London Design Festival 2016 – our top sustainable event tips…

It is that time of year again, and starting on 17th September, the London Design Festival is pretty much here. And each year it gets bigger, so we have looked through the line-up so far and picked out our top 5 sustainable visit tips for the festival…

  • Soak, Steam, Dream – Reinventing Bathing Culture with Roca:

A free photography exhibition at the Roca main gallery, Soak, Steam, Dream shows a series of architect designed bath houses from around the world which deal with different issues relating to water use and the rituals of bathing. It was this particular image above by Raumlabor in Gothenburg that caught our attention – the use of corrugated cladding and reused material was something very interesting to the norm… click here for full details.

  • The Circular Building – The Building Centre:

It is a very sad fact that the construction industry produces three times more waste than UK households, half of which is not recycled. Keeping materials at their highest value for longer changes this and is the main thinking behind circular economy processes – a way we should all be designing for the future. The Circular Building by Arup, The Built Environment Trust, Frener & Reifer and BAM pushes circular economy thinking at one of the largest scales – a full size building… click here for more details.

  • ‘Waste Not Want It’ Bloomburg Launches 5th Edition:

The WNWI initiative sees some of Europe’s most dynamic designers approach upcycling in innovative ways. Commissioned by Bloomberg and curated by Arts Co, 8 new furniture installations, made almost entirely out of Bloomberg’s own waste, are displayed throughout the building. This will be a really interesting exhibition – really bringing home not only what can be made from ‘waste’ (and how desirable it can be), but how much is thrown away… click here for more details. 

  • Ecotopia – A Sustainable Vision for a Better Future:

Ecotopia is a multi-sensory installation exploring the appeal of Utopian thinking in envisaging a sustainable future for our planet and society. It showcases the ideas of leading scientists, academics, designers and architects who are currently looking at climate change and sustainable solutions. A mixture of conceptual thinking, physical and virtual installations, Ecotopia could just be a window into our future… click here for more details. 

  • Plasticity Forum:

As we hurtle into the Anthropocene, plastic is that wonderous material that has helped to shape the new age. But what does the future hold for plastic? How can we harness the usefulness of a material that can take centuries to degrade and remove it from the single use association it currently has? The Plasticity Forum brings together a great panel of experts to discuss this and far more… click here for more details.

So – our first top five of sustainable events at the London Design Festival 2016. No doubt there will be more added to the list in coming weeks, and we will bring you our top picks as they are revealed…

(images via London Design Festival)

The Guardian features ocean based companies tackling marine litter…

A few years ago, I was training for the Brighton Marathon and spent a good chunk of time clocking up the miles along the seafront promenade. What struck me (through the utter boredom) was how many people were running too. Had they always been there? Were they training for an event too? Or had I just never noticed them until now? Everywhere I looked, there were people running. And so it is with everything marine litter. Each day, we find more and more articles, products, initiatives to log in our marine litter files. Is it that we just are more tuned in, or are there more people actually talking (and doing something) about it? Is this the start of the ‘sea change’ on marine litter?

Big Spring Beach Clean 3

Who can say. But we did notice that The Guardian published a rather interesting round up of ‘surf related product innovations’ not in their sport and lifestyle pages, but in their circular economy section, which we think is rather telling.

For many, business and product innovation is something that happens in the city, or tucked away in workshops and design studios across the globe. Talk to someone about the surf industry and not everyone will make the connection with forward thinking – sustainable – product creation.

However, it has been our experience that those who are the closest to the problem have the most to gain from creating positive change, and of course, they understand the issue completely. So a whole range of sustainable business and product innovations related to marine litter from surf industries should fit like a non-neoprene glove.

So – here is the run down from The Guardian’s article, published 02 August 2016…

Otter Surfboards – created from wood rather than synthetics, with timber from local, responsible forests and with all ‘waste’ used somewhere else in the system, these boards are the pinnacle of hand made…

surfers stood on beach with wooden surfboards


Rareform – billboard surf bags – in the same vein as our beloved Frietag truck tarp bags, these surf bags utilise everything the advertising vinyls are good at. Hardwearing, waterproof and minimising waste.

