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)

rethinking the way we make things… Studio Swine

Yes. For those eagle eyed people out there – yes – the title of this post has been shamelessly ripped off from the subtitle of the marvellous ‘Cradle to Cradle’ manifesto by Braungart and McDonough. But it is something that we think about a great deal here in the studio. We are designers and makers of spaces, things and experiences – and we need to be fully aware of how we go about that. We continually rethink the way we make things. Because of this rather healthy obsession, we are really interested to see how other people are going about it too…

Now, we have featured the Sea Chair project by the great Studio Swine here on The Ecospot before and it remains firmly one of our very favourite projects of all time. It is elegant and beautiful and speaks very poetically about the waste that is affecting our oceans. But Studio Swine also created a project called Can City, which also deals with similar problems in a very similar way…

Can City by Studio Swine

It is an elegant project – perhaps not replicable in large scales, but with a bit of rethinking – why not? We have so much waste that not only creates problems of disposal, health and contamination, but also we need to realise that this is raw material and resources that are literally being wasted. This on a global scale is not sustainable at all, so this kind of rethinking and recovery are becoming absolutely imperative.

As designers, this is our responsibility to rethink the way we make things.

in praise of the refurbished…

We are very lucky at the studio to be located along a very long road in Hove that can only be described as ‘eclectic’. With Portslade Station at one end, and well into the reaches of Hove in another, Portland Road is about a mile or so of houses, schools, a park and a variety of retail spaces (plus our little studio, based in the old public toilet). But theses are not any old retail spaces – they are all mostly small, independent shops and cafes – all very different. But what struck us recently whilst walking to the Post Office (6 minutes from studio) was how many great examples of repair, refurbished, service based industry and reclaimed goods shops there were on Portland Road.

dyson city

There are two launderettes. A sewing and alteration workshop, two computer repair shops, a cobbler, an refurbished oven place. A scattering of secondhand stores, a hardware store and the Bargain Vacuum Centre, to name but a few. And it was in the last store – the Bargain Vacuum Centre that we found the latest addition to our studio – an almost new, refurbished Dyson City vacuum cleaner.

Complete with all the bits and bobs – and a 9 month guarantee, this little vacuum only set us back £50. ‘Any problems and whizz it back’, we were told. ‘Sure, we replied – we are just along the road’. And this is what is great about this type of ‘High Street’ – the mix of people, skills and services – all independent and backlit acrylic sign free – offering the personable experience that is not found elsewhere. This is what we love and this is why we are very proud to be part of Portland Road.

We need to save these types of road, because there is very little that we are not able to access within a 7 minute walk of the studio – and we are very aware that this is a precious rarity. Chains have their places, but these are the roads that can offer us repair, reuse or leasing – on our doorsteps…

Here’s to the refurbished.

Structual Skin makes full use of leather waste…

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.

2014 recap – October – first Eco Open House weekend…

2014 was a big year for us in many ways – including completing the building of our new studio in Brighton, which we have converted from an old public toilet into an industrially styled, eclectic space. And in October, we opened our studio to the first visitors on the Eco Open Houses tour weekend, whilst we were still finishing it up…

first published 21st October 2014…

We have been a little bit quiet over here on the ecospot over the last week or so. There are many reasons for this – for one, we were having a bit of a major design overhaul (and we hope you like the new look!) and as well as having a digital redesign we were working in the physical too – trying to complete our new studio in time for the first Brighton and Hove Eco Open Houses tour weekend on 18th / 19th October. Long days, long nights and lots of goings on. But, we are nearly there on both respects, and it was with delight that we opened our doors to the public for the very first time on Sunday morning…

studio loo front

We are not completely there, but very nearly and there was loads of stuff that we could say about the project to explain to people where we had started from, where we were and where we will be when we open again on Saturday 25th.

studio spider chandelier small

It was fantastic. We had put notes on a lot of the key areas of the rebuild and conversion from old public toilet to design studio and it was not long before our pen had nearly run out. From our Celotex insulation to locally sourced plants, recycled paint from REBORN paints to upcycled cabinets from local charity Emmaus, we spoke about a different side to the eco buildings in the city.

