The Importance of the “Maker” in a World with No Waste

The value of new perspectives when working with waste streams

Article image

As a designer rooted in experimenting with a vast range of materials it is sometimes hard to know where to begin when choosing a new raw material. With the growing awareness around Earth’s finite natural resources, alongside overflowing landfills and increasingly polluted ecosystems, it only seems right that designers shift their attention to harvesting and utilising what already exists and is readily available to us. As Anders Lendager said in Radical Matter: Rethinking Materials for a Sustainable Future by Kate Franklin and Caroline Till: “We have all the materials we need, they are already here.” A new generation of makers are now leading their field by creating extremely tactile, carefully considered and crafted work, where both desirability and function play an equally important role.

My practice and research look closely into the movement around working with commercial and industrial waste streams, with a specific interest in plastic. Initially drawn to experimental design, I am fascinated with both traditional and emerging design processes and the possibility of finding synthesis between the two, resulting in innovative new materials and objects. This alerted me to the importance of working with waste materials and highlighting the responsibility of the designer.

Different materials inside a CNC factory
Inside a CNC factory. Photo © Charlotte Kidger

Besides representing an obvious creative challenge, the opportunity to work with new and undiscovered industrial waste streams is of imminent concern for wider society. Through the reclaiming and repurposing of waste materials where they were once independent, the role of the maker is now crucial to confronting urgent environmental issues of overconsumption and scarce resources. This has provided a vision for the creation of alluring and desirable objects through slowly crafted and appealing design.

You would be surprised by the welcoming reception when you visit an industrial estate and begin quizzing peoples’ knowledge on their by-products and waste disposal. Some people, understandably, will not give any time to this issue. Some, on the other hand, welcome it with open arms, with curiosity and interest around how they can help and what changes they can make towards a more sustainable vision.

Personal experience has proven that through building relationships and opening up a dialogue, it is possible to tap into undiscovered territories and generate a transformative system where valueless waste is repurposed into functional objects that have the capabilities to serve interior design and architectural projects.

When the origin of an object is crafted from waste all preconceptions are lost. Firstly, the overall finish is often different to that seen before, this questions the viewer’s perception and invites touch to become a big part of the purchasing experience. Tactility and a play on the senses attract the consumer in a way that browsing through digital catalogues of mass-produced products can never do. Consumers now want a deeper connection with the things they buy and that occupy spaces in their homes, it is no longer enough for something to simply exist, there needs to be a narrative, a reason and a purpose for why something exists. With this attitude then comes a real sense of ownership and value, objects become heirlooms and the emphasis on longevity is naturally ingrained.

Material of an internal design of piece from the Industrial Craft collection.
Internal design of piece from the Industrial Craft collection. Photo © Charlotte Kidger

As an individual, it is impossible to be solely responsible for the global issues related to sustainability, yet we often feel a responsibility to address them when taking on projects tackling real-life issues. Something I learned over the years and will continue to remember is that we all need to work collectively, making changes wherever possible towards a better, more responsible future.

By taking actions into our own hands we can design a future that steers away from overconsumption and a take-make-replace culture. We can use our own experiences as designers to educate and inform those around us of the importance and possibilities of working with waste. We are lucky to now have an extensive amount of information—as well as transparency—from companies seeking sustainable resources. The opportunity is vast for every part of the design chain to collectively make a difference in how we consume and how we value the objects around us.

Waste streams are there to be exploited. Plastic, in particular, is an invaluable resource due to its versatile qualities and durability. Once put through often rigorous processes we can see a complete shift and transformation from its original state. There is something simply beautiful and tactile around this transformation and the value it retains.
The importance of the maker is now more valuable than ever.

Main image: Vessel detail from an industrial piece. Photo © Charlotte Kidger


Subscribe to our newsletter