Patagonia and Yulex – natural rubber rather than synthetic neoprene wetsuits made from highly managed, sustainable forests – launched this week. (NB – Natural rubber has been a bit of a poster material in the last few years, but as demand has gone up, ethical practices have been swamped by those seeking to make a wad of cash from rubber plantations created from cleared natural forests) Great to see Patagonia taking the lead – again.

More Product Views

Enjoy Handplanes– made from mushrooms. Yes, really. And expect to see lots more products hit our shelves as we are only just starting to realise the potential of this material…

Stacks Image 1505

FiveOceans – a surfboard fin made from recovered marine waste – working to save the five oceans.

ecoFin - Thruster Set for FCS Plugs

RubyMoon and Finisterre – swimwear made from Econyl – a yarn made completely from recovered waste nylon, such as fishing nets.


So when you think about it, creating items from waste marine litter makes perfect sense, and who would be your earliest adopters? Those who work, live and play in the setting. They understand the issues and want to do something about it. It’s a great place to start.

(images via associated links)

Remarkable Magazine – does exactly what its says on the tin…

We love print. Ok – perhaps it is not the most eco friendly of reading choices, but there is something quite special about the whole experience that cannot be replicated online. The feel, the smell, the touch. And so, we often frequent the wonderful store Magazine Brighton, which stocks a dizzying array of short run, independent and overseas publications – always on the look out for something gorgeous. Our latest find is very special indeed – Remarkable Magazine – which has the tagline ‘Live better. Harm less.’ We were sold.


So what is Remarkable?
‘Remarkable is a digital gallery, magazine and marketplace showcasing remarkable humans doing and making remarkable things to help people live better and harm less.
We understand that our global population grows while resources shrink, but we believe the solution lies in making simple, graceful and thoughtful choices. Our mission is to inform when you ask why, inspire when you ask how and be there when you’re ready to make a remarkable change.’

And it does exactly what it says on the tin. It is a remarkable read, with inspirational features, beautiful infographics, wonderful calls to action and a very nice design. From fast fashion to Being an Unfucker (more of that in another post…), to smart cities and moving yourself more.

It is an eco magazine for the design conscious.

This may seem a rather odd statement, but in actual fact, despite the fantastic contemporary, sustainable and circular economy designs that are happening all over the globe, by many different types of designers for all sorts of reasons, quite often sustainable designs / products are segmented into a special ‘green’ edition of a design publication, or collected into an ‘eco page’.

Remarkable showcases the range and variety of design led sustainability throughout – without being preachy.

We loved it.

But, with only two issues per year, we are going to have to wait a little more time till we can get out next print fix. In the meantime, we will be keeping a close eye on their online features over here, so ask yourself – do you want to be Remarkable too?

REMARKΔBLE from Remarkable on Vimeo.

(images via Remarkable)

***EVENT*** Big Spring Beach Clean for Surfers Against Sewage…

Each Spring and Autumn, Surfers Against Sewage mobilise thousands of volunteers across the whole of the UK to undertake beach cleans – and this year, we were delighted to be the Lead Volunteers for Hove, organising the Big Spring Beach Clean last weekend. We care very deeply about our environments – global and local – and coupled with our continuing studio research into marine litter and plastics, this was something we just had to do. Big Spring Beach Clean 7Sunday morning dawned bright blue, clear and sunny, which, when you are running volunteer events, is an incredibly welcome sight indeed. With such important causes, you will always get people who will turn up, but the sun certainly helps. By 10am, we were set up on the Promenade behind the Kind Alfred Leisure Centre, with boxes of marine litter we had previously recovered, sets of gloves, a box of homemade brownies and the largest chunk of rope I have ever seen, that we hauled off the beach minutes before. And people arrived – single people, couples, sets of friends, families – even a few passers by who were recruited into the cause too. A quick briefing from Claire about marine litter and it’s global impact, a safety briefing and a tide briefing and people scattered East and West along the beaches of Hove. Big Spring Beach Clean 5

About an hour later, the first of the volunteers popped back, with the first bag of marine litter – a mass of coloured plastic, bits of metal and fishing gear clearly visible through the transparent bag. We chose to use these plastic bags for this very reason – we wanted passers by to SEE what the volunteers were picking up so we could discuss WHY this was an issue and just how big the issue was. Many people stopped to take photos of the bags as they piled up over the two hours of the clean.Big Spring Beach Clean 3