studio plants small

We do not have our solar panels on our roof yet, but our electricity is supplied by Ecotricity and we have used A+ appliances throughout and energy saving bulbs. Plants also feature heavily in the studio to not only create a nice environment but to act as air cleaners – removing the toxins which will be given out by our printer, computers and even as we breathe.

labels on the wall

And despite not being completely finished, we were delighted at the comments that people gave us when they visited. Some people had travelled specifically to see our studio, others were doing as many of the Eco Open Houses as possible and others were just walking along the road and happened upon us. All in all, we had just over 60 visitors, which we were most chuffed about.

reborn paints small

But, as soon as the last visitors had gone, the building materials were back in and we were back at the works, with the flooring, front door and tiling set to be finished off this week. I have the job of putting in the hanging planters that I was speaking to people about as well…

neon green flex. grey and copper

So – if you are about, pop by and say hello this weekend – we are at 201 Portland Road in Hove and will be open on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th between 10-1 and 2-5. And we can highly recommend the cafe along the road, Pelican on Portland for all things tasty, lovely and delicious.

(all photos by claire potter)

december wish list day 13 – conductive paint kit by bare conductive…

We are getting a little bit crafty for our december wish list today, with this fantastic conductive paint kit by award winning bare conductive. It is always great to get something to make each Christmas (if nothing else, to divert our attentions away from the mince pies), and we would be particularly happy if we received one of this sets to create.

So what is conductive paint? Simply put, it is paint that is conductive. You draw a line and the line will conduct electricity, which is like some sort of magic. And to coin a phrase, the possibilities are endless – from creative projects like the flashing card set above to technical applications. It is fantastic to teach children about how electricity and circuits work, and it has many applications in the maker sphere, where it can be teamed up with Raspberry Pi’s and the like.

And like all maker sphere products, there is a fantastic range of projects that people have created and uploaded to share. For us, it feels rather like Sugru, which is another firm studio favourite.

Plus, this magical substance is not expensive – at £15 for the three card kit, or around £7 for the electrical paint on its own, it is a nice stocking filler.

Electrical stockings that is…

(image via Bare Conductive)

SPOTTED – the Réanim furniture repair project by studio 5.5…

We often work with furniture that has seen better days. For us, these bits of half broken tables and chairs show not weakness, but a chance for opportunity and creativity. Plus, it is a bit of a salvage crusade. Saving a few pieces from landfill, or the bonfire creates a huge sense of satisfaction – as well as the piece itself having a story and a history. This is important to us as we intend to create spaces with depth and context. And we love to see how other designers work with this same context – such as the Réanim project by French studio 5.5…

55-studeio-reanim-project-8

Rescuing pieces from the street, skips and dumps of France, the studio became ‘doctors’ for the rescued pieces of furniture, creating a toolkit of repair elements in bright green, which references the colour of the French refuse collection trucks.

New acrylic seats are positioned over the holes – not replacing the seat, but adding to the piece so the ‘damage’ is still visible as part of the history whilst allowing the seat to be usable once more. For us, this is one of the most successful elements of the project. The back story of a piece is as important as the pieces future, and by erasing the history you are potentially removing part of the future context that gives the product depth of character.

Emotional durability in design is essential – to create pieces that can grow, adapt. change and flux with us as we grow, change and adapt ourselves is key to creating pieces that have longevity. But, to keep a product in just one state of ‘newness’ carries faults, as it is the culmination of history and sentimentality that ensures that we will treasure something. Like the teddy with the missing eye, we still love pieces even if they have been repaired. As long as the context for the repair and the history remains.

Repair is not a weakness. Repair shows love, attention, care and an emotional connection to not only the piece, but the wider issues with our throwaway society. And we love repair.

(photo via 5.5 design studio)

the joy of fix, with Sugru…

We love Sugru. We think it is a wonderous material that is flexible (excuse the pun) and can be used to fix a whole menagerie of items in our lives, ensuring that they stay out of landfill and firmly in daily use.

But, as well as being a fantastic material, we adore the fact that Sugru are such lovely people too. With a sense of humour that is often missing in business. Hey – we are all in business, but we should all have a sense of humour and have fun while we do it. It makes for better projects we think.

So, we had to have a bit of a chuckle when we opened our emails to find one from Sugru entitled ‘the Joy of Fix‘.

Based on the 1970’s sex manual, their new campaign shows just how great it can be to get a bit hands on with your fixing.

