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

100%design for a day

9112210_imageGifMy visit to 100%design was worth the trip even before I stepped inside.  On the forecourt of Earls Court, Heath Nash was installed at the pop-up Maker Library with some shoes made from cardboard.  Nash has a long history of working with waste materials, and pioneered the use of plastic post-consumer waste as a raw material in South Africa.  Nash worked with a small team of craftspeople to create high-end decorative installations and lamps.  His signature flower balls were part of an installation at Africa Calling, a show case of the best of contemporary African design, at designjunction.

100design1 The shoes were the result of a design mash-up with acclaimed shoes designer, Marloes ten Bhömer.  As with many designers, Nash has frequently used cardboard to build models and prototypes, as it is after all in plentiful supply as a ‘waste’ material, but using cardboard for a finished material was a new experience.  Nash was adapting the shoe design as a slip-on or a closed shoe with a strap at the small workstation in front of the Maker Library Network Caravan.

After closing his studio at the end of 2012 to focus on design and creative process that he loves, Nash was invited to join the British Council’s Maker Library Network.  The virtual network builds connections between designers and makers in the UK and South Africa.  Each ML comprises a library, a make space and a gallery.  The libraries share the same core texts, and the make spaces the same tools.  The make spaces are deliberately small and mobile so they can pop-up unobtrusively in South African townships.  Nash describes an informal work station that invites interaction with the host community and works with the materials found there.  MLN promotes collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and has the ambition to expand to a world-world network.

Once inside, I made a bee-line for Thomas Matthews’ Materials Landscape, curated by SCIN Gallery and constructed by the Goldfinger Factory, the West London up-cycling and learning hub.  As well as hosting a fascinating programme of talks, headed by Sophie Thomas, founder of Thomas Matthews and the Great Recovery, the hub was a great opportunity to handle some exciting, and surprising, new materials.  As 100design3a snapshot of what SCIN Gallery has to offer the materials included StoneCycling, tiles and bricks made from demolition waste; Solidwool, a material made from wool and a resin with 30% bio-based renewable content; Eric Klarenbeek’s samples of 3D-printed living mycelium (fungi) mixed with local raw materials creating a structural, stable and renewable material once dried (pictured left); Marlene Huissoud’s materials made from insects; and Clayworks natural clay plasters which help regulate humidity in buildings, and have lower embodied CO2 than many other interior finishes.

100design4I made a short stop at Jennifer Newman Studios to admire the M-table and M-bench made of a 100% recycled aluminium frame, available in any RAL colour, and thermally-modified tulipwood top.  The same timber, also supplied by Morgan Timber, was used for Paul Smith’s Shed, designed by Nathalie de Level as part of the Wish List project.

occasional_peg_01-768x1024It was also a chance to catch up with Rob Barnby of Barnby & Day, reflect on their Wish List experience, and admire their Occasional Peg tables now available in a wider range of timber choices which can be mixed or matched to your taste.

100design6Further evidence of great craftsmanship and the beauty of wood was on show at the end of the pavilion with an exhibition of pieces short-listed for this years Wood Awards.  The breadth of work shortlisted for the Wood Awards illustrates the versatility of this sensual, beautiful and natural material, whether for architectural, interiors or furniture products.  The exhibits included a Sebastian Cox spot of the day, one of the pair of his Ten Species Tall Boy.  Sebastian Cox, known for championing under-utilised British hardwoods, chose to show off how diverse, beautiful and useful they are with a pair of five-drawer tall-boys.  With frames made from coppiced hazel, the drawers are made from ten other British hardwoods: Oak, Ash, Elm, Chestnut, London Plane, Sycamore, Cherry, Walnut, Brown Oak and Beech.  Earlier this year, Sebastian and his colleagues were to be seen crafting the drawers in the windows of Heal’s on Tottenham Court Road. The ten identical drawers allow you to see, and experience the different timbers.

100design2100design7I caught a glimpse of Lozi Designs‘s clean, contemporary geometric pieces of furniture in Emerging Brands alley; graypants outsize pendant lamps handmade from repurposed cardboard; and Anne Kyyrö Quinn’s fantastic geometric acoustic wall panels made from wool felt.  But then it was time for the mad dash across town to the SustainRCA Show & Awards.

Image credits: Barnby & Day.

Related links:

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/09/17/the-wish-list/

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/08/19/5-of-the-best-pendant-lamps/

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/03/22/sebastian-cox-pop-up-heals/

Carefully Curated goes more than SCIN deep

The SCIN Gallery and Carefully Curated are delighted to announce their collaboration bringing you a fresh perspective and surprising materials.
 
