***SPOTTED*** the Eco Cooler – an air conditioning unit made from plastic bottles…

Many of us are very used to solving problems with a few clicks of the mouse. So when the temperature rises, fans and air conditioning units are purchased and plugged in around the globe, delivering cool air to make like a bit more bearable. But what if you can’t do this? What if you live in a hot country but do not have the means to ask Amazon to deliver you a fan, or indeed, the electricity to plug it into. This is the case for thousands of people across the globe. But there is something that could help, and could be made wherever it is needed – an air conditioning unit made from plastic bottles, called the Eco Cooler.

Using no electricity at all, the Eco Cooler, developed by Ashis Paul at Grey Dhaka works by funnelling the hot air from outside through the narrow neck of the bottle, compressing the air and cooling it – for example – breathe on your hand and it feels hot. Blow on your hand and it feels cool. It’s the same, very low tech method.

And of course, as we write about a great deal here on The Ecospot, plastic bottles can be found literally in all corners of the planet. Using them, or even reusing them as in the Eco Cooler is a very good idea indeed.

Mounted on a piece of waste board, this incredibly simple addition can lower the internal temperature by over 5 degrees – with no electricity required. In just 3 months, over 25,000 have been installed – many from the free downloadable plans available to all.

A great invention indeed.

(images via Inhabitat)

the new Emmaus Brighton and Hove Emporium opens…

We are really lucky to live and work in Brighton. We have the sea on one side, the South Downs on the other and the city filling is a mass of creativity and inspiration with some fantastic individuals and organisations doing some brilliant work. One such example, and long standing friend of the studio is Emmaus Brighton and Hove.

Emmaus Brighton and Hove Emporium 4

Based in the former convent in the Portslade Old Village area of the city, Emmaus Brighton and Hove is the largest Emmaus community in the UK, functioning as a secondhand superstore, cafe, garden shop and so much more – with each former homeless companion living and working on the site in some capacity. It is helping hand – a family – and a wonderful place to visit.

Emmaus Brighton and Hove Emporium 5

We are always at Emmaus – finding pieces for our projects and clients in the vast rambling areas of the stores, having a cuppa or chatting with the staff and companions. So, it was with delight that we were invited to the special preview of the new Emmaus Emporium…

Emmaus Brighton and Hove Emporium 3

Situated in a newly refurbished part of the old convent laundry building, the Emporium is the destination for all the donated pieces which are a bit special – vintage, retro and antique. And the space is just fantastic.

The two main display pieces have been created by Simon Bottrell of 7 Creative, who has arranged the donated pieces of furniture in an incredible tower and wall piece of stacked tables, chests and shelves. With multiple display opportunities, the pale grey painted main ‘frames’ are able to accommodate the continually fluctuating donations whilst still remaining interesting and exciting – essential for any space. And the detailing is lovely – legs that appear to punch through tops of tables set below, items that float and even melt into the back wall…

Emmaus Brighton and Hove Emporium 2

Other display pieces use old ladders, repurposed counters and even a selection of upside down standard lamps – hanging from the centre of the space to give real impact to the room.

It is so fantastic to see the energy behind each of the projects that Emmaus Brighton and Hove creates – constantly staying one step ahead of what you would dream a ‘charity shop’ could be. The Emporium is the latest addition to the collection of shops at Emmaus Brighton and Hove – and a real feather in their secondhand caps.

Emmaus Brighton and Hove Emporium 1

Visit Emmaus Brighton and Hove’s website to find out more and how to get there… You will not be disappointed – we can guarantee that.