And we are spreading the love – here is their fantastic video…enjoy…

first eco open houses tour weekend a success…

We have been a little bit quiet over here on the ecospot over the last week or so. There are many reasons for this – for one, we were having a bit of a major design overhaul (and we hope you like the new look!) and as well as having a digital redesign we were working in the physical too – trying to complete our new studio in time for the first Brighton and Hove Eco Open Houses tour weekend on 18th / 19th October. Long days, long nights and lots of goings on. But, we are nearly there on both respects, and it was with delight that we opened our doors to the public for the very first time on Sunday morning…

studio loo front

We are not completely there, but very nearly and there was loads of stuff that we could say about the project to explain to people where we had started from, where we were and where we will be when we open again on Saturday 25th.

studio spider chandelier small

It was fantastic. We had put notes on a lot of the key areas of the rebuild and conversion from old public toilet to design studio and it was not long before our pen had nearly run out. From our Celotex insulation to locally sourced plants, recycled paint from REBORN paints to upcycled cabinets from local charity Emmaus, we spoke about a different side to the eco buildings in the city.

studio plants small

We do not have our solar panels on our roof yet, but our electricity is supplied by Ecotricity and we have used A+ appliances throughout and energy saving bulbs. Plants also feature heavily in the studio to not only create a nice environment but to act as air cleaners – removing the toxins which will be given out by our printer, computers and even as we breathe.

labels on the wall

And despite not being completely finished, we were delighted at the comments that people gave us when they visited. Some people had travelled specifically to see our studio, others were doing as many of the Eco Open Houses as possible and others were just walking along the road and happened upon us. All in all, we had just over 60 visitors, which we were most chuffed about.

reborn paints small

But, as soon as the last visitors had gone, the building materials were back in and we were back at the works, with the flooring, front door and tiling set to be finished off this week. I have the job of putting in the hanging planters that I was speaking to people about as well…

neon green flex. grey and copper

So – if you are about, pop by and say hello this weekend – we are at 201 Portland Road in Hove and will be open on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th between 10-1 and 2-5. And we can highly recommend the cafe along the road, Pelican on Portland for all things tasty, lovely and delicious.

(all photos by claire potter)

 

Monday musings – the power of fixing – again…

Today on Monday musings, (and tomorrow as we are splitting what would otherwise be a very long post) we have a little run down of the activities we took part in last week for the wonderful London Design Festival, which unsurprisingly all had a bit of a tilt towards sustainable design and fixing and the circular economy in general. With our Fixperts hat on, we did a whole range of fixes over the week, plus visited a couple of great exhibitions too…

Fixperts and Sugru fixing Party 4First up, on Wednesday evening, we were delighted to be invited to be part of the Sugru ‘Love Your Stuff’ party at Look Mum, No Hands in Hackney. It was great – a celebration of items that people had owned, looked after and loved (which were then drawn on by four fantastic illustrators) and a celebration of fixing.

Fixperts and Sugru fixing Party 5We were there with the purpose of fixing as many things as possible – on the spot with low cost, fast solutions that we could teach others. As with the last Fixperts fix station we ran, we had a great response with many people bringing items that needed a bit of attention, from bike lights to headphones, bowls to a unicorn. We fixed what we could on the spot, and for those things that needed extra care, we sent people happily on their way with a shopping list and instructions for how to fix something. It was great.

Fixperts and Sugru fixing Party 3Plus, we were sitting next to the great Restart Project, which help people fix all things electronic – teaching people how to do it themselves and not just doing it for them. We ended up building bits to help fix the insides of a laptop that had been brought along – nothing electronic, but a few bits of components and supports that had been broken and rendered useless. We sat and thought about it, and with a bit of lateral thinking, helped the guy fix his laptop. This was a common discussion throughout the week – how design is not just there to solve problems, but also to empower people to be able to add to, fix and hack their own products – gaining confidence and ownership of their belongings…

Fixperts and Sugru fixing Party 2

(tomorrow on Monday Musings part 2 we will be looking at the rest of our London Design Festival activities…)

photos by claire potter)

