I love all this new social media stuff, I keep stumbling across people and things that I probably never would have on an ordinary day, pre-social-internet-mingling, trolling through reams of web pdfs and word searches (urrrm what did I do exactly before twitter and the like ?)...... well you get the idea......
So it was with all this tweet and re-tweet stuff I came across Sarah Turner – literally in my backyard so to speak, she popped up in a competition she was entering under the Creative Nottingham Banner site for new designers.
One of Sarah's designs : Jasmine
What really intrigued me though were the images of Sarah’s work. On closer inspection I found out that her very sculptural and soft and clean line designs were in fact made from (I think) the most profuse and unacceptable side of the detritus of our daily lives; that of plastic packaging – or bottles to be precise. The stuff, that once produced takes aeon's to disintegrate and clogs and pollutes so many spaces. So much so it almost seems the norm for our landscapes to be this way (why is it I see so many people chuck stuff on the ground, out of cars, into rivers etc?). I do remember a purge by the council decades ago to *Keep Britain Tidy* - so much for *national pride* not that that should have anything to do with anything but even on that level there seems to be an apathy or disconnect with the result.
Still it takes big business and governments to influence by example sometimes and – well – times are tough, inconsequential things like excess packaging and what to do with it are quite frankly off the radar in terms of priority it seems.
Nothing really new there, if only for the fact that people who are involved or interested in what actually happens to waste and how it affects our environment and.... errrrr.... us !?! are not missing out on many great example-setters on that score.
Not sure how the funding of small start–ups are faring now either, especially with the direction of impending cuts but I can hazard a guess. I keep thinking about the Film Council closure and the precedent for an industry that is actually making a profit £ for £, well £5 back for every £1 of funding, if that isn’t a good enough bet what is?. I know it’s not as simple as that and I have already delved into this in the first of these posts with Russell Noon who’s an independent film maker.
But the fact remains (aside from funding and we all know NHS and the like are far more crucial) that things are bound to be sidelined somewhat.
So even more reason to un-sideline!!
I asked Sarah how she first got the bug;
“I have always designed and made things since I can remember. So when it came to choosing a degree course at university it was clear to me that I should study design. After I graduated I really wanted to continue designing and making my own work so I set up my own business selling handmade products from everyday waste materials. I now have a website selling my products with sales enquiries from around the world.”
Part of the colourful Oasis range
And I'm sure Sarah would agree, It isn’t easy to start any pioneering design process without the well trodden dogma and the trial and tribulations of many before: The burgeoning ethical fashion industry coming out of Central St Martin’s and other UK Colleges will testify to that; five years ago if you wanted to design with certifiable organic and fair trade cotton – I believe - good luck!!!! was the general mantra. A tricky process that was convoluted and almost unmanageable from start to finish – all it took was someone to metaphorically sneeze un-organically over the product - and when detected by the certification process (and they would) it would be considered a void venture. Things are now, thanks to encouragement and more awareness within industry and education not so unattainable. And if you can’t make the 100% grade, recognition is given to the effort made rather than (as with the food industry) finding ways of saying what it actually isn’t.
Sarah believes that creating ethically sound products is a key motivator. “ I definitely am concerned about the environment and it is the main inspiration for my work. The amount of rubbish that goes to landfill site is one of the most worrying things. Here in the UK I think we are a bit behind some other countries with recycling but we have got a lot better in the past few years."
"I also find it a bit of a personal challenge, I think anyone could make something from new materials but it’s harder to make something from waste materials. I love to make something from rubbish and people can’t tell it’s made from waste materials. The novelty never wears out seeing peoples shock when they are told of the product’s origins.”
Lily table lamp
Although she went on to stress “It’s actually quite a difficult material to work with, you have to have a steady hand to cut the bottles up precisely and I have honed the skill over time. You also need a lot of patience as some of the lights take a long time to make.”
Cola 30 (30 cola bottles used in the making)
Sarah has though by using a product already deemed to an extended life of rubbish after its short shelf life, by turning it into something else that is really usable, useful and beautiful, taken the process one stage further than the recycle bin. Why though are we are still sadly lacking in the commitment compared to many other EU countries?. Sarah’s creations only serve to highlight even more, the possibilities of re-creating rather than *it* being some kind of alien technical recycling process which most of us probably imagine as a factory somewhere magically re-cycling into the great blue beyond. Reinforcing the idea of why can’t someone else pick all the bits out of the rubbish (thereby saving us from having to pick and un-mix in our busy and fast-food oriented lives). I know I’m being a bit sweeping here, and I'm probably one of the first who needs this fixing in my brain, but really unless encouraged, I think the message gets lost. Wasteful packaging and our denial of joining up the dots ie; someone else’s *job* or *responsibility* - is a mindset long past its wake-up call. And what better way than to actually show positively what can be done with that coca cola bottle that won’t squish down into the bin.
