey water elsewhere in the home.  The design aims to decrease water consumption by making us aware of the volumes we use.  An elegant intervention.

keoghAfter the abundance of blooms at Part 1, one of the first works that caught my eye was Sam Janzen‘s Eco-System Composter.  Designed for an Electrolux Design Lab competition, the gravity-fed system takes food waste in, and fresh food out with the system sitting on top of a seed incubator.  The green-fingered amateur was also in the mind of Joshua Keogh when he designed Cultivate, as a client project for Joseph Joseph.  The self-watering system uses two silicone pots of different sizes making it easier to repot in the early stages of plant growth.

IMG_0022To propagate and cultivate plants, we need bees, and Jon Steven is a man on a mission to make bee-keeping more accessible with his eco-friendly and affordable Pine Hive.  Made of economical pine, with hemp rope handles, the hive has the same internal dimensions as the National Hive, and allows interchangeability of pre-existing parts such as frames and mesh floors, reducing waste from potential upgrades, and is stackable, so it can be readily expanded.

For a splash of colour,  Effie Koukia has developed paint and print products that are literally good enough to eat.  Effie set out to replace the hazardous chemicals in spray paints used for graffiti with a safer and healthier alternative.  The dyes and solvents used in the EXTRACT range are derived from 100% natural products and biodegradable.  The paints are available in three formats (paint, spray paint and screen-print) and safe for users, including children, in case of contact with the skin, ingestion or inhalation.  The hot pink on show was picture perfect!

yamazakiRecycled plastic bags provide inspiration and material for Reiji Yamazaki‘s work.  Heat is used to shrink the bags into a durable, flexible material that Reiji used to make colourful accessories.  seaibyWael Seaiby reminds us that one million plastic bags are used every minute around the world and around 93% of these bags end up in landfill.  With PLAG, Wael recycles some of these discarded bags into hand-worked vessels, that would bring a vibrant splash of colour into anyone’s home.

DSC_0003At last year’s New Designers 2013 I enjoyed Kai Venus Designs‘ Bambureau, made of formaldehyde-free bamboo ply, so I was delighted to catch up with him at One Year On. This year Kai exhibited a cabinet of curiosities made of birch ply, up-cycled kitchen knives and ash chopping boards.  The chopping boards are made from ash from Kai’s uncle’s farm that has been seasoned for several years, rather than months, revealing a deep grain and rich colour.  The “Zero-Carbon Knives” are made from up-cycling used saw blades, finished with handles of hardwood off-cuts.  The high-carbon spring steel used for saw blades is the same as that of Japanese sushi knives, so provides a razor sharp edge, which stays sharp for an exceptionally long time.  You just have to clean and dry the knife as soon as you have used it so the blade does not discolour.

obtineoStorage1Kai’s knives would be perfectly complemented by Tom Hutchinson’s considered and elegant Obtineo Storage jars made in the UK from the finest solid ash, felt and glass.  The glass is hand-blown at a works that can trace its roots right back to 1612. The felt, made of 100% wool, is from one of the last British felt factories.  Each of Oliver Richardson‘s three Kitchen Totems provide further decorative function to the rituals of eating an egg, steak or evening glass of wine.  Michael Papworth’s design project, sponsored by black + blum, looks to influence our drinking habits, designing a water carafe, based on black + blum’s charcoal products, as a functional table centre piece.

hpatelAs my children grow, I am left with a litter of toddlers’ toys, so the future-proof design of Heena Patel’s baby walker that transforms into a smart Scandi-style occasional table really appeals.  hknowlesHannah Knowles approach to changing lifestyles is to design modular, flat-pack furniture from everyday products such as pipefittings, ash dowels and pipes.  The copper adds a sense of luxury to her affordable, functional and fixable occasional table.

hongYonghui Hong’s stools are recyclable, biodegradable and compostable.  An eco-friendly alternative to polypropylene, PLA (polylactic acid) is a thermoplastic derived from plants (corn, sugar-cane and tapioca roots).  Yonghui designed two stools: the first, is injection-molded from Fibrolon F8530, a compound of PLA and natural fibres; the second, designed for low volume batch production is made from a composite of PLA woven with Biotex flax fibre shaped on a heated steel mould.

IMG_3345Monica Prieto Alzate won an Ercol design contest for her reinterpretation of a Windsor chair, Lucia.  Her bijoux vanity set, Kyo (pictured right) suits space-constrained urban-living and her decorative laser-cut hanging solutions, Familia, would be an affordable hanging choice.  A sensitive choice of materials and playful nature permeate all her work.

numaDaniel Brooks tackled another blight on life in a small flat, getting your clothes dry without the space or cost of a tumble dryer. His design, Numa, which won the Wilko Award for Innovation, is a heatless clothes dryer that can try up to 5kg of wet clothing 3 times faster than an airing rack, at a cost of 5p an hour.  A top-mounted fan creates constant air flow, encouraging evaporation, and a dehumidifier then extracts the moisture from the air to prevent damp and mildew.  Brilliant.

osborneFor a final decorative edge, Emilie Osborne, a paper artist, One Year On, displayed her three-dimensional surface designs.  Made of paper that is 75% recycled and 100% recyclable, the geometric designs create optical illusions of shape, depth and perspective.  The effect is decorative, dynamic and bang-on trend.

Image credits: Daniel Brooks, Effie Koukia, Kai Venus Designs, Monica Prieto Design, Purplewax, Tom Hutchinson Design