A little nudge goes a long way

COS5Ko7WcAAgP2s.jpg-largeUsage of single-use plastic bags dropped over 80% after the introduction of a 5p charge last October.  In the first six months, 640 million plastic bags were used in seven major supermarkets in England, compared to the 8.5 billion single-use plastic bags used in 2014, according to WRAP. To get a sense of scale, 6 billion bags laid end-to-end it would stretch about 75 times around the world. Through the levy, £29.2m has been raised for good causes, and the government estimated that fall in use of single-use carrier bags would save £60m in litter clean-up costs.

It is tempting to ask what took so long, but more fruitful to ask why it was so effective, and where else is a little nudge long overdue.  In the same week, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s latest War on Waste hit our screens railing against the mountains of coffee cups from large corporate chains littering our cities. As I watched Fearnley-Whittingstall’s BBC programme, I was struck by the many similarities between coffee cups and plastic bags.  Both involve large corporate companies, familiar brands from our high-streets, providing pernicious solutions to take away perishable goods at no obvious, or immediate cost to the consumer.

But first the problem, whether a nation of tea-drinkers or coffee-addicts, the British are taking away more than 7 million cardboard cups a day, or 2.5 billion a year, and less than 1 in 400 are being recycled. We think paper cups are a green option, but they are typically neither made of recycled material nor practically recyclable.  The cups have a polyethylene liner to make them waterproof.   As the thin seam of paper inside the cup comes into contact with the hot drink, cups must be made from virgin paper pulp to avoid leaching of any dyes from recycled paper.

The cups can technically be recycled (and may be labeled as such), but only specialist recycling facilities can separate the liner from the paper. There are two such facilities in the UK, reports Fearnley-Whittingstall, one has never recycled a paper cup and the other has processed a tiny number. For example, Costa sends less than 1% of its cups for this treatment. A cardboard sleeve may be labeled as recyclable, and would be, if it were separated from the actual cup. The misinformation and misunderstanding compounds the problem as well-meaning customers throw their cups into recycling bins, inadvertently contaminating them.

bpnjtjsiuaenn2aSome coffee chains offer a small, money-off incentive for bringing your own reusable cup. The incentive is rarely advertised, staff often do not know about it, and the onus is on the customer to ask. Unsurprisingly take up is limited. I see a few more reusable cups, helped by the arrival of colourful KeepCups from Australia, but the occasional 10p or 20p discount has had far less impact than the 5p levy for a bag.

So why has the little nudge over plastic bags led to an outsized shift in customer behaviour? Behavioural science offers an explanation. Unlike the “economic man” or homo economicus characterized in classical economic theory as consistently, rational and self-interested, we are not always rational, or fully-informed when making decisions. In their book, Choices, Values and Frames, Kahneman and Tversky argue that humans respond differently to charges and discounts because of framing: the discount is considered a gain, and the surcharge as a loss. Humans are loss averse, the pain of losing is psychologically estimated to be twice as powerful as the pleasure of gaining. So penalty frames can be more effective than reward frames, a charge more effective than a discount. Other effective drivers for behavioural change include the fact we are strongly influenced by the behaviour of others, that we are often influenced by subconscious cues, and we try to act in ways that make us feel good about ourselves.

So if large (or indeed small) coffee-chains are serious about reducing the waste mountain, their efforts could be cannier. Making any discount incentive prominent at the point of sale, along side a reusable cup available for purchase would be a start. Charge more for a coffee served in a not-so-disposable paper cup. Tweak existing marketing tactics to transition more customers on to reusable cups, for example, offer a free reusable cup with your tenth coffee. The cup would of course be branded, and by parading it in the street we would be subconsciously signaling our own virtue and that of the coffee chain. The reusable cup is also perfect corporate gift, or secret Santa.

crse4c2wiaa_cokWhere there is no alternative to take away, better options are available from suppliers, such as Frugalpac. The food service industry needs to up its game and ensure packaging is actually composted or recycled. A quick break at a motorway service station or stroll down a city street will highlight just how far there is to go here! If self-regulation and industry collaboration fail, then this week’s statement from the Liberal Democrats hints at what might follow.

Sometimes, in the words of the environment minster, Therese Coffey, “small actions can make the biggest difference”, and there is much to be said for taking the time to savour the coffee in situ.

