At the end of May I was invited to join a group of designers on a tour of a pulp and paper mill in France, owned by paper manufacturer Arjowiggins. Excited to learn more about another type of material manufacturing, I went along to document the visit for The Great Recovery Project.
It was a fascinating couple of days getting an insider view of how recycled paper is made. We witnessed every step for the process, from the moment the post-consumer waste arrives at the pulp factory, to the point where the freshly recycled paper is packaged up and piled high, ready to ship off the UK and around Europe.
You read more about the experience and see my photographs over on The Great Recovery site, where I wrote a blog post about the tour. The photographs are particularly interesting as I got a rare permission to photograph inside both factories, which a visitor has never been allowed to do before.
I also produced some accompanying interviews, with insights from both the visiting designers and our hosts, on the importance of learning about materials.
You can read Siôn Whellens’ account of the trip on the Calverts’ website. It is thanks to Siôn, who brought everyone together, that we all got to learn more about paper manufacturing. Thanks must also go to Julian Long and Angela DeVorchik of Arjowiggins Graphic who were our wonderful hosts.
After seven months travelling around the UK documenting The Great Recovery project for the RSA and the TSB, then another month distilling all the collected content into a beautiful document, I’m delighted to say The Great Recovery report has been published.
All in all it has been a fascinating process, I’ve learned so much about manufacturing and design while working on this project and I have loved visiting every factory. It’s quite thrilling to see all my photographs, interviews and writing on the designer’s role in the circular economy brought together into such a good looking publication. Thomas Matthews did a fantastic job on the report layout design.
On June 4th, project directors Sophie Thomas and Nat Hunter launched the report at a reception in Parliament hosted by the APDIG, in conjunction with both the Associate Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group and the Associate Parliamentary Manufacturing Group.
Policy Connect and the Associate Parliamentary Design & Innovation Group has now included the report in their ‘Ten of the Best: Design 2012/2013’ saying,
“The Great Recovery is an impressive case study in how design can contribute to solving some of the most complex challenges facing the economy and society.”
You can download the report here.
At the end of April I saw a tweet from Jeremy Till, now head of Central St Martins, that was essentially a cry for creative help. He needed a designer and curator for an exhibition about his SCIBE (Scarcity and Creativity In The Built Environment) research project. The brief was challenging: the original curator had pulled out at the last minute due to ill health and suddenly there was only four weeks to produce a show about a three year research project. It sounded like just the kind of crazy job I like. Sensibly Jeremy decided this wasn’t a job for one person and riding to the rescue alongside me came the amazing Crystal Bennes, curator, writer, chef and wonder woman.
Crystal and I made quite a team and right from the start got on like the proverbial house on fire. Our first idea was that this exhibition, which was to be located in Bromley-by-Bow, should be a street festival involving the local Bangladeshi community that had been part of the SCIBE community engagement. However after spending two of the four weeks trying and failing to get permission from Tower Hamlets to put on this ‘Scarcity Festival’, we threw in the towel on that idea. In the end we plumped for the first choice venue, it being the only choice at this stage and made with the most of what we had, in the spirit of the assignment. Along the way we had great help from SCIBE team members Jon Goodbun, Deljana Iossifova and Dougald Hine, as well from Flora Bowden of the Seed Foundation.
The result was the Sightlines Exhibition in the Mayor’s Parlour in Bromley-by-Bow. You can see images of the exhibition read more about here on its design page.
In January of 2013 I was invited to speak at the Royal College of Art to the first year students on the IDE Platform. I have worked with Clare Brass as a visiting tutor for the IDE platform in previous years, so I understand quite a bit of what their ‘Innovation, Design, Engineering’ course is about. I spoke as part of the department’s Inspire Lecture series, where practitioners come in to speak about their recent work.
I spoke to the students about The Butterfly Effect Project – a project about the future of The Norfolk Broads in collaboration with the University of East Anglia, The Broads Authority and Anglian Water. This was the pilot project for the Creative Data initiative I started in order to bring designers and scientists together to communicate social and environmental issues to the public.
In October 2012 I started working with the co-directors of design at the RSA , Sophie Thomas and Nat Hunter, on The Great Recovery project as a design observer. This involved documenting workshops and visits to material recovery centres around the UK.
