Piñatex™, innovative and sustainable textiles from pineapples!

Piñatex-PunackpuckCarmen Hijosa has a well-honed eye for beautiful things having worked with luxury leather goods for more than twenty years.  Her Damascene moment came when a piece of consultancy work took her to a leather tannery in a developing country.  The impact was laid bare, and shocking.  Soon after she was engaged by a Philippine client to upgrade their leather goods for export.  Rather than working with leather (which was imported), Carmen advised looking at local materials readily available in the Philippines.  Over five years of research and development, and a PhD at the Royal College of Art, following culminating in the launch of Piñatex™, a natural and sustainable non-woven textile by Ananas Anam Ltd, backed by the InnovationRCA, and protected by patent.

Piñatex™ is made from fibres of pineapple leaves, which are usually discarded and left to rot when the fruit is harvested.  The fine, flexible fibres are extracted from the leaf through a process called decortication.  Once degummed, the fibres are surprisingly soft to the touch and breathable.  They are processed into a non-woven mesh textile at a local factory in the Philippines, then shipped to a finishing factory near Barcelona, Spain.  The company already has sufficient scale to meet orders of up to 500m of fabric in a variety of colours, finishes and thicknesses.

Piñatex-Ginto02As the Piñatex’ pineapple fibres are a by-product of the fruit harvest, no extra water, fertilizers or pesticides are required to produce them.  The textile, which is renewable, compostable, and tactile is also amazingly versatile as it is mouldable and easily dyed.  It feels like felt, and is suitable for a range of finishes: waxed it looks like leather; embossed it looks like an animal or reptile skin (pictured above); and the metallic finish adds a whole new glamorous edge.  The current water-resistant coating, while technically biodegradable, still contains a tiny amount of petro-chemicals, so Hijosa is working with Bangor University, supported by an innovation voucher from InCrops (specialists in biorenewables and bio-based products) to develop a completely compostable, non-petroleum based coating.

Piñatex-BagaheThe textile has direct appeal to the fashion, accessories and furnishing industries.  Having passed all the technical tests (ISO international standards for: seam rupture, tear resistance, tensile strength, light and colour fastness and abrasion resistance), a number of key brands are now using the textile to develop prototype products.  At around £18 per metre, Pinatex is more economical than leather (typically around £30 per metre), and there is much less waste.  The irregular shape of leather hides leads to significant wastage of around 25%, where as Pinatex is available on 218cm or 150cm wide rolls.

This week sees the first official presentation of Pinatex, the Pine-Apple Show, Imagine everyday through Piñatex™ at the Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, SW7 2EU from 12th -17th December.  Prototype products made from Piñatex™ designed by Ally Capellino, Camper, Puma, John Jenkings in collaboration with Ulterior Design Upholstery, Patricia Moore, Dagmar Kestner, SmithMatthias and Julia Georgallis will be on show.  The event is supported by the RCA, the Philippine Embassy and the Philippine Trade and Investment Centre in London, underlining the potential for this product to support sustainable livelihoods.

Intended Life CycleHijosa has worked in partnership with an agricultural co-operative in the Philippines to source the material.  The fibres represent only 5% of the leaf, so the remaining biomass, the by-product of decortication, can be converted into organic fertiliser (typically the farmers’ greatest cost) or bio-gas. So Pinatex has the potential to offer the farmers two new revenue streams, from the fibres and the bio-mass.  The process uses tried and tested technologies reducing barriers to scaleability.   Hijosa aims to replicate the production in other geographies, providing sustainable livelihoods for agricultural communities, and perhaps introducing greater variety to the range of finishes and products based on different traditions.  In time, and with the support of the Philippine Textile Research Institute, the existing finishing partners in Barcelona and Hijosa intend to develop the skills and knowledge to finish the textile in the Philippines.

PiñatexTM is more than a versatile non-woven, natural textile with great aesthetic and technical performance; the whole life-cycle of the textile has been designed and developed along Cradle2Cradle principles, in fact, Dr. Michael Braungart, author of “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” is assessing Hijosa’s PhD thesis.  Pinatex is a story of innovation finding beauty and inspiration in the discarded.

 

 

 

 

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/

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/

 

A conversation with the creator of the Artichair

kizis1This month, in collaboration with the SCIN Gallery, Carefully Curated is delighted to present the innovative materials researcher and designer Spyros Kizis, and his Artichair, made from artichoke thistle fibre.  SCIN describe Kizis as a materials-Superman and are buzzing about both his current work and his future plans, “Definitely one to watch!” 