Related links:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-36917174

https://greenallianceblog.org.uk/2016/04/18/if-we-like-recycling-why-are-we-so-bad-at-it/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-36882799

Gächter, S., Orzen, H., Renner, E., & Starmer, C. (2009). Are experimental economists prone to framing effects? A natural field experiment. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 70, 443-446.

Picture credit: the Liberal Democrats

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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

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!  

 

 

5 of the best pendant lamps

tr-212butterflyoak1200247x247Pendant lights, hanging from the ceiling, can literally raise our gaze from the mundane to the magnificent.  Whether striking a considered statement in your entrance hall or providing essential task lighting in your kitchen, pendant lamps can have both form and function.  Here are five of the best pendant lamps that have caught Carefully Curated’s eye.

Choosing things that will be loved, cherished and enjoyed for many years is a great, and sustainable, rule of thumb.  A recent article in the Financial Times Weekend notes that after years of cheap furniture, British consumers are increasingly keen to buy handcrafted products that can become collectables. Quality craftsmanship is at the heart of Tom Raffield’s design practice.  Based in Cornwall, Tom Raffield is influenced by the natural beauty that surrounds him. It inspires a sense of adventure.  Through experimenting with traditional techniques of steam-bending, Raffield eventually developed a new method that enabled him to create the complex, sensuous 3D forms he desired.  Steam-bending is a low energy method of manufacturing, with little wastage and without the use of toxic or harmful chemicals.  Unseasoned, green or air dried timber is sourced from sustainably-managed woodlands that are local to the workshop, where possible.  Earlier this year, Raffield’s work was part of the Green Room, a space dedicated to eco-sustainable UK design at EDIT by design junction at Salone Internazionale del Mobile to showcase British creativity and design under the slogan, Green is GREAT.  Tom-Raffield-Bloom-pendant-WALNUT-bottom-Plumen-bulbThe Butterfly Pendant (pictured above) is inspired by the movement of butterflies in full flight.  Handmade from sustainably sourced oak and finished with an eco-friendly, non-toxic, water-based varnish, the small pendant is 42cm high with a diameter of 52cm.   The light takes a 25 watt energy saving bulb, though the award-winning Plumen low energy light bulb is recommended for a distinctive twist (pictured right).  The light is priced £325 (there is currently a summer sale with 20% off).  You can see Tom Raffield’s work next month at Decorex International   as he  has been commissioned to make a special set of furniture pieces for the VIP Lounge.

dpritchard1From future collectables, to current vintage finds.  A recent visit to Drew Pritchard’s warehouse in north Wales revealed a treasure trove of lights.  There were elegant opaline pendants with pressed brass fittings; a staggering pair of cast bronze and cast iron gate pier lanterns 138cm tall; Art Deco alabaster plaffonier ceiling lights; feminine fluted holophane lights; and utilitarian factory lights.  From £99 to £7,500 (for the pair of bronze gate lanterns) there were fittings for nearly all occasions.  6945I was taken with these industrial pendant lights (H: 26 cm W: 21 cm D: 21 cm, priced £195 each) from Poland made of prismatic glass in the 1960s. The polished galleries add a sophisticated finish.

For a contemporary take on the industrial look, Offkut, an independent design company based in London, makes 4412practical, durable, that are, they hope, affordable.  As the name would suggest many of their pieces are made from up-cycled industrial wood.  The knots, grains and splits in the reclaimed wood means each furniture piece is unique.  Their pendant lamps are a series of hanging steel cages.  The Corset (priced £235) is like a generous hoop skirt that tapers to a waist as narrow as those sought by nineteenth century belles.  The aesthetic is definitely industrial, but softened by the delicate, carbon filament bulbs which are handmade in Switzerland.  The larger globe bulbs will burn for around 5000 hours.

EGG_OF_COLUMBUS_SELETTI_MG_0783The Egg of Columbus lighting collection designed by Valentina Carretta is inspired by the waves and pleats of vintage lamps.  Using compressed cardboard from recycled egg cartons, Carretta created three eye-catching designs for pendant lamps. The raw, rough packaging material takes on a clean, yet decorative aesthetic.  The pendants are available from the Conran Shop for a very economical £25 each (diameter of piece shown is 22.5cm).