“The SCIN Gallery is housed in a wonderful old warehouse style building in Clerkenwell, EC1, the heart of the architectural community in the UK.  Arranged over four floors, with over 1,000 sq ft per floor, we showcase products and architectural materials from all over the globe. We are an independent showroom, both informal and informed, which is invaluable to architects and designers. Materials experts are on hand in the basement library to advise and explain, Monday to Friday, and we encourage our visitors to rummage and explore our incredible collection of over 4,000 fascinating materials samples housed in orange boxes. We are an inspirational resource for architects and designers looking for uniquely designed and sustainable solutions for their projects. SCIN also acts as a hub for networking and meet up opportunities, the perfect venue for anything from a board meeting or think tank to a product launch or trend forecasting day.”
Early 2015, the SCIN Gallery will launch their Green Room, which will be located in the existing ground floor of the gallery.  Visitors (architects, designers, specifiers and students and the public) will be welcome to investigate and research cutting-edge materials in the resource centre, supported by a stimulating agenda of seminars, creative workshops and product launches.  It promises to be a lively, engaging and thought-provoking programme, uniquely focussed on promoting sustainable design and construction.
Carefully Curated seeks and shares joyful things for everyday living for places and spaces for one or many people to eat, work, sleep, refresh and play.
Carefully because I care about where things come from, how they were made and by whom. Curated because our space is a collection we each arrange.  Our spaces are a powerful reflection of who we are and our values.  Carefully Curated celebrates products with provenance from designers and makers, whether small or large scale, who have made things with honest form and function for us to enjoy for many years.  
Together, SCIN Gallery and Carefully Curated want to share stories of new materials, new manufacturing processes and new technologies that are innovative, engaging and better alternatives.  Watch out for the wow factor, but perhaps not as you know it!
The SCIN Gallery’s latest exhibition “Plausible, Implausible” runs until September, at Morelands 27 Old Street, London, EC1V 9HL.

More Carefully Curated @Clerkenwell Design Week

IMG_3480There was so much to see at Clerkenwell Design Week, I could not see it all, but here are a few more favourite finds.

Firstly, a step into Forbo Flooring Systems who make linoleum, project vinyl, carpet tiles, and flocked flooring for commercial and residential customers.  With a clutch of environmental awards to their name, including BREAM, Cradle-to-Crade and Nordic Swan, theInfographic_April_2014y are proud of their commitment to responsible raw material procurement and manufacturing processes.  Forbo use Life Cycle Assessment to evaluate their products’ environmental footprint, before, during and after production.  The info graphic, Creating Better Environments shares some of the highlights.  For example, marmoleum (linoleum) is made from 97% natural materials with natural antibacterial properties, contains 43% recycled content, has total VOC 30 lower than the norm and CO2 emissions 50% than other resilient floorings.  It could soon be on the floor of the family bathroom! 

Instyle Textile WallI had to stop at Brands ,a few doors down, to hear about the “holistically reared sheep” (as pitched in the Icon Guide to CDW) whose wool is used for the LIFE textile range from Instyle.  LIFE textiles were developed along  Cradle to Cradle principles, made from 100% low-pesticide wool that is processed with biodegradable detergents, and heavy-metal free dyes.  Wool has many virtues, and this cloth, suitable for upholstery or screen use, is also recyclable through Instyle’s Revive programme.  Instyle Green Feel Bags LondonTo show the colours and weave to their best effect, the fabrics have been made into covetable backpacks by Cherchbi, a British leather goods company that prides itself on using the best natural raw materials such as vegetable-tanned English saddle leather and discarded wool from the ancient Herdwick breed.  The bags are a playful way to show the beauty and versatility of the LIFE Textiles and Cherchbi craftsmanship.

IMG_3479I had a quick perch on a (very comfortable) bed at Ensemblier London to hear from founder Emma Storey about the craftsmanship invested in their customisable headboards.  With designs inspired by the rich archives of the Victoria & Albert Museum, the headboards are handmade in small workshops in England using traditional skills and sustainable materials.

photoCraftsmanship and traditional skills were also in evidence elsewhere.  The beautiful copper and terracotta objects (pictured at the top)from Hend Krichen are the fusion of a London-based design practice and a network of craftsmen in Tunisia revealing the country’s natural resources and artisanal heritage.  The perfect complement to the kitchen I am coveting after seeing this bar (pictured right) at the Benchmark Furniture stand.

IMG_3495 IMG_3497I caught my breath with a perch on Neb Abbott‘s Geffrye stool.  The stackable stool is based on a commission for eight benches as temporary seating for the Geffrye Museum cafe. Neb is about to graduate from the CASS School of Art, Architecture and Design.  Alongside the stool stood the Wasp series of chairs.  The playful exploration with materials (my favourite is the webbing) belies the serious design consideration to providing lumber support.  It is seriously comfy!

allo_high1Studio 23, founded by Naori Priestly, a Royal College of Art graduate, works with the Allo Club in Sankhuwasabha, a small mountain village in eastern Nepal, to produce handmade fabrics from the Himalayan Giant Nettle (known as Allo). Allo grows naturally in forests above 1500 metres, helping to stabilise the fragile soil in mountainous areas.  Local peoples harvest allo, as they have done for generations, boiling and beating the stem bark and then spinning the fibres and weaving them into sacks, bags, jackets or fishing nets.  As a social enterprise, Studio23 aims to preserve the community’s skills, the landscape and provide another source of revenue.  The natural fabric is strong and durable.  It would look great as chair seat, or cushion, particularly the subtle herringbone weave. IMG_3481 Or cover a sofa, add a few hand-knitted cushions from Rose Sharp Jones (pictured left), and then relax…..

