Having spent over 15 years forming new approaches to ‘material language’ within industrial material manufacture and design application with award winning projects such as ‘in Love In Lucite’, ‘Real-space’ and ‘Marriage of Materials’, this project explores and tests the systematic injection of meaning into products through the waste materials used in their manufacture. The project aims to elicit and nurture greater understandings of the value of material narratives as a mediator of material ethics and facilitator of prolonged user engagements. Having formed prototype shoes and material narratives made from waste and new hybrid materials, the project methodology (outlined below) will use a public and industrial engagement processes via exhibition to gather data. The project engages a broad range of ‘materialists’, from sustainable craftspeople, industrial waste recyclers, bio-chemists and product manufacturers to end users.
Central research questions of the project are:
• beyond the ‘inert’, industrial recycling of materials, can material design and manufacturing strategies be formed that enable ‘by-product’ and waste materials to successfully contain, enhance and convey eloquent material narratives and meaning, as a route to achieving higher consumer ‘value’ and demand for more sustainable materials and products?
• can objects and by-product materials be purposefully designed and fabricated to promote user engagement with materiality (matter-reality) and facilitate greater consumer understanding, evaluation and discernment of complex issues of material culture and ethics?
• can this process be transferable and applied industrially and can it further authenticate products and make them relevant for the demands of 21st century consumers and contexts?
Aims and objectives to:
• form an extensive body of documented research that includes the invention of new physical materials formed from ‘by-products’ resulting in the formation of 10 pairs of shoes as ‘object essays’, the mapping of critically linked cultures of ‘our made world’, public and industrial engagement events and evaluation data, disseminated via exhibition(s), publication, online media, conference papers and press publications
• arm the recycling, material manufacturing and design industries with models for engendering meaning into everyday objects and materials, that promote better consumer behaviours, foster appreciation and instil value for products formed from by-product materials
• devise and deploy accessible means of engagement and modes of communication in the presentation of complex and critical aspects of physical science and material culture to public, industrial and creative audiences
• implement novel approaches to user centred design and material practices in the formation of potent object and material typologies and product proposals
• identify and articulate useable strategies and transferable methods that address the manifold concerns of resource consumption, fabrication and use celebrate and exemplify craft, design and materials practice as central threads within the inter-woven fabric of a more sustainable material culture
The formation of 10 pairs of shoes and 10 material narratives: The project is not about shoe design per say, but employs the popular and cultural iconography of shoes as a vehicle to carry the content in an accessible and measurable way to public and industrial design audiences, whilst providing rudimentary function and ‘connection’ to the user and their activity. The shoes present distinctly different by-product typologies to enable the exploration and evaluation of the impact of each material methodology and design as a potential tool for public engagement, education, communication and industrial application.
The project uses 10 human subjects for whom the shoes are created. Central, and seminal, to the consideration of the shoe and the subject is the unique relational notion of the material substance formed from by-products created by the user. Rather than seeing these as waste, this project reveals these by-products as potentially having enriched embodied histories, stories, meanings and experiences held within their materiality. These include the use of human tissue such as breast-milk and synthetic skin technologies, oceanic waste, carbon, consumable waste and animal hair. The ‘processing’ of these material substances into shoes will unravel and expose essential elements that instill meaning, integrity and value within creation and consumption chains and cycles, that typically lie hidden through one’s life, material and even spiritual existence.
The methodology directs a process of narrative production, generating focused material in the form of experiments, new materials, objects, processes, samples, case studies, interviews and transcripts that form the ‘stories’ as a medium for dissemination. By researching and documenting the story of how each pair of shoes is realised as a product, ‘Sole-Searching’ will investigate, map and explicate the relationships and connections between the object and the subject, as facilitated by the material and the maker. This exercise will demonstrate the potential and significance of the processing and design of the ‘by-product’ materials within this framework in establishing meaningful, valuable and authentic engagements in otherwise ‘inert’ product and material interactions. In doing so, the methodology will simultaneously generate novel, transferable models whilst demonstrating the value of craft, design and material practices in the mediation and reconciliation of unresolved and substantial issues of materiality and contemporary consumer culture.
The project methodology functions to invigorate, unite and expose a community of practitioners, industries and cultures, around highly scrutinised and current areas of material culture. This timely project will deploy and compose a range of provocative debates and innovative media, facilitated by popular iconography and accessible formats to engage an ambitious range of audiences: academic, industrial, retail, creative and public alike. The potency and diversity of output and dissemination (new products and materials, exhibitions, networks, 3D photo-grammetry and scans, photography, texts, films, papers) enable outputs to be managed, but inclusive in their engagement of previously disparate sectors.
• Formation of new material typologies and narratives and new 10 pairs of shoes
• Public dissemination combined with data gathering (in discussion with Victoria and Albert Museum during fashion week + tour – Feb 2013)
• Industrial dissemination and application (see PUMA ‘Making Meanings’ – June 2012)
• Public dissemination (publications; press, radio, TV, book, online CMS portal with 3D scans of shoes).
• Academic dissemination through papers
To arm the design, fashion and recycling industry with models for engendering meaning into everyday objects and materials to promote better consumer behaviours and foster appreciation and instil value for recycled products and materials and create a market for more sustainable material types.
To enable consumers to engage and ‘own’ and relate key aspects of the product proposition as representational of progress, ethical awareness and impact reduction
Beyond the specification of recycled materials - To offer designers and manufacturers new materials and processes and a lexicon of materials language that engenders depth, authenticity and meaning into 21st century products – strategic mechanisms to ensure emotive, meaningful and authentic bonds between products and people mediated by materials and meaning.