Heath Nashlight-8-e1407173457405‘s pendant lamps made from recycled plastic have an altogether different look.  Nash pioneered the use of plastic post-consumer waste as a raw material in South Africa, working with a small team of craftspeople to create high-end decorative installations and lamps.  The first piece of work Nash made from ‘waste’ materials was a leaf ball,  colourful flower balls and drum lights followed.  The award-winning designer will be exhibiting an installation at Africa Calling, a show case of the best of contemporary African design that launches next month as part of the Africa Utopia festival (12th-14th Sept) at the Southbank Centre, and then to designjunction for London Design Festival (18th-21st Sept). Nash will also be running workshops at Africa Calling, and be a guest panelist in our Africa Calling debate session at Design Junction.  I can’t wait to see the work in progress!

Related links:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/b9e6e47e-1d8a-11e4-b927-00144feabdc0.html#slide0

Image credits: Africa Calling; Valentina Carretta; OffKut; Plumen; Drew Pritchard; Tom Raffield Design

SustainRCA Show and Award 2014 finalists

RCA.SustainSustainability appeared in many guises at this year’s ShowRCA 2014, so it is not surprising that SustainRCA received a record number of applicants.  Almost 100 graduates from across the Royal College of Art, including the new programmes Interior Design, Service Design and Information Experience Design, applied to join the SustainRCA’s  dedicated programme of tutorials, talks, workshops, specialist resources and access to a professional sustainability network. As I scoured the Show, several of the SustainRCA graduates spoke warmly of the inspiration, mentoring and support that they have received from SustainRCA.  The freedom to explore many meanings of sustainability is reflected in the variety of work.  From new materials and processes to community projects and designs for a fairer, more transparent economy, the 36 SustainRCA Show finalists provide innovative responses to scarcity.  Beauty is a powerful motivator of behavioural change. larson

The declining health of coral reefs has been widely reported recently, with a WWF campaign to prevent dumping in the Great Barrier Reef, and growing concern about ocean acidification, which makes it harder for corals to absorb the calcium carbonate needed to make skeletons.  The delicate beauty of Monette Larson’s Aspiring Nature, certainly captures people’s attention.  The series of filigree glass installations made of small glass spheres fused together in the kiln to create larger organic structures inspired by corals.  Shimmering in the light, the delicate tonal turquoises and blues transport you to a marine landscape, the glass a metaphor for the fragility of marine eco-systems, where coral reefs are necessary to an estimated 25 per cent of all marine life.  nbennett

If Larson’s work excites an appreciation for the sheer beauty of coral, Nell Bennett’s project, Coral3, directly tackles ocean acidification, and provides a potential income for local communities.  Bennett created alkaline substrate structures to be placed up current from coral reefs. Over time, the water dissolves the alkaline structure, making the water surrounding the reef less acidic.  The coral reef is strengthened, enhancing local biodiversity, providing greater coastal protection and an opportunity for well-managed tourism.  The project is envisioned as a large scale social enterprise involving many stakeholders from subsistence fishermen to dive tourists, but offers potential for significant economic and environmental benefits. melchiorri

Julian Melchiorri‘s Silk Leaf & Exhale is another prototype, a biomaterial derived from silk protein and chloroplasts. It is an artificial leaf that absorbs carbon dioxide and emits oxygen and biomass via the photosynthesis of stabilised chloroplasts in the silk protein.  Silk Leaf can generate more oxygen and biomass than a normal leaf, depending on the number of chloroplasts embedded in the silk.  Silk Leaf could be used for a variety of applications from interiors products, such as the lights pictured right, to architectural surfaces that provide air purification.  Green buildings in more ways than one!

Marcin RusakMarcin_Rusak_Monster_Flower_6‘s Flowering Transition is a conceptual project that explores the commoditisation of flowers cultivated for the global cut-flower industry. These mass-produced flowers are often highly-engineered to accentuate their longevity, scent, colour or other commercial virtues.  In consequence, some flowers have lost their scent, sense of local connection and ritual.  This work is divided into five chapters: fragrance; a perishable vase made from waste flowers; a textile printed with waste flowers in gorgeous purple, pink and lilac hues; and then two chapters devoted to Flower Monster which speculates where further genetic engineering of flowers, to suit a commercial wish list, will lead.  rusakRusak collaborated with geneticists, post harvesting specialists, engineers and floral artists to combine existing flower species, each with a different virtue.  The model was 3D scanned, and after some software alchemy printed in 3D.  Beware the monster created by the search for perfection.