By the ‘official’ end of our Big Spring Beach Clean, our fantastic volunteers had recovered 25 bags of marine litter from the beaches of Hove, weighing an estimated 40-45kg. This was everything from plastic bags, bottles and packaging to fishing gear, bits of single use bbq’s andrandom items. We had a black lacy dress, a pair of broken sunglasses, a baseball cap, knitted pants and one flipflop. Nearly a complete outfit, if a bit random – even for Brighton standards. Big Spring Beach Clean 1

One volunteer decided to just concentrate on palm oil, which we have had washed up in huge quantities recently in Brighton and Hove. These chunks of white fat pose a serious health risk to children and dogs, who can become fatally poisoned if they consume them. Many of the people we spoke to on the prom didn’t know what palm oil was, so this was another great educational opportunity.Big Spring Beach Clean 6By midday, with the wind blowing and the tide coming in, all our volunteers were safely back at our temporary HQ and were thanked with more homemade brownies and one of our Brighton architecture A6 recycled paper notebooks each. Everyone looked rosy from the wind and delighted at our collective efforts. Big Spring Beach Clean 2

A great day. Thank you to everyone who came and cleaned, for those who stopped to talk to us about the marine litter issue and of course, Surfers Against Sewage for getting us all out there for the Big Spring Beach Clean. Watch this space as we use some of the material we recovered in new designs which will feature at our first ever Clerkenwell Design Week exhibition at the end of May…

(images by claire potter)

The Untangled Project for the World Cetacean Alliance… pt 3

Things are coming together for our Untangled Project – the Ghost Gear Chandelier which we are creating for the World Cetacean Alliance – which will be exhibited alongside the work of other artists and designers very soon. So – how have we been progressing? We have been sorting and washing our netting…World Cetacean Alliance ghost gear washing 2World Cetacean Alliance ghost gear washing 3 World Cetacean Alliance ghost gear washing

World Cetacean Alliance ghost gear washing 4

And with our ghost gear netting colour sorted, and through four water changes to get rid of the grit and smell, we turned our attention to the hardwear element of our Ghost Gear Chandelier…

We are massive fans of Factorylux – and use their stuff in many of our projects (including our own Studio Loo) as the gorgeous coloured fabric cable, fixtures and fittings they produce are exceptional quality, and it was not long until we had decided on a bright blue lighting flex and antique brass lamp holders. The bulb – one of Factorylux’s stunning eco filament bulbs will be revealed soon as we start to build our Ghost Gear Chandelier.

claire potter design World Cetacean Alliance ghost gear lighting hardwear

Watch this space!

(images by claire potter)

*** REVIEW *** Memobottle – the paper sized reusable water bottle…

Plastic has become rather an obsession to us in the studio, especially single use plastic bottles that are consigned to the bin mere minutes after they have been used. Way back in August last year we reported on the Project Ocean exhibition and initiative in Selfridges, London, where single use water bottles were removed from sale and replaced with good, strong reusable water bottles instead. Given the fact that 5,000 single use plastic bottles enter the waste stream every 15 seconds in London alone, this small action means more than it may appear. Reusable water bottles are the way forward.

memobottle 2

And this is why, back in April 2015 we featured the Australian designed Memobottle – possibly the world’s first ‘flat’ water bottle that had received funding on Kickstarter and was encouraging people to commit to refilling rather than buying more plastic and discarding it.

Of course, there are many water bottles available on the market, in all shapes and sizes, but what really pushed our buttons with the Memobottle was that it is sized in the same way as paper (A6 / A5) and is FLAT, so it fits in a laptop bag or satchel. This simple change is ridiculously useful.

memobottle 4

So we were delighted when the lovely people at Memobottle dropped us a line to say hi – and send us an A6 bottle to use…


Wrapped in lovely printed brown card (so the card can go straight into the recycling), the Memobottle guys have thought about far more than the average water bottle manufacturer, and much more than the shape change. The brown card packaging guides you through the importance of reuse – along with a thank you, and a gorgeous internal booklet takes you deeper into the issues. memobottle booklet

The Memobottle itself, made from crystal clear BPA free plastic comes with two caps, white and black, so you can tailor it to your preferences (or have a spare for when one goes walkies) – again, packaged with thought and care.

memobottle 1

We have taken out our A6 bottle quite a few times (as it sits nicely in a satchel) and as their story is so engaging and well communicated, we have been able to re-tell the Memobottle story to others. This is how it should be – with great brands doing great stuff, with great stories told well.