Edinburgh School of Art graduate, Kizis’ design approach explores not only the material, but also the systems and processes that support the material’s extraction, the product’s manufacture, its distribution and disposal.  As we approach Global Peak Oil, Kizis wanted to find an alternative to oil-derived plastics, without the associated negative environmental impacts.  He developed a composite of Greek artichoke thistle fibres and a bio-based resin, made from waste cooking oil.  Artichoke Thistle (Cynara Cardunculus) grows readily without the need for pesticides or irrigation. Grown easily in a Mediterranean climate, he sees it as a way to encourage local production in his home country, Greece.  The material is created from renewable, sustainable plants, and is 100% biodegradable.

kizis2The Artichair dining chair, pictured above, is moulded and set on simple wooden legs.   Influenced by a classic Eames chair, the material is celebrated in a clean, contemporary shape.  The lounge chair is more generous in its proportions, and with warm honeyed tones it seems to invite you to linger.

1. You are currently featured in the Plausible Implausible exhibition. Can you please tell us more about how you started to experiment with agricultural waste, turning it into new materials?

The whole project started as an investigation into alternative ways to redevelop the Greek economy after the financial crisis. The main idea was to take advantage of local natural resources to design and make products.  After lot of research I ended up using the Artichoke Thistle, which is produced for biofuel purposes at extremely low cost, and the waste was the starting point for this project. What is fascinating about this process and all projects on the same principles, is the journey from nothing to something of value, or if you wish, from something useless to something useful.

2.  What do you think is people’s perception of design when using a new material? How do you feel the Artichair fits into this rapidly evolving design scene?

In my opinion, there is a totally different way of design-thinking behind so called “materiality”.  Instead of traditionally thinking what material could we use to built a specific project, the process is now reversed: what could we built with a new awkward material that we have in our hands? In this way we explore new potentials, new designs, and new concepts. I believe that Artichair really fits this developing scene. My ambition, though, is to go further and instead of being limited to a craft scale, or cool experimentation, to be part of a sustainable mass production system which effects considerably more of our lives.

3.  What future do you envisage for your material? Do you have any large scale plans for it?

The future plans are quite big and exciting. I was lucky enough to be approached by people that saw this as an opportunity, that are sensitive in environmental issues, and very open to giving young people, and new designers a chance. I am now to the Schaffenburg office furniture company from the Netherlands.  We are now designing a new chair which they are going to put in production soon.

4.  Can you see your material being used in other industries?

I could see the material being used in other industries, particularly in interiors and panels. What I would find really interesting, though, is a collaboration with chemical engineers to extract the cellulose from the plant and make a bio-plastic suitable for injection moulding techniques. This would really increase range of applications for the material in different industries.

5.  Are you planning on experimenting with any other waste materials in the future?

Experimentation with other waste materials is a way I would like to continue to work, but that does not mean that I will not continue to work with more traditional commercial techniques. At the moment, I am working on a project about pendant lights, experimenting with wood ashes, waste polystyrene boxes and bio-resins.

Kizis’ work is part of the Plausible/Implausible exhibition currently on show at the SCIN Gallery until 3rd October.

Image credits:  Photos provided by SCIN Gallery

Related links:

http://www.themethodcase.com/spyros-kizis-artichair/

http://www.scin.co.uk/blog/2014/8/12/0ru6yx4v73bs9c65uz5edevtubhf2z

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,

 

SCIN deep

marbleI think I have met the ultimate materials girl.  Annabelle Filer, architect, journalist and founder of the SCIN Gallery (pronounced skin) is passionate about materials.  While working as an architect Annabelle developed a fascination, even addiction, for materials, their properties and practical applications.  While she continues regular contributions to FX Design magazine (and formerly Grand Designs Magazine), four years ago SCIN was launched to show and share this passion and encyclopaedic knowledge of materials.

SCIN source and advise on finishes for every surface inside or outside buildings of every scale. Working with materials experts sourcing from around the world, SCIN’s sphere of knowledge reaches to the limits of current research, and if SCIN can’t find what their clients are looking for they can work with them to develop it.  SCIN is committed to introducing more materials with ‘green’ credentials, and “fundamentally believe that environmental or sustainable design heralds a new era in architecture and design”. So after whetting my appetite at the Surface Design Show, I headed to the SCIN Gallery to learn more.

