I've been all over the place lately. Work has taken me to opposite sides of the world: Mexico and Japan. In both countries I've been exploring new ways to apply old knowledge, to create sustainable perspectives for the future.
Japan and Mexico are opposites in more than geographical terms. It's organized chaos versus structure and order, exuberance versus subtlety. But what both countries share is a rich craft culture. A craft culture that's slowly dissolving into the globalizing economy, and with it an abundance of knowledge is lost.
I explore the ways in which traditional knowledge and practices can still be relevant. How can craft practices be adapted to continue their existence alongside industrialized production and how can they be adopted to make industrial production more sustainable?
In Mexico I worked with social enterprise Anudando to turn waste plastic bags into beautiful hand-woven textiles, and in Japan I worked at KYOTO Design-Lab of Kyoto Institute of Technology (KIT) with silk weavers to take their fabrics out of traditional contexts and give the material new structural properties and use contexts.
Both projects will be shown side by side during Dutch Design Week (Oct. 21-29) at '5 years Driving Dutch Design & Hotspots' by Van Eijk & Van der Lubbe. The exhibition is open daily from 11:00-18:00. I will be present to talk about my work on Saturday October 28 between 11:00-14:30.
Veemgebouw, 3rd floor
5617 BE Eindhoven
Het is Dutch Design Week, maar ik verruil Eindhoven tijdelijk voor Praag om deel te nemen aan Material Dialogue en mijn nieuwe project Woven Light te presenteren:
Material Dialogue, 27 tot en met 31 oktober, is een internationaal samenwerkingsproject van Het Nieuwe Instituut met Happy Materials, binnen het internationale netwerk rondom materiaalinnovatie, design en duurzaamheid. Tijdens Designblok 2016, de designweek in Praag, presenteren drie Nederlandse ontwerpers – Marjan van Aubel, Michelle Baggerman en Eric Geboers - hun werk en gaan in gesprek met Tsjechische ontwerpers over wat materiaalinnovatie, geïnspireerd op de natuur, in de 21e eeuw betekent. URL: http://internationaal-programma.hetnieuweinstituut.nl/activiteiten/material-dialogue-designblok-2016
From June 27 to January 31 Precious Waste is part of a wonderful exhibition at Museum Boerhaave about waste and recycling in a historical context. At "Rijk van Rotzooi" or "Wealth of Waste" you can see for instance how people used pee to dye textile two hundred years ago and how street waste was collected to make gunpowder. Of course the exhibition also shows some creative ways of dealing with "modern" waste such as jeans and of course plastic bags.
So if you're heading to Leiden, be sure to pay a visit to Museum Boerhaave. The exhibition and also the rest of the museum are a great source of inspiration and provide another look at how what some people view as waste is really a valuable resource. For more info about the exhibition and the museum click on the flyer below.
**UPDATE** The exhibition has been extended until the end of May 2016!
In Uruapan, the second largest city in the state of Michoacán, there used to be a blooming textile industry. A factory employed 80 full-time weavers and used to supply 500 meters of top quality fabrics every day to clients all over Mexico, the US and beyond. A large part of their business consisted of hand-woven textiles for interior products, so when we heard a small part of it was still operational, we had to go and take a look!
What we found was but a fraction of it’s former glory, but how glorious it was! The factory is housed in a very old brick building (part of it was once a prison!), overgrown with vines and other wild plants and had parts of looms scattered around all over the place. Time had taken it’s toll and many things were in a bad state of decay, but everything needed for weaving fabrics of the finest quality was still there. Although dusty, the looms that weren’t taken apart were still operational and of the original employees, three still remained (part-time) so their expertise wouldn’t be lost completely.
They were looking for opportunities to continue their operation, before it was too late and the last of the weavers would retire without transferring their knowledge to a new generation. We felt like we got there just in time! We were looking for ways to produce in larger volumes, without sacrificing quality and while maintaining the artisanal production process. It seems like a perfect match! We might be able to place the kind of orders they need to turn the tide and they might be able to provide us with the steady supply we need in order to do business with larger retailers. I really, really, really hope the sample we ordered comes out well, because this could be the collaboration of both our dreams!
For the past few days we’ve been in Michoacán, a state famous for it’s many traditional crafts. Every village has its own specialty and makes things that can’t be found anywhere else. The first time here we visited the craft center in Morelia (the state’s capital) and we were enchanted with the lace-like textiles we found there. They were from the town of Aranza and were made on a waist loom in a very particular way, where the weaver manually twists and turns the threads of the warp to form the patterns.
Señora Laura is the best weaver in town and we’ve been working with her for almost a year now. She’s used her traditional techniques to create some incredible pieces with our plastic yarns. However, we believe that the way to sustain traditions is not to keep everything exactly as it is. Traditions should evolve with the time and with the people who perform them and we wanted to ask señora Laura if she’d be up for a new experiment.
We brought her quirky colour combinations and designs for patterns that used them more randomly instead of very evenly as is customary. Señora Laura couldn’t suppress a little giggle when she saw what we had in mind, but she was willing to give our silly plans a go. She’ll try to translate the colored patterns I suggested to her own lace patterns, to have a double pattern on each piece. We’ll return in a few days to see how she’s getting on with it and wether we need to make adjustments to the design.
We're very proud to present the fruits of almost a year of hard work in Mexico at Dutch Design Week from 18-26 October. A steadily growing group of craftsmen and women has been experimenting with recycling plastic bags, according to the technique developed with Precious Waste. This new resource, combined with their own specific skills has led to some beautiful samples and prototypes which we will show at two venues during Dutch Design Week. The samples we are showing now will form the basis of Anudando's first product line: Renacimiento (rebirth), coming out next year, so come have a look at what we have in store for you...
You can find us at Material Sense Lab and Fair Trade Design Skills. We're also featured in a special guide covering all socially sound and ecologically sustainable presentations during the DDW by Connecting the Dots and Stichting Doen with a very nice interview and a video (below). And of course check out our new site: www.anudando.com
In Spanish, but an English version is in the making... For non Spanish speakers: consider this a teaser!