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Brief Published: 14 Nov 2018

Salvaged Materials Lend Narratives to New Products


Creative conglomerates and terrazzo-inspired materials are providing a tangible medium for storytelling. Found items, debris and waste materials are being reappropriated – suspended and embedded in resin or cement – to create materials and products with interesting visual narratives. Here are three inspiring projects.

  • London-based eyewear brand Cubitts has crafted a pair of glasses made from historic detritus found at the bottom of the River Thames. The salvaged items – which include World War II bullets, a Victorian marble, Tudor hairpins and a boar’s tusk – are embedded in acetate to create the detailed frames, encapsulating the city’s rich history over the centuries.

    The project forms part of an exhibition hosted by the brand called Retrospective: London, Spectacles, and Half a Millennia, which explores the history of optics in London. It runs for three months from November 15 at St James's Market Pavilion.
  • Dutch artist Paul Koenen uses rubble from the demolition sites of buildings and bridges to create new materials for public benches. The ongoing project, entitled Minestone, aims to preserve otherwise lost heritage in cities by capturing memories in material. Crushed building rubble is compressed into conglomerate slab materials that feature varied mixtures of aggregates. See Human Made: Materials for more on man-made and industrial debris conglomerates. 
  • British designer Toni Packham addresses the growing environmental problem of plastic waste with explorations into the potential uses of plastiglomerate – a stone-like material formed when sand, wood and shells meld with molten ocean plastic. Through a process of slow melting and pressing waste materials found on beaches, such as plastic fishing nets and driftwood, the designer creates vibrant sheet materials that are then used for home and kitchenware products.

Our A/W 20/21 Colour & Materials direction Solace explores the idea of storytelling through surfaces. See also Recycled Aggregates in LDF 2018, and Experimental Aggregates in Surface Design Show 2018.

Toni Packham
Paul Koenen