Max Danger.Queen bee pinThe cultivated flower industry relies on the services of the humble bee, as do up to 90% of all wild plants, and 70 of the 100 staple crops that provide 90% of world’s food.  Max Danger‘s witty Let it Bee! graphics, drawings and jewellery speculate on the future of bees to stunning effect.  God save the Queen, is a beautiful pin made of 18 ct gold and diamonds.  Gabriele Dini‘s Swarm’s Scale, a large installation of honeycomb provides another perspective from which to appreciate the complexity of bee’s behaviour, as it is derived from swarm data.  Our appreciation needs to be for more than aesthetic.  Bees numbers are in drastic decline due to factors such as diseases and parasites, climate change and wider industrial agricultural practices, including loss of wildflower meadows and deadly insecticides. Julia Johnson_Plan Bee_RCA_2014_007 Julia Johnson’s Plan Bee is a self-monitoring beehive that detects unusual activity in the bee breeding patterns and could help to detect disease or infestations.  In a Plan Bee hive, a scanner captures images of the brood daily, which are then digitally analysed for any unusual patterns, and the beekeeper is alerted to any unusual symptoms.  Perfect for the 99% of beekeepers registered as hobbyists that inspect their hive, on average once a fortnight.

mitsuiIf the many of the projects remind us that nature’s bounty is fragile and precious, others provide ways to make better use of raw materials and rescue the value that is often lost to waste.  With New Value Of The Waste, Hana Mitsui developed a weaving process that revitalises discarded cloth into new, luxurious materials.  Mitsui’s original yarns created from textile waste can be used for industrial and hand-weaving looms.  Mitsui creates rich woven patterns inspired by traditional ikat fabrics.  ladNeha Lad‘s Beauty In The Discarded literally shimmers as Lad’s experiments combine precious and up-cycled materials with traditional handicraft techniques.

Timothy Sadler‘s VIBE is a computer interface that uses vibration to transfer information to a digital output, without electrical circuit board. This streamlined product vastly reduces the amounts of critical raw materials used, and so their waste streams.  Two projects envision a circular economy model for consumer electronics.  Paul Stawenow‘s Project PHOENIX, supports design for disassembly and material recovery to tackle the a small percentage of small electronic appliances are currently recycled. PHOENIX products would be designed so the user can separate the electronic parts from the casing in a delightful way. Parts would either be put in domestic recycling or returned to the manufacturer in a pre-addressed envelope.  In many portable devices, raw materials are hard to recover as components are stuck together to achieve a sleeker look and feel.  Andreas Bilicki’s, eGlu is a reversible adhesive for electronic components that would enable easier bonding and separating of components, making it easier to replace a broken screen or recycle a smart phone.

2e893105-3860-42aa-a709-93cc4a89bc7c-620x413With festival season in full swing, Sol Lee‘s Smart Festivals is a rental system for camping equipment with a colourful intelligent wrist band.  No more lugging sleeping bags, tents and other gear to the site for festival goers.  The aftermath of Glastonbury 2014 (pictured left) is typical of desolate post-festival fields littered with tents abandoned after a single use.  With an average 10kg rubbish per person, much of it textile waste, the scheme would reduce the great clean up for organisers.  The system would also enable intelligent affiliate partnerships, with further development.  Festival goes in 2015 can travel light, travel far for their summer rites.

ShenaiChange Ringing is a collaborative artwork by artist Peter Shenai and composer Laurence Osborn that would chime perfectly with Glastonbury as it combines music, sculpture, and performance to literally convey the sound of climate change.  The six bronze bells have been cast in shapes mathematically derived from graphic statistical representations of summer temperatures at seventeen-year intervals over the course of the twentieth century.  Arranged, and struck in order the bells ring out a sombre, inharmonious warning.  It simply does not ring true.  What a wonderful example of Information Experience Design, making the intangible data of climate change intuitively comprehensible.

degarmoFinally, a super, simple gadget.  Ashley de Garmo and Federico Trucchia’s Mag-Cook uses a series of spinning magnets to create induction heat to cook your supper without gas or electricity.  It is manually operated, so could be used anywhere you have space to pull the cord!

As Head of SustainRCA, Clare Brass said: ‘The diversity, depth and quantity of graduate work this year is unprecedented. There’s growing awareness that sustainability – environmental and social equality and justice – really underpins the fabric of our future.”

