Looking Beyond…Material Innovation at London Craft Week 2019
Time is flying by and we are getting closer to the launch of our upcoming exhibition Beyond Paper in partnership with GF Smith! Launching on May 8th, this collaboration will be a part of London Craft Week 2019, as we join them in celebrating the beauty and importance of craft and making. Of course, we will be looking at it with our own particular focus on cutting edge material innovation. We are very excited as we start gathering all the beautiful material samples and artefacts together in preparation.
As the name hints, we will be showcasing a range of paper-based creations, in acknowledgment to our partner, GF Smith, one of the most emblematic paper manufactures in the UK. But innovation is not only transforming paper as we know it, but rather, it is taking the whole world of materials by storm- creating change and pushing boundaries across all material types such as plastic, metal, textiles, leather and surface design.
With pressing issues affecting all of humankind, regarding the health of our planet as well as our own bodies and minds, material makers across the globe are striving to find solutions that will help us fight against global warming, excess food waste, landfills overflowing with plastic and ever increasing digitalised environments.
In our previous blog post we gave you all an insight into some of the paper innovation you will discover in the exhibition. In this piece, instead, we wanted to introduce you to some of the materials beyond- new and exciting composites made from discarded food, recycled plastics, as well as bioplastics for packaging, and unique sensory surface designs. Lets have a look!
What happens to all the food we discard?
With numbers indicating that a third of food across the world is thrown away, innovative material-makers are taking food waste out of kitchens and into the workshop, exploring new ways of transforming it into useful materials for a range of industries- from fashion to interiors to architecture. We will have a few examples to explore in the exhibition; here is a peek at two of them.
By reinventing century-old processes, from pre-industrial times, Protein-the material Tessa Silva has created manifests itself as precious objects such as vessels and bowls, utilising surplus milk sourced from the waste generated by organic farms in England to make them. Plastic production from liquid milk involves the separation of milk curds from whey by the addition of an enzyme, similar to cheese-making processes. Purification methods are then employed to create a durable plastic that is suitable for industrial application. The resulting material is organic looking, textured and incredibly beautiful. Hook & Son, a raw organic dairy farm, deliver to Tessa their otherwise wasted skimmed milk, which amounts to 3000 litres per week, for her to transform into this wonderful material.
Developed by Sussex-based practice Local Works Studio, these Oyster Tiles are created using 100% oyster shell in some cases, and in others are a blend of the oyster shells and demolition waste (giving the tiles a pinker colour, inherited from crushed bricks). The binder (lime) that holds it all together is made by calcining (firing) oyster shells to 1000 degrees to make quicklime. This means that each tile is 100% waste, and also has a zero percent carbon dioxide footprint, due to the process in which lime mortar cures by absorbing CO2 from the air (calcination). The tiles are durable, textured and reflect the symbiotic nature between the food and material industry.
Now, what do we do with all this plastic?
Using discarded plastic as a resource is key to using our limited resources more efficiently. Plastics are still too valuable to be thrown away after one single use and over time can become harmful when left in our landfills and oceans. They should be recycled back into new products and materials, extending their intended lifecycle. These are the makers that are helping us see waste plastic as a wonderful new raw material.
The founders of Gomi, designers Tom Meades, and Pawan Saunya, felt frustrated with the lack of initiatives focused on flexible plastic waste, so they decided to collect and process it into fun, engaging, high-quality products like their portable Bluetooth speaker made from "trash". It is made using flexible plastics, which are currently not recycled by councils in the UK. This includes packaging, plastic bags, bubble-wrap, milk containers and other everyday products, which are oriented to landfill, or the ocean, poisoning the environment. Gomi has setup collection points across Brighton, where they collect plastic waste from both commercial and residential properties, and store it at their studio in Brighton. They then melt, hand-marble and press the material into moulds to create the Gomi Speaker.
Designer Charlotte Allen has created Prolong–a kitchen stool made from one month’s worth of household recyclable waste collected by her. Prolong is a 65cm high, 3-legged stool that shows the potential of reusing discarded materials. Countering the throwaway culture we are witnessing as a society today, Charlotte’s project suggests ways that we can instead prolong our relationship with what is considered “waste” in our households or offices. While the speckled seat of the stool is a blend of coloured HDPE (high-density polyethylene, seen most often in milk or juice containers), the stool's tripod-like legs are layered assemblies of paper and cardboard waste. The combination of this waste comes together to produce a fun, and functional piece that gets you thinking about everything you discard throughout the course of a day.
How can we reduce the amount of plastic we need to make?