The ground floor is dedicated to new material design.  First to catch my eye were some bowls (pictured right) made out of ‘decafé’ a material created by  Raúl Laurí from used coffee grounds.  Alongside was Coleoptera, a bioplastic made from dead beetles, developed by Aagje Hoekstra.  The shells of the beetles,  a by-product of the animal food industry, contain chitin. After cellulose, chitin is the most common polymer on earth and, with a little chemistry, is transformed into chitosan which bonds better and is already being made into jewellery.  From insect to marine life and exotic leathers made from salmon, perch, wolffish and cod fish skins by Icelandic tannery, Atlantic Leather. solidOther exhibits included Denimite, a cotton fibre bio-composite made from recycled denim suitable for countertops and architectural applications and Soilid (pictured left).  Made from a mixture of soil, fungi and other natural materials left overnight at room temperature to “rise”, the mixture can then be poured into a mould and baked becoming strong enough sand, saw or drill.

ppThe first floor showcases architectural materials, such as Polluted Pattern (pictured right).  A concrete surface printed with a photo-catalytic white i.active cement based on TX Active nanotechnology that self-cleans and breaks down air-pollutants.  Over time, the printed sections stay pristine, while pollutants discolour the unprotected areas revealing the printed lace-like pattern, a metaphor for pollution wrapping our cities.  The material would be suitable for urban surfaces, pavements, facades.

fcThe installation ‘The Forest Commissioned’ displayed some leading wood products including Accoya, a high-performance wood created from softwood using a proprietary non-toxic acetylation process that gives it the dimensional strength and durability make its suitable for windows, cladding and other architectural uses.  Showered with eco-labels including FSC, PEFC,  and Cradle to Cradle™ to name but three, Accoya is made from renewable sources, fully-recyclable, and looks good to boot.  It is distributed in the UK by Lathams.  UPM Grada is a new thermoform able wood made from FSC or PEFC rotary cut birch veneers and non-formaldehyde adhesive.

ghInteriors products occupy the second floor. Marbelous Wood (pictured at the top of the page) and Green Hides (pictured right) were just two of the exhibits currently on display.  Marbelous Wood, from the Danish Snedker Studio, uses an old marbling technique to create an organic and colourful play on the natural grain of the wood.  A decorative reinterpretation of a flooring choice favoured by many.  Green Hides‘ Ecolife Italian leathers are processed with chrome-free, natural vegetable tanning  and solvent-free finishing methods to meet stringent technical specifications that mean they are suitable for home and contract clients.

neptIf the temporary installations are not inspiration enough, the basement is home to a permanent materials library.  The SCIN library is a colourful and tactile treasure trove with thousands of samples catalogued by material and property in bright orange boxes. Solid wool and paper stone I have seen before, but insulation made from seaweed was a surprise. NeptuTherm (pictured left) is an insulation material made from neptune grass seaweed that has become matted together into balls in shallow water.  Often considered a waste product, in fact,  without chemical treatment this material is naturally flame retardant, mould resistant and helps regulate humidity without degrading its thermal insulation capacity.  Seaweeds’ wonderful properties extend far beyond sushi and face creams!

organoidAnd finally a product that is simply joyful, if not immediately robust enough for a home with two small children, but if I could, I would find a place for some decorative Organoids panels (pictured right).  Natural fibres (in this case rose petals and rose buds) are ground up and mixed with a natural binder, then covered with a vacuum film, compressed and hardened to make a biocomposite that is 100% biodegradable.  The decorative panels are a sensual experience, the aroma of the rose buds, texture of the panel and visible rosebuds a reminder of the natural materials.  The process is entirely free of biocides, plasticisers and solvents and powered with 100% green electricity.

So whether wrestling with the refurbishment of a Victorian terrace house or in search of a supernatural material to make a car fit for James Bond, the library is a rich repository of innovative, practical and green materials.  Architects, designers and consumers are all welcome to have a rummage, by appointment.  You too could get addicted!

Picture credits: Raúl Laurí

Home/Craft London/ Top Drawer – the cc edit

woodcutIt felt like a sprint finish to get round the cavernous halls of Earls Court on the final day of the trinity that was Home, Craft London and Top Drawer 2014, but I was well rewarded for my efforts.  It was a chance to get a sneak preview of new product launches, learn more of the story behind the label, or simply a face to a name.  Here are the cc edited highlights.

On the threshold of home was Plumen, sculptural lighting that is also energy efficient.  After the look-at-me exuberance of the original Plumen 001, the new kid, Plumen 002, is a simpler, more subtle design.  With luminosity equivalent to a 30W incandescent bulb and colour warmer than the  Plumen 001, the overall lighting effect is softer, but still architectural.  The compact fluorescent bulb has a lifetime of 8000 hours, or 8 years of normal usage and is recyclable.  It is not yet dimmable, but they are working on it!

mG7ClaqvSPiOnMWcvkLdWPAJust across the way was one of my current everyday joys, the Black +Blum Eau Good water bottle complete with charcoal filter.  Then, I made a bee-line for Stuart Gardiner to admire the fun and informative prints on oven mitts, tea towels and aprons.  Stylish aide-memoires to seasonal foods to hand in the kitchen when you need them!