The winners across four categories, Moving Minds, Visionary Process, Inspired Product and Solutions for Society, will be selected from the 36 finalists, and announced at a private view on 17 September.  Each receive a bursary of £5,000 to support their ongoing work in sustainability.  The SustainRCA Show and Awards will then run from 18 September–3 October, supported by the Genesys Foundation and Climate-Kic.  I hope to catch up with a few of the finalists before the show to tell their story in fuller form, so watch this space!

Image credits: Adam Gray/SWNS.com; SustainRCA

Related links:

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

http://www.scin.co.uk/blog/2014/7/10/endlessly-creative-at-the-end-of-year

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

Grand Designs & Green Heroes

VW-218Any trip to Grand Designs Live starts with a stroll down the Design Arcade, and inevitably I linger at the Vintage Wonderland Chandeliers stand (E7).  The chandeliers are sourced from France, Belgium or Italy and then restored with skill, knowledge and a great deal of love.  Those that are beyond repair are reborn as drops and pendants on new bespoke work.  The chandeliers are rewired to conform to British standards and supplied with ceiling bell and chain.   Alison can also work to create something bespoke to match a client’s colour scheme.    They create a magical atmosphere in a room. This is upcycling at its most glamorous!

BnNUX2zIgAE8CsVA few strides further, Green Decore Rugs, is a riot of colourful rugs made from 90% recycled polypropylene plastic.  Prices start at £42 for a 120x150cm rug that could be used indoor, outdoor, at the park or on the beach.  The bold patterns would brighten any gathering.  I wonder where they get their colour?

nestHappily the Design Arcade is also the most direct route to Kevin McCloud’s Green Heroes.  This year the selection is influenced by McCloud’s most recent series on Channel 4, “Kevin’s Supersized Salvage”, in which designers are challenged to repurpose or upcycle an Airbus A320. The Aircraft Workshop, set up by Harry Dwyer and Charlie Waller after working on the programme, have their quirky bird nesting boxes on display.  The weatherproof Aircraft BirdBoxes (priced from £110, pictured left) are made out of air ducting pipework with back plates made from cabin flooring and an entrance from wing fuel pipe connectors.  The resin-fibre duct pipe can not be recycled an would otherwise be landfill.  I also like their egg cups at a more affordable £22!

01Making good use of the things that they find are TING. They rework leather belts to create a glossy, subtly textured surface material for floors, walls or table tops (pictured right).  The vintage belts, of high grade leather are stripped of buckles, hand cleaned and then carefully made up into panels that balance their pattern and colour.  And if customers should ever fancy a change, then TING will accept the tiles back to recycle them.

From the dark to the bright white panels from 3DWalldecor.  The panels are available in eight distinct patterns and made of bamboo pulp.  Bamboo is often lauded as eco-friendly as it is fast-growing and can be cultivated without pesticides.  The panels are modular, paintable, and bang on trend. 

lightThe eye-catching ceiling lights from Willem Heeffer are upcycled washing machine drums that have been powder coated in a choice of six subtle colours from light pink to slate grey.  The lights are 35cmhx 48cmd, priced 310 euros and supplied with 2m of fabric braided cable.  A literally more domestic take on the industrial look.

bedTaking centre stage is the ‘Eleanor’ bed from the Wrought Iron and Brass Bed Company.  This elegant bed is built to last, by hand in Norfolk from part recycled iron tube and scaffolding junctions. The ‘William’ in a raw metal finish is closer to its industrial roots.  Prices start at £855 for a single bed, and it would no doubt withstand a lot of energetic bouncing kids.

For outdoors, Thomas Bramwell are showcasing their ECOLLECTION of modular outdoor seating, loungers, tables and planters made from 100% up-cycled plastics.  The contemporary furniture is chemical, UV and heat resistant.  It would make a striking addition to an urban garden.

From furniture to foundations.  It is often the invisible elements of site design and construction that have the greatest environmental impact.  Screed is what binds a flooring finish to the substrate and incorporates other flooring elements such as acoustic insulation or underfloor heating.  Isocrete Green Screed, from Flowcrete UK, does not contain Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC).  OPCs are a common ingredient in concrete, but at a high carbon price, accounting for 90% of the construction industry’s Co2 emissions, and the cement industry accounts for 24.9% of global Co2 emissions (source the Materials Council).  Isocrete Green Screed is also made up of 40% recycled materials reclaimed from heavy industry, diverting the material from landfill.  A heavy duty product with a lighter tread.  