(image by claire potter design)

the Plastic Bottle Cutter – another way to reuse plastic bottles…

We have been rather involved in all things plastic recently, from our Ghost Gear Chandelier for the World Cetacean Alliance to specifying recycled plastic cladding in both a residential project and cafe project in the last month. We are keen to use recycled or recovered plastic in our projects, so it was great when we were given the tip off (thank you Pollie) on this brilliant Plastic Bottle Cutter which is currently gaining backing on Kickstarter…

Plastic Bottle Cutter 1

Created very simply, the Plastic Bottle Cutter is a tool to allow the continuous ‘shredding’ of a plastic bottle into as long a ‘thread’ as possible. You can even vary the thickness of the new plastic thread to suit your own project requirements.Plastic Bottle Cutter 2

We have seen a couple of people with their own diy versions of this sort of tool, but it is the first time that we have ever seen an actual, purpose created tool that everyone can purchase.

Plastic Bottle Cutter 3So, what can you actually do with a long length of plastic thread?

Well, you can knot it, weave it or even (as we have seen previously) wind it around a joint and melt it together. This may seem rather destructive, but as you are not adding anything into the plastic, then when your item is finished with, despite being melted, it can be cut off and recycled.Plastic Bottle Cutter 4

It would be great to see someone create a tool like this that can be used to transform waste plastic into a kind of filament for a 3D printer…

So – fancy a plastic bottle cutter? Get over to Kickstarter, where the Plastic Bottle Cutter project has already smashed it’s target of 8,000 euros, (as I write, it is at 117,000 euros). A nice little addition to our studio’s hack kit we reckon. Check out their video below for more info.

(images via the Plastic Bottle cutter Kickstarter)

Our latest secondhand hauls for our Local, Handmade, Secondhand Challenge…

Back in late 2016, we had a family and friend pledge – to only purchase items for each other at Christmas that we had found Locally, Handmade, or Secondhand. It was a roaring success, and the LHS Challenge was born. So, for 2016, we are planning on only buying items within this scope – with a rather large emphasis on the secondhand. As avid charity shoppers, this is not an issue for us, and so far so good…

And here is a little recap of what we have found so far…

LHS Challenge 2 Feb 16 LHS Challenge Feb 16 LHS Challenge 7 Feb 16From a vintage army trekking backpack though many books to old pieces of Lego that will be made into necklaces and woolly jumpers – we have found some brilliant pieces.LHS Challenge 6 Feb 16LHS Challenge 5 Feb 16LHS Challenge 3 Feb 16

But of course, buying things Local, Handmade or Secondhand is great, but is it better than not buying anything at all? We read, and admire people who are operating a no purchase policy for the year, but we know that we are unable to do that. We wear and use things until they cannot be repaired (and we are awesome fixers), but there are occasions when you do have to get something. We love the thrill of the hunt when you are looking for something secondhand, and the excitement of finding it. Or the rush of creativity when you find something you can change about a bit to be perfect.

Take, for example, this camo jacket and grey jumper. I had been looking for an old camo jacket for a while, and even though you can readily get them online, I wanted to find one that fitted nicely and had a good bit of wear.LHS Challenge 4 Feb 16

I had been searching for a long time, but that is fine. One day, as is the way with the world, the perfect one arrived. For a fiver. And it is this sense of anticipation rather than instant gratification which makes this way of consuming much more fulfilling. I wanted a camo jacket, but I did not NEED it now. When the right one was there, I bought it, rather than ‘making do’ with a new one from the High Street, and I LOVE it.

This ties in interestingly with the latest rise of decluttering pioneered by Marie Kondo – creator of the KonMari Method, who states that you should only keep items that you love and the rest should be (responsibly) discarded. This is great for charity shops as long as the items donated are actually of good quality – crap fashion worn for a few times and donated has little value.

So this is the quandary – we like to ‘consume’, but we need to do so responsibly. Buying good quality stuff from charity shops and donating the stuff we no longer love is one way forward.

(all images by claire potter)

Mafia Bags – from Sails to Bags…

As our materials get increasingly more robust, intelligent and indeed, man made, we have a bit of a double edged sword. In many respects, the newer ‘engineered’ materials often have a longer usable life, but unlike more natural materials, they are often hard or impossible to repair or recycle. Then we have an issue with a waste material. As we move towards a more circular based economy, it is essential that we find uses for these materials that would otherwise become landfill or incinerator fodder. Why waste something that can be reused? This is exactly the ethos of Mafia Bags.