BOJJE - WILD FLOWER SET CUTOUTOther kitchen accessories that caught my eye were the ‘wildflower’ range of utensils fashioned from beech and stainless steel (pictured left).  They are simply beautiful to look at and to hold.  Bojje are based in Suffolk with a passion for the materials they use, particularly wood.  Combining traditional woodworking , woodland crafts and modern technologies the products have a graceful, simplicity and sensuality.

27033759_57400Hop and Peck’s set of platter boards (pictured right) are handmade from sustainable solid oak and finished in Danish oil, from £35.

I had a brief pause to admire Haidee Drew’s bamboo chopping boards. More tableware in bamboo fibre was available from Ekobo who were showing their range of traditional handmade bamboo and laquerware and also Biobu, a range colourful enough for all the family to enjoy eating from.  I love the cool simplicity of the FAT Ceramics designed by Piet Hein Eek for Fair Trade Original.   The contemporary twist provided by Piet Hein Eek’s designs still allow the traditional craftsmanship of the producers in Thailand and Vietnam to shine through.

brushes

The handiwork of veteran crafts makers from Handmade-Japan was on show at Craft London.  I have been on the hunt for a good broom (and a mop) so loved the colourful ‘Nanbu Hoki’, traditional, handmade brooms and brushes made from all natural fibres.

rugNatural fibres such as pure new wool, jute and fair trade, organic cotton are the basis of Waffle Design‘s distinctive textured cushions and throws.  New designs for 2014 also included products made from upcycled aran carpet yarn.  The yarn was rescued from an old carpet factory in Yorkshire, and hand dyed in small batches in East London.  Tweedmill had a whole (makeshift) cabinet of colourful recycled wool and fleece throws on show, pictured left.  They also produce recycled picnic rugs, draft excluders, bags, cushions and even a garden kneeler.

smileAnd on to the bigger ticket items.  Fun furniture with clean lines and contemporary shapes from Lozi Designs.    The smile shelves were generating a lot of interest, and good humour (pictured right).  Close by, Wayfarer Furniture offered another response to eco-urban living with two new collections on show, the Prima and Tempo.  The first, Prima, uses wood, the second, Tempo uses lower grade, but also low carbon materials of fibre and corrugated board, both are a discursive response to ethical living in an urban environment.

acAnother Country‘s approach to sustainability is to make furniture that has timeless appeal crafted using traditional and modern techniques from responsibly sourcing materials.  Good design has physical and emotional longevity, and every piece from Another Country has a simple elegance you can enjoy for a long time.  The new Series 3, made from oiled beech and inspired by Edwardian industrial furniture, would work, literally and metaphorically, well at home or in the office.  The new Soft Series of blankets and cushions made from 100% hand-dyed wool with UK weavers Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company in three graphic designs is a simply covetable collection.

Finally, the beautiful laser cut silhouettes of trees by Clare Cutts, pictured at the top of the page, are an elegant and evocative way to bring the outside in to any space.  The designs are based on photographs of trees taken by Clare. Originally, Clare created the woodcuts to emboss tree prints on paper, but realised the woodcut are things of beauty in their own right.

corkAnd last, but not least, as I prepared for my cycle home, I was wishing for a pair of cork bicycle grips designed by Green and Blue and handmade in Portugal.  Cork is durable, anti-bacterial and offers cushioning, the perfect material for bike grips.  Cork is a naturally renewable, and these grips are hand made from Portuguese cork harvested in managed forests. They have beautiful form, and function.

Super sugru and so simple to use

sug1

Please bear with me as I get a bit evangelical about the amazing properties of sugru, the super stocking filler, and its infinite applications, limited only by our imagination.

So what is it? It looks and feels like play dough, but sticks to aluminium, steel, ceramics, glass, wood and some kinds of plastic.  Mould it, and leave it over night at room temperature and it turns into flexible silicon rubber that is electrically insulated, waterproof, heat proof to 180 celsius and cold proof to -50 celsius.  For an introductory peak at the possibilities watch this video from sugru.

You can could customise your favourite tools to make those everyday jobs more comfortable and colourful.

sug2Our first experiments with sugru were understated and economic.  We moulded a new handle to a favourite pan lid and repaired a fraying charging cable.  The simple brilliance of sugru is how easy it becomes for us to fix everyday objects and extend their life, or make things work for us that little bit better.  How novel to not be one size fits all, but one sugru almost fixes all.  Not make do, but make me a better one!