These events brought designers, manufacturers and policy makers together to explore issues, investigate innovation gaps and incubate new partnerships in the circular economy. It has been a fascinating experience all round, where we’ve learned so much about the materials economy and the systems design involved in recycling.
We visited some incredible places, a tin mine in Cornwall, a plastic bottle recycling factory, an e-waste facility, and even the Caterpillar Remanufacturing plant in Shrewesbury where we watched engines being repurposed to the quality of brand new engines.
My role involved building up a body of documentary content for the project using photography, process observation and participant interviews. I was then to distill this content into the Great Recovery report, working in collaboration with Sophie Thomas.
I’m excited to announce that Out & About will be one of three featured campaign ideas in the Project Wild Thing documentary. All the ideas generated during the Good For Nothing weekend in July 2012 were tested in focus groups by the Green Lions production team.
Rather amazingly my proposal for a national programme for 0-8 yrs olds, to get them spending more time in nature, was one of the three most popular ideas amongst the public.
To develop the proposal for the documentary I developed an info card to be inserted into mother and baby Bounty Packs when they leave hospital. Chris Wilson of Scriberia brilliantly illustrated my card design, as you can see above.
Working with director David Bond’s friend Dr. DJ Brown we are now trying to develop a medical trial of the cards in the NHS to test their effectiveness on new parents behaviour.
I spent another fantastic weekend with the Good For Nothing crew in July 2012 at the site of a previous GFN project Global Generation‘s skip garden in Kings Cross. This weekend was slightly different in that there was only one brief to work on and that was Project Wild Thing, a documentary by production company Green Lions about nature deficit disorder in kids.
Around 60 creatives and planners turned up to volunteer their skills for the weekend, we sheltered from the rain in a Moroccan tent and set about devising ideas of how to get kids and families to spend more time in nature.
Working with Victoria Brooks, and other members of our team, I ignored the brief targeted at 8-12 year olds and devised a national programme for 0-8 year olds, feeling that it was important to talk to parents about the positive impacts of nature from birth.
The programme, designed to be integrated with the NHS, is called Out & About and encourages parents to get their kids outdoors in different ways throughout their early childhood. You can read more about my experience with Project Wild Thing and how Out & About featured in the finished documentary here.
I love Google’s LuvvieBoff evenings, which aim to bring creatives and scientists together for some good ol’ Luvvies and Boffins cross pollination. This event was hosted by Google at the Science Museum on the launch of Codebreaker – the Alan Turing exhibition – a fascinating look at the life of the mathematician and founder of computer science.
Alan Turing worked as head of codebreaking at Bletchley Park during WWII, helping to break the code of the German Enigma machines. Turing also developed an early electronic computer called the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE). Among many of its contributions was how it was used by crystallographer Dorothy Hodgkin to crack the atomic structure of vitamin B12, (see the shadow image of her model below).
I was very honoured to be invited to celebrate the work of Heatherwick Studio at the V&A on June 7th 2012. My time working with Thomas Heatherwick (2000-2001) was the most influential and important of my career. I learnt enormous amounts about generating ideas, collaboration, model making, details and the power of perfectionism during my apprenticeship in the studio, and later when I returned for several more model making projects while I was studying design Goldsmiths.
I’m so grateful to Thomas for the time he took to teach and mentor me during this early period in the studio’s trajectory. Kudos must also go to architect Kieran Gaffney, Thomas’ right hand man, who taught me on my first day the difference between a hack saw and a hand saw. Later he taught me photoshop and illustrator and throughout he taught me about time keeping and the discipline of working hard. He runs a tight ship ol’ Gaffney!
Reuniting at the V&A with all the amazing characters who have worked at Heatherwick Studio over the years was such a joy and it was fantastic to see the retrospective exhibition of the studio’s work in the museum. I was particularly proud to see at least one of the Christmas cards on show (above) that I spent many meticulous hours making. It’s funny to think that I sometimes found that intricate making process agonising, but now I yearn for more hands on work and long to be back in the workshop.
Yes. We are nearly there. This is the completion of a three year project all about the future of The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads. The Butterfly Effect is our first major project under the Creative Data umbrella. This exhibition in The Forum in Norwich shows off the amazing work done by ten primary schools in Norfolk. Through the creative learning activities in the bespoke education pack we made for them, these schools present variety of vibrant visions, including drawings, sculptures, quilts and animations. Their beautiful work shows how young people imagine their future landscapes.