Mafia Bags 3

Based in San Francisco, Mafia take the discarded and defunct windsurf, kiting and boating sails that have reached the end of their water based lives and transform them into functional and practical bags (very much like studio favourites Freitag do with truck tarps).

Mafia Bags 2

The resulting pieces are not only functional and make excellent use of a ‘waste’ material, they are completely individual. Nobody else will have the same configuration of materials as you in your bag. In a world of supposed sterile homogeneity of brands, we certainly celebrate this individuality too.

With a good selection of styles, colours and sizes, there is a bag for any occasion. Duffel bags to laptop covers, and very nice new additions to the Discover Backpack range. See one you love? Grab it before it is gone. It will be the only one. (race you all to the one below)

Mafia Bags 1

Got a sail yourself? You can donate it to Mafia and let them know what you would like it to be made into. And if you have a Mafia bag, they will repair it or replace it if it fails – for life – and for free. This is in the same vein as the Patagonia Repair Your Gear programme, where technicians will repair your beloved apparel so you can use it for longer.

mafia bags 4

This is what we need in brands. We need brands like Mafia and Patagonia who do not just want to sell to us, but believe so strongly in their products that they are willing to help us keep them, and love them longer.

Reusing waste material is an excellent start – keeping that second-life product in use is the future. 

(images via Mafia)

2015 recap – February – structural skin leather reuse…

Next up on our 2015 recap is our most popular February post, where we were talking about waste re-use in a very different way…

(first posted on 25th February 2015)

As designers we are faced with daily choices. How to design something – what it is made of and how we source the materials are key to understanding the impact of our designs. This is why we choose to work with as much ‘waste’ material as possible in our work and we are delighted to see examples of how other designers are tackling the same issues. The Structural Skin project by Spanish designer  Jorge Penadés is a great example of very alternative thinking.

Jorge Penadés-Structural-Skin-1

Leather working, whilst very traditional, is extremely wasteful and inefficient as a process, so Penades has created a new method for using the scraps of otherwise discarded leather. The pieces, after being shredded, are bound and compressed to produce a material that looks rather like a bar of nut studded chocolate, but can be used to create new products – like the examples from the capsule collection which features a clothes rail and side table.

Jorge Penadés-Structural-Skin-3

Due to the natural quality of the material, it features a whole range of colours and patternations, adding to the individual nature of each of the pieces.

This lovely video shows the process…

Structural Skin from Jorge Penadés on Vimeo.

Green Gift Guide – day four – stuff for the home…

Today on day three of our Green Gift Guide, we are looking at nice stuff for the home and garden, which will eco up a space very nicely indeed – and some in very different ways than you may think…

1 – Eco Filament bulb by Urban Cottage Industries – Filament bulbs have been the go-to fitting for a few seasons now to create that popular industrial style interior, but despite looking great, they are certainly not great for energy efficiency. But, thankfully, there is now an option which combines the looks of old style filaments with the energy efficiency we should all be striving for. The Eco Filament by Urban Cottage Industries is A-rated and has a life of 25,000 hours, which equates to 11 years at 6 hours per day… fantastic. from £30.60 inc delivery

Caret lamp eco-filament E27

2 – Hessian covered lighting cable by Urban Cottage Industries – we are sticking with Urban Cottage Industries for the next of our green things for the house, and whilst many people would argue that lighting cable is not sexy, we would beg to differ. The shade gets all the attention, the bulb partly so, but the cable often gets forgotten… bring your lighting up to scratch with some of this brand new hessian covered lighting cable from Urban Cottage Industries – £4.80 per metre (order a bit more and give it a decorative loop we say)

