Summer Semester 2010,
What is waste?
Who decides whether something is to be disposed of or not?
Is the consumer in a position to make this decision?
Am I as designer responsible for what is left over?
Does “leftover” subsequently mean “game over”?
The industrial as well as the artisan leather trade creates plenty of leather cut-offs that are commonly thrown away. To make use of this left over material, I have developed a system to fully utilize the leather cut-offs and at the same time create an attractive new product. As first step, the varied pieces are cut into small “modules” which can be assembled to form a new surface. The rest of the leftovers, tiny and irregular pieces, are shredded and joined with organic glue to create a new, structured material. Results of this process are two very different products, derived from the same source, each with an entirely unique aesthetic.
LeftOver ≠ Game Over
The starting point for this up-cycling design concept was a modular system that accommodates long term use as well as sustainability. The resulting surface can be easily disassembled into its individual modules to be recycled. As the leather cut-offs come in different shapes and sizes, and my aim was to cut equally sized elements, planning of the final design was crucial to minimize the amount of new leftovers produced while cutting the elements. Square shapes are easier to cut and can fit together more comfortably along their straight edges. By slipping their two angular tips through slits in the next element, two elements are joined. When they are joined in alternating rows, the connected elements create a stable and even surface, which is created without seams or the use of glue. At the end of its life span, the created, up-cycled material is easily re-introduced back into the recycling process. By replacing single elements any flaw in the material can easily be repaired thus prolonging its usage.
LeftOver = Zero
Due to the irregular shape of post-production leather cut-offs, after the modules for the new surface system are cut, usually some material leftovers remain. There is no reason to settle with throwing them away: The next step in my design concept takes these smallest leftover pieces and joins them, almost like a mosaic, with the help of organic glue, like bone glue or latex. The resulting sheets of the new material can be shaped and sized according to the intended final application.
ZERO WASTE/MINIMISE WASTE