Groundshield is a self shuttering, lightweight foundation system from Swedish company, Advanced Foundation Technology Ltd.  It is a slab foundation technique based on expanded polystyrene that eliminates the need for screed and is thermally very efficient, so suitable for low energy and passivhaus buildings.  In this context the durability of polystyrene is a benefit!

IMG_3349Good insulation is essential for energy-efficiency in buildings, and Inno-THERM  (pictured right) is an insulation made from 85% recycled denim and cotton.  It is non-itch and does not contain any chemical irritants. It has low embodied energy as it uses 70% less energy in production than conventional inorganic insulation, and can be recycled at its end of life.  It has a thermal conductivity of 0.039 WmK and very effective acoustic performance. 

And finally, a by-product of a favourite fuel, coffee. Bio-bean collect waste coffee grounds sourced from coffee shops and instant coffee factories in the South-East.  London produces over 200,000 tonnes of waste coffee grounds annually, and it generally ends up in landfill.  Waste coffee grounds contain up to 20% oil by weight, and Bio-bean have patented a process to convert this oil to biodiesel that conforms to EU standards. The residual grounds are made into biomass pellets and briquettes which are carbon-neutral and suitable for all bio-mass boilers. Oh and they produce a coffee aroma when burnt.

Grand Designs Live 2014 is currently on at the London Excel centre until Sunday 11th May.

Image credits: Green Decore; TING; Vintage Wonderland Chandeliers and the rest are my own .

Carry-A-Bag home from Pick Me Up

IMG_3329If you are short of inspiration this bank holiday weekend, you will find a wonderful tonic at Pick Me Up, the UK’s contemporary graphic arts festival that runs until 5th May at Somerset House.  Pick Me Up is a fun and informal festival.  After the more sedate gallery on the ground floor, the mezzanine is bursting with colourful, eclectic and quirky studios.

The daily events are hosted with such enthusiasm that even the most timid of amateurs can dive in.  When I visited Handsome Frank artist Sarah Maycock was leading an interactive day of blind drawing.  Large cardboard boxes were arranged around a central table of still life objects.  Budding artists sat with their drawing hand inside a box and drew what they saw.  The results were surprisingly good.  A great exercise in recalibrating the relationship between hand and eye, and releasing inhibition, that I will be replicating at home.  

Herbarium 1600I attended with intent, and made a beeline for the collaboration between Carry-a-Bag and Heal’s hosted by Outline Artists.    Outline Artists, Hvass & Hannibal designed Herbarium (pictured left), one of ten new fabrics from Heal’s as their first textile collection since the 1970s.  The colourful designs include work from emerging as well as established designers, such as Zandra Rhodes.

There was a hive of activity in the event space with a steady hum from two sewing machines.  After adding my name to the list, I was handed a bag liner to personalise, if I wished, with a range of stamps.  “Act upon your dreams” were my bon mots to accompany my choice of Heals’s 1810 Killary fabric in Cloud study.  Ever the dreamer on a bright, sunny day!  Once I had prepared my liner the bag was swiftly pinned, sewn and ironed by the experts while I browsed the rest of the show.

IMG_3340Sally Walton (pictured on the right) started Carry-a-Bag, making bags from a mixture of vintage fabrics and organic cotton, in 2005.  Her previous collaborations include Liberty’s and Aveda.  I treasure a floral make-up bag (pictured right) that was originally filled with Aveda travel products. IMG_3346 By their very nature the bags are all limited editions as they are made of vintage fabrics.  The bags are available online, priced at £25 for a tote.  Your bag is perfectly personal to you, and what a better way to get yourself prepared to say no to a plastic bag when you go to the supermarket.