Hessian Fabric Cable | Cloth Covered Wire | 3 Core Round

2 – Home Hack kit by Sugru – there is barely a day goes by when we do not mention Sugru and what we could do with it here in the studio. We have a tin of this wonder stuff in every colour possible in the studio and we use it on everything from in-house repairs to client projects. Sugru – the self setting silicon based rubber has grown into a community, with people posting their hacks and repairs online – proudly showing how they have fixed their stuff. And now Sugru has started a home hack kit, complete with other useful things which you can combine with the mouldable coloured Sugru such as magnets, bits of lego and tennis balls… we love this stuff. Perfect for a DIY enthusiast in your life. Or actually anyone. £17 plus shipping
Home Hacks Made Easy — The Kit

4 – seeds from The Garden House from What You Sow – The beautiful online store What you Sow has everything you would need for those with green fingers – from tools to twine, but it is the seeds from The Garden House, with their stunningly simple illustrations that we adore. With a variety of edibles and flowers to choose from, we say get a bundle of seeds, then also buy your giftee a lovely secondhand frame too, so they can frame up those great illustrations after planting. from 2.95 each plus shipping (final orders 18th Dec!)

Garden House Seeds at What You Sow

5 – recycled card light shades from Tabitha Bargh – possibly the most ‘obvious’ eco choice on our Green Gift Guide today, these lovely lampshades take recycled cardboard to a whole new level. Clean and precise, this is how sustainable materials can and should be used – perfect in any modern interior. In fact, we are looking at using these for a project we have got coming up in 2016… from £75 each

So – five eco ideas that may be a little different from your usual options for the home…

(images via associated brands)

2015 Eco Open Houses a great success!

Last weekend we were delighted to be part of the 2015 Eco Open Houses trail in Brighton – opening up our workspace, Studio Loo to the public. This is the second time that we have been part of the trail as we opened for visitors in 2014, when the studio was about 80% through it’s conversion from derelict wc to the eco office space it is now. It was great to look back over the past year and recall the photos from the construction period.

claire potter design studio 2

And it was also great to welcome back people that visited last year – many had returned so they could see how we had finished the space. For instance, visitors last year saw the reclaimed parquet flooring as individual sticks in bags, but this year they got to see it down, sanded, polished and lacquered – and complete with a years worth of little scratches and dents from use.

But it was also great to welcome a load of new people to Studio Loo – many of whom had travelled a fair distance to see our converted wc and talk to us about their own projects – and how what we have done could be applied to their spaces.

eco open houses 2015

We discussed recycled paint, solid insulation, solar gain and glazing, timber certification and we even gave away a few of our secret spots for finding reclaimed furniture and materials in Brighton and the surrounding areas. 

On Saturday we had a visit from MP for Portslade and Hove, Peter Kyle, who was with us for almost an hour discussing the merits of great design and the reuse of abandoned buildings, and on Sunday we had a visit of nearly 40 people in one go, courtesy of Cara Courage and the Brighton and Hove Urban Ramblers…eco open houses 2 2015

Another great weekend of chatting about all things sustainable design and architecture – we are now gearing up the studio for our next public opening as part of the Christmas Artist’s Open Houses – watch this space!

(images by claire potter and courtesy of Cara Courage and Eco Open Houses)

Monday Musings – is sustainable design the same for everyone?

A week or so ago we attended the fully sustainable Brighton Fashion Week 2015, starting with the debates and industry presentations and ending with the stunning and extravagent catwalk shows that we featured last week in our photo specials. It was a packed day. But what we were really keen to understand, as non-fashion designers, but sustainable designers – is the stuff we think about the same? Is sustainable design just sustainable design?

Brighton Fashion Week 2015

Of course, designing a ‘sustainable’ building, or creating a ‘sustainable’ piece of footwear needs distinct and defined specialisms, but at their core, what are the similarities? Sitting down at the talks for Brighton Fashion Week 2015, we were pondering this exact question.

