For its second Material of the Year exhibition, London Design Fair is shining its spotlight on the most controversial material in contemporary making. Four design studios - Kodai Iwamoto, Weez & Merl, Charlotte Kidger and Dirk Vander Kooij - have been selected to create and present work from the vanguard of innovation in plastics, demonstrating new techniques, processes, technologies and material compositions that reduce or eliminate plastic's negative environmental impact.
These designers aren't simply breaking down and reforming existing plastics from chippings; they're venturing 'beyond the chipper' and conventional recycling measures to create and explore new materials.
Showing in Hall 13 of London Design Fair at the Old Truman Brewery, the Material of the Year exhibition is being designed by the artist and architectural designer Ioanna Lupascu of Ortie Studio.
By bringing the methods of glassblowing to the kind of cheap PVC pipes generally used in plumbing, Iwamoto produces a range of vessels, which can vary in form depending on the shape of the mood, the air pressure applied and the speed at which the pipe surface is heated. The result is a collection of beautiful hand-made objects that give new life to mass-produced plastics.
Weez & Merl
AKA Louise and Madelaine Thilley, Weez & Merl is a Brighton-based studio set up in 2015 to reduce the quantity of plastic going to litter or landfill. Specializing in Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE), commonly found in carrier bags and bubble wrap, the studio has developed a method of melting and reforming the plastic to create a durable, marble-effect surface material that can be formed into coasters, tabletops and more, using the techniques of woodworking.
Weez & Merl will present its first fully recycled LDPE table, alongside a stand-alone feature wall of translucent tessellating tiles, heat-fused together, and a lighting collection - all made from waste plastics sourced from businesses in Brighton & Hove.
Dirk Vander Kooij
Using a machine extruder of his own design, Kooij transforms polycarbonate objects such as CDs and chocolate moulds into ribbons of molten plastic that can then be layered and shaped to create uniquely textured products, reinventing plastic as something durable and precious. At London Design Fair, Vander Kooij will demonstrate the versatility of this process, with a collection of products including his Changing Vases - sculptural vessels that create different effects depending on the viewing angle; the Iced Bubbles and Oak shelving unique which contrasts the solidity of wood with an enclosing circle of glass-like bubbled plastic; his adjustable Fresnel pendant LED lights and their latest iteration, the Buitenhuis Chandelier.
Kidger is currently investigating the possibilities of polyurethane foam dust - a waste plastic from CNC fabrication processes - which can be cold-cast to create a versatile composite that can form the base material for 3D sculptural and functional objects. Having created a range of colorful pots and vessels from the composite, she is in the process of upscaling the technique to create a table to exhibit at London Design Fair.