I asked Sarah what ultimately made her decide to design with used packaging and products?.
“I first started when I was at university when I wrote my dissertation about recycling in design. I decided I wanted to make a product from everyday waste materials. So I set about collecting all of mine and my housemates rubbish and I was shocked at the amount of plastic bottles we used. Plastic is such a damaging material to the environment as well so I did a little research into how much was recycled and found that only 5.5% of plastic bottles are recycled in the UK. So I decided that I would save a few of these bottles from the landfill sites and make something useful out of them.”
Daisy table lamp
Daisy ceiling adaptation
A wow factor here, not least because Sarah has done this as an entrepreneur, she has also honed her skill. This is a can-do-able thing and, when contrasted with big corporate’s new ventures the ability for the small start-up-would-be designer, or I-have-an-idea-would-be designer, have been in the past invariably put off by the capital outlay. Usually because plastic based moulded products or similar would require minimum runs of 500 or so with denaro’s $$$ to match and a guaranteed market to recoup your investment. Not really the thing of small *lets test the market* start-ups.
Sarah’s work shows in so many ways that it is possible to un-do, if you like, some of the potential damage, re-do it by yourself, design with beauty and durability in mind, and with an eye for your business. A positive, and in one fell swoop reachable idea that encourages thoughts like, if she can do that – maybe I can do this ; no mean feat in these times of not much on the horizon for many.
So stuff make do and mend bring on the re-do and create!!
In Sarah’s words; “The Cola lighting range is the best, with my signature piece being the Cola 10, named as it reused 10 Coca Cola bottles. The bottles are attached to a base made from recycled card and are secured using their own bottle top. It was one of the first products I made from plastic bottles so it’s definitely the favourite. But I do have a few other products still on the drawing board. I would love to design a make-it-yourself kit which would enable people to recycle their own waste at home and make their own creative recycled product.”
Cola 30 by day!
As we speak Sarah has just returned from exhibiting at the Maison et Objet show in Paris this week. The exhibition is, with the presence of Philippe Starck amongst its organisers, rapidly becoming one of the most innovative design forums for new designers. Giving a well deserved heads up to new and relevant design for the 21st century.
Sarah’s lighting collections have also been exhibited at the Ideal Home Show in London, coming second place in their Innovation Nation competition.
And more recently a selection of her products were shown in Milan during this year’s Furniture Fair. Her products were selected by not for profit organisation H20 along with a hand full of other designers from around the globe.
Eco blog, Inhabitat spotted her designs and Sarah's lights won their annual ‘Spring Greening’ competition. The final designs were up against 22 other designers from around the globe and the winner was decided by a public vote. Inhabitat then exhibited a selection of Sarah’s lamps at the ‘Dwell on Design’ exhibition in LA.
Such a great achievement for this young business!!.
Green Sprite table lamp
and by day!
Sarah describes how she approaches each individual design:
"Coca Cola and Sprite bottles are reused in this decorative lighting range. The bottles are sandblasted then cut and formed into beautiful shapes. Each piece is then attached to a recycled card base and secured using their own bottle top."
"A variety of two litre drinks bottles are recycled to create this gorgeous lighting range above. Water bottles, standard fizzy drinks bottles and green Sprite bottles are all used which leads to some very different looks. After the bottles are collected and cleaned they are sandblasted to give an opaque look. They are then formed around lampshade rings in beautiful patterns."
"These little table lamps are made from a single 500ml Oasis plastic drinks bottle. They are a simple yet stylish miniature version of their Cola cousins."
All available on-line at www.sarahturner.com with shipment worldwide, and Sarah can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Back next Thursday 16th with my favourite Nottingham Gallery owner George Thornton of Cuadros and his thoughts on Art, the business of selling and critical direction.
Plus George happens to be hosting a new show starting on the 24th of this month by another artist mentioned in the very first of the series ; Matt Jordan (who I happened to meet a few months ago at Louise Starkey's group exhibition Stop Robbing The Rich - when he very kindly gave me a packet of smarties! ) see relevant art below!