Films, wraps, packaging trays and disposable cutlery account for 37% of the world’s plastic production. This feeds into the growing challenges of environmental pollution and the scarcity of fossil fuels. New solutions are urgently needs and here are some
Totally Green Bottles & Caps’s raw materials are non GMO plant-based materials rather than petroleum-based plastic. The company’s bottle, cap, and label are all 100% compostable and they partner with industries to collect and dispose of empty bottles appropriately onsite, to ensure that they do not end up in PET recycle bins. These bottles produce 60% less greenhouse gases and use 50% less non-renewable energy than their conventional plastic counterparts. Why isn’t everyone using them already?
Products from Bio4Pack include packaging elements such as trays, laminated films, wraps, carrier and trash bags, netting, and boxes made from bio-based materials such as PLA, starch and agricultural waste. These products are either home or industrially compostable and there is significant transparency about their bio-based content. The company’s material and product line PaperWise is an exciting new alternative for traditional paper and cardboard. It is made from agricultural waste and has the same qualities and properties as ordinary paper and cardboard. The one big difference is that no trees need to be cut down for PaperWise!
What if we design with Nature?
Bio-design is an emerging design movement, which incorporates the use of living materials, such as fungi, algae, yeast, bacteria, and cultured tissue. A clear aim for bio-design is to use natural resources in a way that means more is not taken than can be given back. This means the creation of a closed-loop system with a zero-waste policy as they are fed back into nature once their life cycle has ended. So who is biodesigning?
Working alongside Southern India’s coconut farmers that generate vast amounts of ‘waste’ coconut water after they’ve removed the harvest of white flesh from inside the mature coconuts, Malai rescues this coconut water, places it into vats and sterilises it, resulting in an entirely natural nutrient upon which their bacterial culture can feed. They combine the nutrient and the culture and then just let the bacteria grow. The fermentation period takes between twelve to fourteen days, at the end of which a sheet of cellulose ‘jelly’ is produced. Once harvested, it is enriched with natural fibres, gums and resins to create a more durable and flexible material, which may then be formed into flat sheets in a range of thicknesses and textures, or moulded seamlessly into 3D structures. Malai can also be embossed, and screen-printed.
Diana Scherer explores the relationship of man versus his natural environment and his desire to control nature. In particular her fascination lies in the root system, with its hidden, underground processes. Diana approaches the root system as if it were yarn. Using templates as moulds the natural network of the root system turns into a textile -like material with a wonderful design and texture. During the growth process the roots conform to the patterns and the root material weaves or braids itself. Interwoven has been honoured by the New Material Award Fellow 2016.
Lets make our surfaces different!
As we spend more and more time on our screens, sensory design is becoming a key feature when creating new materials. Textures, sounds and smells activate our emotions and affect the way we receive information, and experience the world around us. These two designers are transforming traditional materials such as metal and wood into engaging surfaces.
Artist Manuela Kagerbauer creates visually stimulating and immersive installations using material mediums such as metal and glass. Through her work, she expresses her interest in representing the early symptoms of Macular Degeneration, a visual impairment. With her new work ‘Spieglein, Spieglein an der Wand’ (Mirror Mirror on the Wall) Manuela is questioning the emotional aspects of the disorder Macular Degeneration as well as raising awareness regarding it. The metal octagonal tubes seen here are held in place purely by tension. When standing in front of them, one can faintly see a distorted self reflection in the stainless steel, allowing you to interact with them.
Since 2018, Manuela has worked with Goodfellow–a global materials supplier with over 70,000 material types under its wing–to test and utilize new and technically advanced materials for her work. The specialized metal sheets used in ‘Spieglein, Spieglein an der Wand’ have been sponsored by Goodfellow.
UK-based Material and Surface Designer Orla Lawn has created a new surface material called Spelk!. Inspired by the luxurious marble veneers of early 20th century interior design, Spelk! is a fresh take on decorative plywood panelling, but elevating it to an elegant surface product. By enhancing the natural textures and tones of the engineered wood board, a unique and unpredictable pattern is achieved by Orla, with no two pieces being the same. The natural beauty of the wood strands is accentuated by contrasting colours and finishes in the material. The material is perfect for use on walls, floors and in furniture.
From the 8th to the 11th of May you will have a chance to explore and engage with all these projects and more, entering a unique and truly sensory experience. You will also have the opportunity to meet some of these makers and artists, as they will be there to talk about their work and answer your questions. And don’t forget that the MaterialDriven team will be taking visitors on guided tours of the exhibition everyday at 1 pm. Entry is free of charge but booking is required.
Location: GFSmith Show Space- 27-28 Eastcastle St, Fitzrovia, London W1W 8DH
Dates: May 8th to May 11th
Opening Hours: 10 am to 5 pm
For bookings: firstname.lastname@example.org