We soon realised, as we had hoped, that regardless what your specialism is, the issues you face as a designer are the same:

  • materials – understanding where, how, when and what sort of material you will use in your design is key. And this also accounts for its end of life processing and how it will behave with the end user. Toxic ingredients? Impossible reprocessing? Material manufacture processes? This is a universal issue for all designers.
  • waste – understanding materials and processes allows you to understand waste generated – and how it can be limited. Reducing the waste and increasing the efficiency of your designs can be related to a cutting pattern for fabric as easily as it can be for timber. And waste appears at all stages of creation, though to end of life.
  • design for disassembly – this is an area that we personally feel very strongly about, as even if you choose your materials well and minimise waste in the production phase, if you merge materials into ‘monstrous hybrids’ that cannot be easily separated, you consign your design to landfill. Designing for disassembly from the start allows pieces to be uncoupled and reused with the minimum amount of material contamination.
  • ethics, legislation and certification – the physical difference between specifying an organic material and a non-organic material can be small, but the implications to the producer are likely to be huge. Equally, choosing uncertifeid timber will still allow you to build something, but using reclaimed or FSC certified timber ensures that the wood has been produced from sustainable practices. You may not see the advantages with your own eyes, but it is essential to understand the wider issues.
  • emotional durability – if we are emotionally attached to something, we are less likely to consign it to the ‘bin’. We are more likely to treasure it, and look to repair and reuse it.
  • technical / functional durability – this allows us to have pieces that are fit for purpose and when they need it, they can be reused, repaired, hacked, amended and reinvented.
  • stories – the importance of stories and context is another area that we feel very strongly about. By telling a story you are emparting a history, sometimes materialistic, sometimes humanistic, but that depth of a past helps us to have a connection – and aids emotional durability…

These were but a few of the key issues we picked up at the Brighton Fashion Week 2015 talks and debates, and these both reinforced our thoughts and gave us hope. We are all designers. We choose, we create and if we are all talking the same language, communication, collaboration and impact are a whole lot easier.

(image by claire potter)

*** REVIEW *** Brighton Fashion Week 2015 – pt4 – Sustain Show…

For the last of our photo specials for Brighton Fashion Week 2015, we are heading to the images we took at the first of the catwalk shows held at All Saint’s Church in Hove last week – the Sustain Show…

‘Clothing is a physical representation of our inner being; creativity, imagination, fantasies, desires, mentality and our ethics. Fashion is a second skin, one we shed daily and that remains malleable to our ever-changing sensibilities. Fashion should not be harmful in any way, nor irrelevant. Sustainability is key, and ethical garments can represent this beauty powerfully. Our ‘sustain’ show promotes sustainability through the showcasing of designers and practitioners that are willing to combine innovative fashion design and ethical thinking to produce unique and efficient collections. Brighton is a city that overflows with morality and strong ethical values, making it an ideal location for ‘sustain’ to premier. ‘Sustain’ will unveil collections designed to test the boundaries of sustainable fashion as we know it; expressing the personality of the city and its people.’

Angus Tsui…

Angus Tsui 3 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot Angus Tsui BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot Angus Tsui 2 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot

Clare Poggio… (powered by Veolia)

Clare Poggio 2 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot Clare Poggio 3 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot Clare Poggio BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot

KellyDawn Riot…KellyDawn Riot BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot

Kitty Ferreira…

Kitty Ferreira BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot


Milkweed BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospotMilkweed 2 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot


Raggedy 2 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot Raggedy BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot

Rhiannon Hunt…

Rhiannon Hunt BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospotRhiannon Hunt 2 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot

Tiffany Pattinson… Tiffany Pattinson 2 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospotTiffany Pattinson BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot(all images by Claire Potter)

*** REVIEW *** Brighton Fashion Week 2015 part 2… Zeitgeist Catwalk Show

Last week we were at each of the catwalk shows for the Brighton Fashion Week 2015, showing the cutting edge of ethical and sustainable fashion design, so for the next of our photo specials, we are looking at the Zeitgeist show. This showcased designers who are shaping, shifting and progressing the fashion industry by starting to integrate ethical practices within their work in a range of ways, organised as ‘pledges’:

1 – The inclusion of organic, upcycled, recycled fabrics or other sustainable materials in the garments and collection.