In 2012, supermarkets in the UK gave out over 8 billion single-use carrier bags, that’s over 120 bags per person and about 60,000 tonnes of waste (source DEFRA)-quite some footprint!  Plastic bags are a very visual blot on the landscape as litter and also harm wildlife.  Many single use carrier bags are made of oil-based plastic (a non-renewable resource) and 86% of them end up in landfill where they can take up to 500-1000 years to decompose, if they ever do break down.  IMG_3331Other options are available to us.  I often wonder if people had to ask for a bag, rather than being offered one, would they use fewer?  As a step towards changing incentives the UK Government is introducing a 5p charge on all single-use plastic carrier bags in England in October 2015, four years after Wales introduced a 5p charge in 2011 (Northern Ireland did so in 2013, and Scotland is introducing a charge this year).  As the experience in Wales shows, people can change their behaviour.  There was a 76% drop in the distribution of single-use bags in the year after the charge was introduced.   A Carry-A-Bag makes even everyday errands that bit more beautiful.  And all those vintage florals are bang on trend this summer!

IMG_3344Back at Pick Me Up, you can pick up affordable works from the most innovative graphic art collectives, galleries and organisations of the moment.  It was a good job that I had my new tote to hand to take home my haul! 

 

 

5 of the best stools

Are you sitting comfortably?  Or may be you are on the hunt for a new three-legged seating friend?  Here is my pick of five of the best stools! Pippy_Oak_Stool_-_Galvin_Brothers_1_grandeIn celebration of the Galvin Brothers recent opening of their bricks and mortar store in Beverley, Yorkshire (11 Flemingate,  HU17 0NP), my first pick is their signature stool, the English Pippy Oak Milk stool (£170).  Pippy Oak, or Cat’s Paw Oak, is so named because of its characteristic pips or knots.  The open, light nature of English woodlands, hedgerows and parks encourages ‘epicormic growth’, the shoots or buds, on tree trunks and at their base. These tumour-like growths penetrate deep into the tree’s heart wood.  The grain moves around the knots to create beautiful patterns, revealed as ‘cat’s paws’ on the board  The stool is handmade, with peg-and-wedge leg joints.  Its clean, modern form is given distinct character by the unique pattern of the Pippy Oak.  A rustic gent with potential as a stool, side or occasional bedside table.  The stools are finished in Danish oil and the dimensions are 300 x 460 x 300mm. b9f91c7a-8a28-4556-b68b-435a22240c2e

The second stool makes good use of the things that are found as by-products, or off cuts of industrial production processes.  The top of Tom Dixon‘s Offcut Stool is made from the waney edge, edge that follows the natural curve of the tree (as in waning moon).  This irregular edge is often discarded, hence the name ‘Offcut’ stool.  Made of solid oak and finished with a natural soaped finish, the stool comes flat-packed (with efficiencies of packaging and distribution) and is easily assembled using wooden pegs rather than screws or glue.  Simple and honest.  Available from Tom Dixon or Heal’s from £140.

justwoodtableThe third entry, Pippa Murray’s Just Wood stool also makes use of the neglected, in this case our unmanaged British woodlands.  The legs of the stool are greenwood shavings that have been moulded using a process developed by Pippa as part of her final year research project studying Design Products at the Royal College of Art.  Greenwood shavings are a by-product of coppicing hardwood trees, a traditional form of woodland management.  The moulded material is strong, polymer free and bio degradable.

Dipped-Vintage-Lab-Stool-448x448Dipped vintage lab stools from Ines Cole (£125, H 61 x W 34 x D 38 cm) have been taken back to their natural wood and then given a dip dye makeover sealed with a matt finish.  A simple piece of upcycling that conjures up nostalgic images of my old school science lab, and perfect for the industrial vintage look.  If you fancy a more colourful alternative, you can find similar stools at reclamation yards or antiques fairs and try a DIY dip.

Three-StoolsIf not DIY, then what about grow your own?  Typically there is 50-80% wastage in normal process of transforming raw timber to finished products.  The Well Proven stool by Marjan van Aubel and James Shaw makes use of shavings, sawdust and chippings.  When combined the mixture of bio-resin and waste shavings create a chemical reaction that expands into a foamed structure five times its original volume.  The porridge like mixture can be coloured with dyes and moulded.  It hardens to form a strong, lightweight material, reinforced by the fibres in the hardwood shavings.  The ‘porridge’ is spread over the underside of a chair and shaped by hand around the contrastingly elegant turned legs of American ash.  The fore-runner of the stool, the Well-Proven Chair was nominated for the Design of the Year 2013 Award an developed with the support of the American Hardwood Export Council.  The stools were on display as part of Heal’s Modern Craft Market in February 2014.

 

Image credits: Galvin Bros, Ines Cole, James Shaw, Pippa Murray Design, Tom Dixon Studio,