This research aims to explore the possibilities of utilising a natural, abundant and sustainable material such as seaweed, through a non-linear and experimental exploration into materials and processes, the intention being to limit and reduce the negative impact that our current design practices have on the environment.
This relationship between myself, material and environment is a guiding factor within my design ideologies and process. Therefore, I wanted this research to express my belief that design should be a process where locally sourced materials and in situ manufacturing combine to benefit the local environment, society and economy.
By combining seaweed with recycled waste paper, I have created a biomaterial which is 100% sustainable and adds value to environments, rather than degrades it. The material formed from this combination is tough and durable with a texture similar to that of cork; tactile and possessing a natural warmth, with subtle smells that have hints of the sea remnant within. Differentiation in colour is achieved by altering the variety of seaweed used, and each type produced different desirable characteristics that I wanted to utilise.
The seaweed is harvested from the coast of Pembrokeshire, using the material and landscape to generate outcomes. Herein lies the beauty of this concept; there no longer needs to be friction between design and the environment. Instead, design can live holistically with the natural ecosystem, with products returned to the innate cycle of local environments from which it was produced.
Material Driven Design
This material experimentation began with my belief that design should reduce the negative impact we have on environments. I wanted to explore the possibilities of utilising a natural, abundant and sustainable material such as seaweed as a basis from which I can generate products.
Throughout this initial research I had many failures, where mould was growing a number of days after processing and material generation happened. Perseverance and adaptation of the process, led to these new bio-materials being created. From this research I developed a process that could apply the material to a final outcome, documented at the end of this portfolio.
As a designer I have always felt a responsibility and an obligation to design products which are sustainable and add value. The effects of our activities as designers and consumers are becoming more and more apparent. Design has become embedded into nature, for all the wrong reasons. We generate so much waste from the products we create and this waste increases every day.
The purpose of this research was to highlight the actual impact we have on environments. After spending a short amount of time on a local beach, I gathered enough plastic to re-purpose it into a functional object again. Creating a circular system in which the plastic adds a new value to somebody’s life, rather than left to harm environments.
Fundamentally the plastic we see on our coastline shouldn’t be there. Why are we using materials that go through intense manufacturing processes and take hundreds of years to break down in nature, for short life spans and single use products? As designers we need to focus on the long term impact we have on the environment, we can no longer continue creating products that have short life spans and no secondary purpose. In the future will the products we design and manufacture influence nature’s development positively? Or will it cause more environmental damage?
Continuing this exploration into materials and form, I wanted to apply this research to an outcome which served a function. Throughout this research I found patterns which induce sound amplification. I wanted to use this research to create an object which produces sound and shows the direct relationship between form and function. This research combined with the previous works explores a diverse range of natural forms and structures that can inform our development of products efficiently.
I have managed the process of experimentation and resolved this exploration into outcomes that reflects my ideologies on using nature as a basis for design. The beauty of nature is that it takes away everything that’s not needed, what you see is pure function and this purity has a sense of beauty that we should try and mimic. These Images document the final outcomes of a lengthy design process with quick development of form and structure through experimentation with materials and processes.
Winner of Austin-Smith:Lord design excellence award 2015.
Material and form experimentation plays a big role in my approach to design. Each project I set out to explore pushes materials to their limits, creating unexpected and diverse outcomes. The aim of this material experimentation was to investigate the potentials and limits of porcelain, which is often perceived as a fragile and unforgiving material to work with.
The objects created from this exploration go through stages of manipulation and transformation to create forms which reflect upon my research into natural structures found throughout nature. Particularly the Urodid Moth cocoon, which creates a 3D wire like cocoon around itself.
This research preceded the Porcelain speakers. Having the opportunity to experiment with porcelain allowed me to gain insight into what the material could actually do and what could be achieved through material transformation.
Exploring how a 2D singular plane can be manipulated into a 3D form was something I wanted to investigate. This was to find the minimal amount of material needed to make a structure, in order to reduce wastage. Influenced by intricate cocoons found throughout nature, I used wire mesh as a means of creating minimal simplistic forms. I found from this exploration, the shadows created from these forms add value to the object created, with the lines of physical material and silhouette overlapping, changing the perception of what the actual object looks like.
Cellular Form Finding
I wanted to investigate if structures found throughout nature which appear to be random can actually be replicated through 2D and 3D experimentation. The aim of this investigation was to explore parallels and relationships between minimal surfaces needed to create structure and the holistic attributes between each structural form created.
This was influenced by research into forms and structures found throughout nature, particularly how bone structures are formed. This research explores physical form finding and attempts to embody the initial 2D investigation that was carried out.
The physical experiments explored quick form generation, through simplistic processes that replicated my interpretation of bone structures. Cellular bodies (water filled balloons) were left to self-organise and reveal basic patterns. The patterns that were created from this organic and natural organisation were documented further by casting the negative space between each balloon, creating a solid form that mimicked the structure in which bones develop. The apparent randomness of the cellular bodies, ended up providing integral structures that was minimal but holistic, leading to a purified structure, similar to that of bone.
For quick form experimentation, I found the use of paper can prove to be very efficient. It allowed me to create a number of unpredictable yet structured forms in a very short amount of time. The aim of this process was to develop a number of holistic forms that still has the essence of the original research into natural forms.