2 – Designing out waste and reducing material consumption during the making of the garment.

3 – Designing for longevity – creating value for the garment to ensure the consumer will treasure it forever.

4 – Designing garments with a lower carbon and water footprint and ensuring no harmful dyes are used in the process.

Fanny Holst – Draped in Smog (pledge 3)

Fanny Holst BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot

Gabriella Sardena – Sugar (pledge 1)

Gabriella Sardena 2 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot Gabriella Sardena 3 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot Gabriella Sardena 4 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot Gabriella Sardena BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot

Isaac Iva – Blue Lights (pledge 3)

Isaac Ava BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot

Tracey Dockree – Parade of Giants (pledges 1/2/3)

Tracey Dockree 3 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot Tracey Dockree 4 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot

Tracey Dockree 2 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot

Isaac Raymond – The Revolution of Bravery (pledge 1)

Isaac Raymond 3 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot Isaac Raymond BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot Isaac Raymond 2 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot

Leif Erikkson – The Leif Erikkson Collection (pledges 1/3/4)

leif Erikson BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot leif Erikson 2 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot

No Such Thing – (pledges 1/3/4)

No such Thing 2 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospotNo such Thing 3 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospotNo such Thing BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospotLuqman – (pledge 3)

Luqman BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot

L.O.M. – Tribal Tales (pledge 1)

LOM 2 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot LOM 3 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot LOM 4 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot LOM BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 the ecospot

Rozanna Walecki – Black & Blue (pledge 3)

Rozanna Walecki 2 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 Rozanna Walecki 3 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 Rozanna Walecki BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015

Hellavagirl – Diary of a Lost Girl (pledge 1)

Hellavagirl 2 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 Hellavagirl 3 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 Hellavagirl 4 BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015 Hellavagirl BFW copyright Claire Potter 2015

(all images by Claire Potter)


*** EVENT *** the EcoFabulous Walk In Wardrobe clothes swap – 24th October…

This week we are all about the fashion – having attended lots of the events for Brighton Fashion Week last week (all of which was ethical and sustainable), but as well as doing reviews of the events last week, we are delighted to let you know there is another eco fashion event happening this weekend – the EcoFabulous Walk in Wardrobe Clothes Swap on Saturday 24th October, hosted by image and style consultant, Jo Goode…

Jo is a champion of Slow Fashion, and these Walk in Wardrobe Clothes Swap events, which are also held elsewhere in the UK are about recycling and reusing our clothes. Different from swishing in that there is no ‘like for like’, tokens or assessment of what you bring, WIW accept all the unwanted (though they do encourage good quality donations!) and the ticket price allows for unlimited clothes, shoes and accessories to be taken home.

It’s a great way to get a new-to-you wardrobe for AW15, or just fill those wardrobe gaps, and each ticket holder will be entered into a draw to win a free Colour Analysis Consultation (worth £80) with Jo, who will also be on hand to advise on the best colours and styles for you, promoting a ‘Buy less, choose well’ ethos (like Vivienne Westwood).

The event is being held at The Purple Playhouse Theatre, Montefiore Road, Hove BN3 6EP, and you get your tickets here at the Walk In Wardrobe Eventbrite page...

Because reuse is the way forward!

A day at The Great Recovery, with Camira, Ella Doran and Urban Upholsterers…

Quite often, it is the things that go unnoticed that have the biggest impact. Take fire labels for instance. They are a small part of a chair, or sofa, yet without these little pieces of legislative fabric, the whole piece of furniture cannot be reused. And even though they do seem small, they are often cut off as they flap about under cushions. We like things neat, so the flappy bit goes – and many of us do not realise that this then consigns our furniture to landfill at the end of its life. This is the baton that The Great Recovery have taken up over the past year or so in their ‘Rearranging the Furniture’ project. What does a circular economy sofa look like?