Well done Memobottle. 

*** want your own memobottle? check out their store locator here ***

(images by claire potter)

welcome to 2016 – and the Local, Handmade and Secondhand consumer challenge…

Welcome to 2016. After a couple of weeks of recapping the best posts from 2015, and enjoying the wonderfulness of the festive season we have come back to the studio full of beans and observations and fired up for a new year. We will reveal some of these observations (which will likely turn into projects) in the coming weeks, but today we are sharing our first – the LHS challenge, or the Local, Handmade and Secondhand consumer challenge.

local handmade secondhand challenge jan 16

So what sparked this? Well, as committed hunters of all things wonderful and secondhand, our family came up with a set of rules for Christmas. We could only spend £10 (ish) per person – and we had to buy things for each other that were locally made, were handmade (by the giver of the gift) or were secondhand. Despite some grumbles from the non-charity shop shoppers in the clan, the LHS challenge was set. And it went down marvellously.

ethical consumer 6

From homebrewed drinks to handcrafted chocolates, secondhand woolly jumpers that would have cost a small fortune new, beautifully worn leather bags and even a complete 1950’s picnic basket, we did really well. And what was interesting is that each gift was a perfect fit with the person. Personality came out in the creation of the present and each one was thoughtfully selected instead of hurriedly bought.

ethical consumer 5

For those not used to consuming in this way, the charity shops of the nation were a revelation. New stuff does not always mean great stuff in the same way that secondhand stuff means second rate stuff. We swapped stories of how stuff was found, where, the conversations we had in the shops with the volunteers, their responses to our challenge – and the thrill we got from finding that *perfect* thing.

ethical consumer 7

Many of the family vowed to shop more in charity shops this year…

And so – we are setting up the LHS (Locally made, Handmade, Secondhand) consumer challenge to ourselves this year – buying as much as we can locally, or stuff that is handmade by real people (including us), or stuff that is secondhand and with a story to tell. A different type of consuming. Consuming but caring too.

So – want to join us on our challenge? Tweet us your picks to @clairepotter and hashtag it #LHSconsumer and let’s see what we can find! Let’s challenge the way we buy stuff in the next year – and be proud of our makes, repairs and secondhand stuff.

(all pictures of stuff we have bought previously in our unofficial LHS consuming!)

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.

2015 recap – January – going green…

So, now the studio is closed for a seasonal break, we are into our 2015 recap, where we look over the past years posts and pick out the most popular from each month. We start with January – where we were thinking forward to the colour trends of 2015…

(first published 15th January 2015)

Ok – we are DONE with 2014 and are now looking towards 2015, so for the rest of the month, we will be looking at our predictions for what we think will feature heavily in the coming 12 months. This will be a mixture of design predictions, fashion predictions and behaviour predictions – all based on what we have noticed developing in our studio work and the work of those we admire.

So, to start off, we have our first prediction of 2015 – green.

Pantone may have declared 2015 the year of ‘Marsala’ (Pantone 18-1438) – which, according to Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, enriches our mind, body and soul, exuding confidence and stability. Marsala is a subtly seductive shade, one that draws us in to its embracing warmth, but we are not that sure.

We for the first of our 2015 trend predictions, we think that 2015 will be the year of green – as do Farrow and Ball, who have put together the image above. With an increased interest in internal planting, and the incorporation of nature into our homes, offices and retail spaces, we think that green shades will serve well to support this ‘naturalisation’ of our interiors. We think that this will link into other styles that will develop in 2015, such as a softer industrial, and productive spaces, which we will speak about in future posts… This also ties into very important political meetings for the future of our environment, such as the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris where a binding, global deal on carbon emissions will be critical.

