Design Connections: Resourceful designers

What we learned in London from resourceful designers

Each year during London Design Festival (LDF) the British Council invites key design industry figures from around the world to join them for the Design Connections programme. The delegation takes a unique, curated tour of the festival, meeting leading UK designers, curators, design organisations as well as discovering new work and gaining new relationships. This year we were invited to participate. This is some of what we learned at Design Connections. 

“Challenge yourself with what you have.” Max Frommeld

Left: Max talking about his process. Right: One of Max’s frustratingly fun inventions that encourage play in adults.

As he gave us a detailed tour of the collection, Max talked of the differences between his process and outcomes depending on which of his two adopted homes he was currently working from. In New York, Max uses only basic tools and creates smaller, more sculptural forms through what he called a ‘subtractive’ process. In London, with access to a workshop and materials, Max is free to explore larger objects, created through a constructive process.

The two processes were distinctly different, but it was clear that Max didn’t see either as a compromise. He embraced the way in which he was forced to reverse engineer his own thinking and saw it as an opportunity to do something new with his work.

It’s worth remembering that whatever the resources at our disposal, we can be creative with them in one way or another.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

“We have plastic, this material that’s been made to last, so wouldn’t it be better to use it to make long lasting things?” James Shaw

Plastic Baroque- An icing like extrusion technique for plastic, developed by James M Shaw

James Shaw spoke to us at the Ready Made Go exhibit in the Ace Hotel where his collection was being put to use in the common areas. Speaking of its conception, he saw it as an irony that we were disposing of a material that was so useful and had such a long life. This inspired him to create what he calls ‘plastic baroque’.

James explored the idea of a basic recycling process by creating a homemade extruder and using it to make thick, icing like tubes of high density polyethylene (HDPE). This results in often unpredictable forms, which encourage us to see the material from an altogether new perspective.

The style worked perfectly with the setting in which we first encountered the objects, at the hotel’s cafe, used for holding glass trays that displayed cakes. The plastic bases had an uncanny resemblance to the icing that was on display.

“You can recycle human trash without compromising on design, performance or function.” Pentatonic

Pentatonic recycle a wide range of materials into fabrics, furniture and homeware

Pentatonic’s collaboration with Starbucks

We met Pentatonic’s founder Jamie Hall at Somerset House, where we first saw their immense recycling and manufacturing machine, the Trashpresso. Fitting on 3 truck trailers, it’s easily transportable and can process and pour waste plastic into integrated moulds. The ones we saw were producing tiles and coasters right in front of us.

If this wasn’t enough, Pentatonic also had a Pop up store in Shoreditch displaying their impressive range of furniture, accessories and glassware. The modular office furniture was of very high quality, while their collaboration with Starbucks included among other things a green fabric that was thick and rich in colour. One of our favourite objects were the glasses made out of broken phone screens. They utilise one of the highest quality glass types in the world, one that has become all too abundant in recent years.


Being resourceful inspires new design ideas and processes.” Will Yates-Johnson 

Will Yates Johnsoon’s mixture of colours, with waste added to the next batch

Will was exhibiting his Polyspolia collection as a commission for 77 Broadway Market. Polyspolia is a new way of reusing materials during manufacture, preventing any waste. The collection used coloured plaster to demonstrate the process of breaking up material and reusing all the waste for the next batch of objects.

Will had a video running showing him using a refrigerator sized machine that he had developed in order to process the broken fragments.

“Polyspolia is inspired by the geological formation of breccia – rock composed of disparate fragments that are fused together over millennia to form one unified whole in which each distinct element is still visible.”

“In the future, we won’t build furniture, we’ll grow it.” Sebastian Cox & Ninela Ivanov

The Mycelium + Timber collection, on display at Design Frontiers in Somerset House, was the culmination of extensive research carried out into fungal species and woods. They discovered that the Fomes Fomentarius species of fungus reacts with the English wood hazel and goat willow, allowing for the creation of strong, lightweight and compostable furniture designs.

The aim behind the exhibit was to give designers a starting point for using previously underutilised or unknown materials to develop new forms. We can’t wait to see what the future of grown design holds.

“Sustainable materials can be better than their unsustainable counterparts.” ALUSID

Surfaces by ALUSID, made out of recycled waste materials

Another participant in Ready Made Go at the Ace Hotel, Alusid make sustainable surfaces out of heat fused recycled glass and ceramics. The new material they have developed is called SilicaStone and is made out of 100% recycled materials.

SilicaStone can be used in a wide range of applications, including tiling and work surfaces, as well as some very characteristic outdoor furniture which was on display.

Dr Alasdair Bremner of Alusid explained that the materials have proven to be a more than suitable replacement for natural stones, which have a more limited colour palette, are less sustainable and cost more.

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