The great recovery sofa 4

Starting with one such fire label-less sofa, four designers (Ella Doran, Xenia Mosely, Kirsty Ewing and Sarah Johnson) set out to rethink the sofa – initially by taking it apart, learning the differences in construction between a cheap and quality piece of furniture, then developing a fabric with Camira to cover the stripped back, refurbished frame – over the process of about a year.

And so, to celebrate the end of the project, The Great Recovery held a day as part of the London Design Festival, looking at the project and with demonstrations from the designers and practitioners who took part.

The great recovery sofa 3

Patrizia Sottile and Andrea Simonutti – of Urban Upholstery are no strangers to reuse, as their pieces use rescued frames which are brought back to life with traditional methods, and the first part of the session was dedicated to a demonstration of how to refurbish a sprung chair, which itself had been recovered for a new life.

The great recovery sofa 2

Springs were connected with string, meshed together in a pattern that will be both strong and flexible, then covered with hessian, stitched, then covered again with coconut fibres. This is a craft – hand created and little altered in centuries. And, as the Urban Upholsterers explained, allows a piece to be reused, recovered, refurbished and repaired – unlike the cheap and mass produced pieces that we can pick up from chain furniture stores. Cheap construction means that recovery and reuse is often impossible.

The great recovery sofa 1

We also got to see the recovered sofa from the ‘Rearranging the Furniture’ project up close – and as well as the beautiful exposed frame, the fabric was something to behold.

The great recovery sofa 5

Created by British fabric manufacturer, Camira, in collaboration with The Great Recovery, the ‘Survivor’ fabric was developed to use as much pre-consumer fabric waste as possible. The new weave, created with 30% recycled fibres, uses offcuts from the upholstery industry – recovered, shredded and woven into a new, tweed like fabric.

The great recovery sofa 6

And whilst 30% recycled yarn does not sound like a lot, it is actually quite groundbreaking. Each time a fabric is recycled, the yarn shortens, making it unusable in a new fabric – it literally is not strong enough. However, if it is mixed with some virgin yarns, a natural recycled fabric is possible. The Survivor fabric is just that – and will soon be available to specifiers.

On the day, we were able to use the beautiful fabric to create our own cushions, in any variety of the three colourways – blue, red, or violet. Plumping (excuse the pun) for blue and red, each of our cushions was stuffed with recycled (post-consumer) yarn and finished with more traditional skills – we each learnt the ‘invisible stitch’, allowing us to close our cushions with no stitching visible.The great recovery sofa 7

The day concluded with a round table discussion between many of the partners involved in The Great Recovery, with representatives from Suez recycling, Surrey Reuse network, Surrey County Council as well as the designers themselves. Quite often the discussion was around connections – how can we ensure that bulky waste, such as sofas are directed to those who need them / want them? How can we encourage reuse and of course, how can we ensure that these pieces are not consigned to landfill or incineration as they are no longer sporting their fire labels…?

More thought early on in the design process is often the answer, or at least part of the answer. And my cushion? It got its first test on the train back to Brighton from London Bridge, as surprisingly, there were no free seats. Lucky I’d just made one.

(images by claire potter)

The London Design Festival is in full swing – here are our picks…

We honestly do not know where the year has gone – was it really 12 months since we were up at the London Design Festival with Fixperts, running a workshop on fixing and hacking? It appears it was. However, apart from being a year older, the London Design Festival is a distinct highlight of our calendar – and it gets bigger each time. Whilst this is fantastic, the bigger the event, the more you have to pick and choose the events that you go to, so we are sharing our picks for this year with you all…

First up – we will be heading to LASSCO, to drool over the reclamation:

‘Pioneers of Architectural Salvage, LASSCO supply a virtually unending stream of recklessly curated objects and materials, aided by an unerring eye, impeccable provenance and profound practical knowledge.