SPOTTED – the London Design Festival Design Districts…

We are a bit late posting today, mostly due to the fact that we are in the thick of building our new studio (more of that next week), and last night we were up with our pals at Sugru, with our Fixperts hat on, fixing things alongside the Restart Project at Sugru’s Love Your Stuff Party. We fixed loads of things for people on the spot, but again – more of that next week… But as we travelled to and from the day at the London Design Festival, it became very apparent just how huge the event has grown. Excellent for variety and interest, but a real dilemma when it comes to planning. Even we skipped to the V&A, then up to Islington, then across to Hackney. But, there is one way to start to organise your trip – look at the Design Districts…

Now, each of these Design Districts has a very distinct feel, character and style, so if there is a particular type of design you are craving, it could be best place to start. Within each of these districts is a curated collection of showrooms, events, talks, workshops, exhibitions and displays, fitting to the area.

Last year we were part of the Brompton Design District (at the Brompton Pitch, with Fixperts) which had a lovely hands on, demonstration feel, with the cultural London Design Festival of the V&A at its heart. This year, there are diverse events such as Global Design Forum and a ‘meet the makers’ event with Brompton Bikes – where you are also able to customise your own bike, see it made and ride it home.

So, if you are a bit stuck as to where to start, choose a district in the London Design Festival, pick up a guide (loads available throughout, but we got ours at the V&A), and get going. Plan in cake too – design is exhausting.

(image via London Design Festival)

SPOTTED – upholstering and the circular economy with Ella Doran…

Today on SPOTTED we have a great event that is running as a live demonstration and exhibition at the V&A from Ella Doran Design and partners, linking traditional interior design with the circular economy. How, do you say?

Well, the exhibition and event takes chairs that have seen a more glorious previous life and gives them an injection of new life – taking them apart, refurbishing them and reupholstering them. Now, this is nothing too unusual, you say. Indeed, it is not and these types of activities have been the reserve of the interior designer since the beginning of time, but really, this is an excellent example of circular economy based design.

One of the partners in the event, the Great Recovery project, was set up by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce to promote this kind of action – ensuring that valuable materials are not locked up in landfill. It aims to shift the linear thinking system to a circular system instead – the cradle to cradle model – and quite rightly states that design thinking is pivotal to this transition.

The Great Recovery have undergone huge amounts of research in the area and are now entering the second phase of their project, which involves a maker space in London. The other partner to the event, Galapogos Design specialises in sourcing vintage furniture, bringing it back to life for a modern audience.

We are huge believers in this type of design thinking, which is also integral to how we work within the studio – call it eco design, green design, circular design – the concept of the circular economy within design is certainly the way forward, as designing and consuming in the linear fashion we have at present – buy / use / dispose – is not sustainable in any sense.

So – pop along to the Ella Doran and Great Recovery Project event at the V&A Museum to find out more about circular design. Plus, if you go today, you will be able to nip into the talk between 4 and 5.45. See the main London Design Festival events listing for more details…

(image via London Design Festival)

Monday Musings – what we are doing at the London Design Festival…

Today on Monday Musings we have a couple of little announcements about what we are up to for the London Design Festival – which properly gets underway today. A celebration of all things design, the capital buzzes every September with activities, exhibitions, displays, workshops and talks and this year we are very pleased to be part of two events this week…

First up, this Wednesday evening from 7pm, we will be with the fantastic guys at Sugru for their Love Your Stuff party at ‘Look Mum No Hands’ cycling workshop in Hackney. This is a celebration of having stuff for a long time, so if you also have something that you have loved, fixed and repaired to keep it going, you are encouraged to bring it along and get it illustrated to mark its birthday. We will be running one of the Fixing Stations, and will be there all night offering on the spot fixes for things that may be a little bit broken but still useable, encouraging the whole fixing element of design. We ran a similar workshop last year at the Brompton Pitch outside the V & A and over the course of the day, fixed everything from tote bags to bracelets and key rings. So – come and say hello and bring something that we can fix. We will try our best! Here is a little video about the whole Love Your Stuff concept from Sugru…

Next up, we will be with the wonderful Fixperts, running a workshop at the Saturday Market Project on Saturday 20th September between 2-5, which is part of the Shoreditch Design Triangle and on the ICON Design Trail 2014. We will be showing a few images of the Fixperts fixes we have completed at the studio and with the Product Design students at the University of Sussex, plus running a making workshop for one of the Fixes we designed. So – suffer from nasty, tangled headphone cables and broken wires in your bag? Not any more – book on the free session to build and customise your very own headphone holder from inexpensive, everyday household materials. And then take it away with you…and make them for your friends.