 

Photocredit: Brands Ltd; Forbo Flooring Systems for the info graphic; Studio23 and the rest are mine.

Related post: Design Factory @Clerkenewell Design Week

 

May Design Series – cc edited highlights

tr1Time for another design pilgrimage to the ExCel centre for the May Design Series 2014, featuring 400 suppliers of kitchens, bathrooms, lighting, furniture, decor and an edited selection of products from four key European shows (Maison et Objet, Paris; IMM Cologne; Light & Build, Frankfurt and i Saloni, Milan), as well as New Design Britain.  

I was delighted to see Tom Raffield Design.  It was an a-ha moment for me as a few years ago I bought some pendant lights for our house (the Helix and the Hive I now know).  They are often complimented, but I could not remember where I sourced them from.  Suddenly they are everywhere, in the Green Room at Salone del Mobile, at Chelsea Flower Show as part of the Artisan Retreats (alongside another favourite, Eleanor Lakelin) and here at May Design Series.

Tom Raffield designs and handcrafts steam-bent furniture and lighting.  Steam-bending wood is a traditional woodworking technique, that is low energy and adhesive-free. Tom developed his own technique to create the complex, fluid shapes characteristic of his work.  All the wood is from sustainably managed sources and typically unseasoned, green or air-dried timber, and any wastage used for the composting toilet!  The wood is finished in lemon oil, beeswax or a water-based varnish.  Not only is the production process ecologically sound, the products are built to last, and so beautiful you will cherish them for a long time.  I loved the coat loop (pictured in the background), literally Shaker with a twist, and the occasional table with its sinuous, curved detail, a new product launching at May Design Series.

myx-hanging-lamp-growing-180dpiWhile waiting for the 11.15am Conversation Series discussion on the circular economy (more of that later), I was drawn to Smart Environment zone.  MYX is a material cultivated over 3-4 weeks using oyster mushrooms grown on a hemp and linen fibre mat.  The fibres are byproducts of clothing and rope manufacturing.   The fibres are woven with mushroom spores, and as the mycelium (vegetative part of the fungus) grows the textile-like material gains strength and flexibility from chitin, the polymer in mushroom cell walls.   The material can be shaped, in this case as a lampshade (pictured right) then dried leaving a lightweight material that is organic and compostable.  And you can harvest oyster mushrooms in the meantime, so MYX is an end-waste product, that products a delicious food product in its growing cycle.   What a deliciously sustainable example of the circular economy!

Next door, Nobelwood is a smart alternative to tropical hardwood.  Fast-growing pine (FSC certified) is fully impregnated with water soluble biopolymers made from bagasse from sugar-cane.  After drying, the wood has the colour of natural teak and weathers (if un-treated) to a silvery grey colour when used as exterior cladding.  I hope to see a garden furniture set on the market soon!

wall2bearIn the New Design Britain corner, I couldn’t walk past Cristiana Ionescu’s family of felt bears without a smile.  What a delightful accessory for a toddler’s room.  Helen Dugdale‘s colourful Paper-Knotwood caught my eye.  Helen wanted to create a sustainable, recyclable material from coloured paper.  Each piece is unique with the possibility of bespoke colour patterns and combinations.  The material can be cut, sanded, and machined to reveal its layers as a grain, or used as a veneer.  A candy bright or subtle stripe for any interior surface.  

feltFrom the hard to the soft, comfort of 100% pure wool felt from Hollandfelt.  There was a rich array of vibrant colours urging me to stroke them.  Hollandfelt is one of the few felt producers using 100% pure wool from Australian and South American sheep whose fleeces have softer fibres than those closer to home.  The Merino wool is washed in hot water with natural soap rubbing the fibres together to create wool felt.  Felt is renewable and recyclable.  Hollandfelt contains some recycled material from previous customers re-dyed to a darker colour.  The carpet felt, twice felted for durability, is naturally flame and dirt retardant, as well as having good insulating and acoustic properties.  Woolfelts are suitable for fashion, furnishing, architectural interiors and craft applications.  All the products have reached the Öko-Tex 100 standard whose test criteria exceed existing legislation, for example limiting formaldehyde use and banning allergenic dyes, and why wouldn’t you err on the side of caution when choosing materials that you live with?

corkThere were definite moments when I would have been grateful for a seat in the Corqui, made of natural, renewable and sensual cork from Corque Design and designed by Pedro Silva Dias (600x50x690mm).  My potential choice of seating was not limited though as Out of the Dark provided eight chairs for a Silent Auction (pictured below) to raise both awareness and funds for their social enterprise that trains young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to recycle, restore and repaint furniture.  More of their wares were on display in the DX section of the show.  I have just got wind of an exciting collaboration between Out of the Dark and one of my favourite makers, Sebastian Cox, so watch this space for more news!

ootdIn the meantime, news from Clerkenwell Design Week will follow, along with tales of the discussion on the circular economy hosted by Stephen Gee, Director of Resource, with Sophie Thomas, Co-Director of Design, RSA, Mark Shayler, Managing Director of Ticketyboo, and James Bell, Environmental Consultant at FIRA.

 

 

Photocredits:  Jonas Edvard (MYX); Helen Dugdale