Over the past year the shop has contributed architectural elements to some of London’s most exciting and on-trend retail and hospitality brands across London including: Aesop, Club Monaco, St John’s, Groucho, Ralph Lauren, Hostem, & China Exchange. This inspiring exhibition documents them and shows how our reclaimed materials are being incorporated into interior design today.’

19 – 27th Sept / 41 Maltby Street, Bermondsey / £free

Next we will be heading to Interface to see their Designing with Nature exhibition, which looks in detail at biomimicry:

‘Interface is a worldwide leader in the design and production of sustainable modular flooring, suitable for all commercial interiors. Interface products come in a range of colours, textures and patterns that combine beauty with functionality to help organisations bring their design vision to life.

The effect that nature can have on your well being is remarkable. Nature has long been a source of inspiration for Interface and has led to the production some of the most sustainable and innovative nature-inspired carpet tiles. We learn from nature’s systems and our designs take cues from visual and tactile textures, also found in nature, helping to bring the feeling of outside, in to create spaces which inspire, energise and engage individuals in the workplace.’

21 – 25th Sept / 1 Northburgh Street, Clerkenwell / £free

We are also heading off to the Ella Doran & The Great Recovery Material Engagement and the Art of Re-upholstery workshop too:

‘A day at Fab Lab London exploring the possibilities, challenges and rewards of re-upholstering old furniture to give it a new life through talks, hands-on demonstrations & the opportunity to talk to the participants of the Great Recovery’s design residency with SUEZ.

This event reflects and builds on the Great Recovery’s ‘bulky waste’ Design Residency in partnership with SUEZ Recycling and Recovery earlier in the year. Hackney duo Urban Upholstery and award-winning textile designer Ella Doran join the Great Recovery at Fab Lab London to explore how to reduce the quantity of furniture going to landfill through considered design approaches and practical re-upholstery techniques.’

25th Sept / Fab lab London, 1 Frederick’s Place / £free – but book places here

Last on our list is the launch of the Fairphone 2 – an ethical, modular, repairable smartphone:

‘Fairphone is a social enterprise that is building a movement for fairer electronics. By making a phone, we’re opening up the supply chain and creating new relationships between people and their products. We’re making a positive impact across the value chain in mining, design, manufacturing and life cycle, while expanding the market for products that put ethical values first. Together with our community, we’re changing the way products are made.

Come to Fairphone’s launch event, a pop-up space taking you behind-the-scenes of their latest phone – the Fairphone 2, designed with a fairer supply chain and advanced modular architecture. Discover what’s behind your phone: from mines in DR Congo to factories in China and e-waste dumps in Ghana.’

26 – 27th Sept / 2-4 Melior Place / £free

But with so much to do, check out the London Design Festival site – get exploring with design…

(images via LDF15)

Zero Waste Week starts here…

Welcome to Zero Waste Week – the annual drive both in the UK and further afield to get us all – individuals, businesses and local authorities alike to consider the stuff we chuck ‘away’. But we know that the magic place is actually not ‘away’ at all, but our creaking landfills or worse, out to sea where it degrades and is eaten by fish and other mammals. 

Plus, this year, the focus is on Reuse – a subject very close to our hearts, so for the rest of this week, we will be looking at great projects that can help you to reuse stuff, or are even made of waste themselves…

And there are plenty of ways to get involved with Zero Waste Week – why not try a few of these challenges:

  • only buy secondhand for the week (apart from food, obviously)
  • completely delete new plastic use for a day (harder than you think…)
  • purchase one thing that is made from a ‘waste’ material, for yourself, or for someone’s Christmas present.
  • don’t buy any bottled water, but use a refillable water bottle instead (make this a permanent habit if you can)
  • sign up to Freegle.

Plus, if you are looking for another way to reuse or recycle your stuff, you can also sign up to the first UK Garage Sale Trail later this month as a seller, or take a wander around and buy stuff you need that other people do not. It’s that simple.

(we are having a sale at Studio Loo too – loads of design journals, salvage, books and cake – see details here)

Reuse – it’s our only way forward.