The Saturday Market Project at London Design Festival

This session will be an exercise on how problems of all magnitudes can be solved with a little sideways thinking and a quick, hands-on approach. Design comes in many forms but ultimately, fixing a problem is the crux of all design. If we are able to link back into this hands on, fixing mentality rather than worrying that we shouldn’t or couldn’t fix something then we start to gain a little bit of control over our possessions – and essentially contribute to their life cycles. This drive for repair has already started to feed back to manufacturers who are taking note – and beginning to realise that product value comes not only from the item we buy, but it’s whole life…

So – two events for us at the London Design Festival – both celebrations of the power of fixing in design. Come and say hello…

SPOTTED – clothes pegs light by Crea-re Studio…

With the general practice of upcyling, you get rather used to seeing one thing reinvented as the next. This is not to say that the resulting surprise is not sometimes unexpected, or indeed, delightful, but if you work (and obsess) within the realms of upcycling and recycling, hearing that a light has been designed using clothes pegs is, well, not that weird. And the clothes peg light by Crea-re Studio is actually rather delightful.

Lamps Made From Clothespins by Crea re Studio in home furnishings  Category

Built around a metal frame, the clothes pegs are clipped in a variety of configurations to give all manner of beautiful sculptural forms with no other connections required. When building with recycled or upcycled materials it is always key to understand the properties of what you already have – and make the most of it – before you start designing. What do clothes pegs do? They clip of course.

With the configuration above, the clothes peg light has a distinct tree like quality (and no, we are not talking about the wood…), casting lovely soft shadows when turned on.

We could even see this clothes peg light as a garden piece, suspended under a porchway with a solar powered light inside acting as a holder for your pegs on non-washing days. Simple and rustic. And very utilitarian – need a peg for your clothes line? Harvest them off your light…

Available now on the Crea-re Studio’s Etsy store for £80.65 plus shipping.

(images via the Crea-re Studio’s Etsy)

Monday musings – The Men Who Made Us Spend…

We work as designers. We create new stuff for the world for all sorts of clients with all sorts of budgets in all sorts of styles. However, we work firmly within the ‘green design / eco design / sustainable design’ sphere, which is just where we think everyone should be designing from, regardless of who / what  /where you design. And we get rather incensed by the larger corporations who have the biggest clout and yet, sometimes the lowest regards for responsibility. The bigger you are the harder it can be to create a fully responsible design chain, but it is not impossible.   So it was also rather timely that we noticed the new series on BBC 2, which started last week – ‘The Men Who Made Us Spend’.

the men who made us spend

From the outset, this was – by far – one of the most interesting and engaging programmes to have been produced for a long while that tackled the complicated issues of consumer spending and the psychology of why we want the newest, better thing.

These are issues that designers of all spheres work with on a daily basis, and we all know that not everyone within our industries are working within the sustainability bubbles that we inhabit, but it made compelling watching. The decisions made by industries to include planned obsolescence within their products to promote further purchases, the tricks included in products to keep us – the owners – from getting inside and repairing them ourselves. Even the fact that battery packs on some products are deliberately sealed making a perfectly good product useless (unless you pay a large replacement fee) in as little as 18 months.

Even with product reclamation and material recycling increasing worldwide, the actual psychological and design decisions that are imposed on us are worrying and need changing. An interesting comparison was made with the IKEA ‘chuck out your chintz’ campaign and the fact that they are championing sustainability. It was wonderful watching and we highly recommend looking it up on the BBC iPlayer.

But really, this does show the two faces of products and repair – on one hand we have manufacturers creating products that are deliberately ‘disposable’ and ‘fast fashion’ we have the ground roots backlash of individuals and independent companies such as Sugru, Fixers cafes and designers who are not accepting that this is the way we should be creating. This is the camp that we firmly sit within and I am proud to say that I also sit on the British Standard Committee of  BS8887  – MADE, which relates to Design for Manufacture, Assembly, Disassembly and End of use processing, which sets out guidelines for processes for a more sustainable future…

Which is where we should all be heading.

(image via BBC 2)