So we think green is coming our way in 2015…

Green Gift Guide – day three – stuff you can wear…

It’s day three of our Green Gift Guide. We’ve featured a pop-up event, lovely stuff that is printed or made of paper and today we are looking at stuff you can wear. And stuff you would really want to wear too…

1 – Brisk Black vegan trainers – these are pretty lovely. With a nice graphic styling, this organic cotton and microfibre shoe is a great smart casual option for the office. The natural latex and coconut fibre husk mattresses actually mould to your feet too, ensuring an insane level of comfort. Yes please. £95 – from Nigels Eco Store

Brisk Black / White eco shoes

2 – a West End Belt from Elvis and Kresse – we are HUGE fans of Elvis and Kresse, who create quite stunning pieces with the most incredible stories. Each piece, from bags to wallets to belts, like the one below have been created from decommissioned London Fire Brigade Fire Hoses. So after saving lives, these incredible hoses are given another life themselves. Plus, up to 50% of profits are redirected into fire charities. Amazing. Get one. from £41

Cameron Diaz wears the Elvis & Kresse West End belt in a shoot for American Vogue

3 – Zig Zag Eco armband by Flavia Amadeu – we do like our statement jewellery, and this is quite a statement – a single piece of natural Amazonian rubber which creates a 3D shape around your arm. Wear it in different combinations, roll it down, pair up with any of the 5 different colours… we would go black and green. £30 each

Zig Zag Eco Armband

4 – a velociraptor necklace from Designosaur – we were delighted to have Karli and Jaques, a.k.a. Designosaur with us at the studio for the Christmas Artists Open Houses. With their fun designs available in masses of forms, each piece is locally made and designed here in Brighton. We have a weakness for their dinosaurs, and their cherry wood velociraptor is on our Christmas list for sure… get in quick though – mail orders close this Friday 18th! £32.81 plus shipping 

Velociraptor Skeleton Dinosaur Necklace. Laser Cut Wood Dinosaur Raptor Necklace. Bones Jewellery. Statement Necklace. Jurassic Park. Bone.

5 – A Beach guardian T-shirt from Surfers Against Sewage – not only will you be supporting a great charity, you will be wearing something made from rubbish. Recycled plastic and cotton shreds to be precise. And it’s currently on sale at a bargain £10. 

6 – RAW for the Oceans recycled ocean plastic jeans – yep. You read that right. Jeans made from ocean plastic. As many of you are aware, we have been doing a vast amount of research of late into marine litter and the increasing issues we have with plastic debris, and we were pleased to see a rather big hitter getting in on the issues too. A link up between G-Star RAW and Pharrell Williams, this range of clothing uses recovered plastic which is melted, chipped and spun into a fibre for reweaving. We are big fans of the Octopus mascot too… (£140 boyfriend jean shown)

RAW jeans

7 – Octo Kids Black T-shirt by Woody – Another brilliant local Brighton designer (and one of the organisers of the Brighton Pecha Kucha no less), this kids t-shirt by Woody is not only really cute, it is made from 100% organic cotton by fairtrade manufacturers in India using wind and solar power, before being printed in the UK. Wow. That ticks all the boxes! ages 3/4 and 5/6 – £15

Octo tee Woody

So we reckon that is a complete outfit done? Not too bad at all – and all great pieces with great stories…

(images via associated brands)

Our Christmas Artists’ Open House starts tomorrow!

It does not seem that long ago that we were setting up the studio ready for our first ever Artists’ Open House in May, and yet, here we are at the end of the year with Christmas Artists Open Houses starting at Studio Loo tomorrow!


We have a wonderful selection of artists and designers joining us this year, with an awesome selection of prints, jewellery, homewares, ceramics, lightboxes and much more. For a full run down of those joining us this November and December, take a look at our special preview page here – and keep your eyes open for our featured interviews with each of our guest artists and designers coming up over the next two weeks. apple prints

Plus, we will have some fantastic cakes, cupcakes and seasonal iced cookies on offer too from the fantastic and delicious Simple Pleasures Cupcakery.

simple pleasures cupcakery

We can’t wait. We probably won’t crack open the Bing and Nat CD just yet, but it certainly is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And by shopping at an Artists’ Open House, you can be assured of a handmade, locally crafted one too.

(images by claire potter)

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)

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)