Reuse design has been picking up momentum among designers for several years now. In a time where fast production of short-lived, disposable products and mass consumerism is king, little emphasis is set upon the reusability of goods and materials.
I found that that reuse design required a non-conventional approach. Designers are problems solvers and in a more traditional way of working they would draft a solution to a problem before searching for materials that could bring their ideas to life. However, when looking for ideas for the reuse design project, I found myself constrained not by the problem, but by the materials available to work with. Reuse design then became for me a game of trial and error, where the quality and durability of the pieces was vital and where the beauty of the design was very much reliant on the charm of the materials.
Figure 1. My reuse design approach
Trying to keep the design process in line with the environmentally friendly spirit of reuse design, I chose to look for materials available locally to avoid unnecessary travel. I started looking for typically recyclable products, however considering the undeniable virtues of conventional recycling, I decided to search for materials that were a bit more difficult to dispose of.
First Stage – Searching for the spark
I started out my search for inspiration by taking pictures of all kinds of unused items that were lying in a shed at my family’s back garden; a vacuum cleaner, metal pipes, windows, shower heads etc. One of the objects that caught my eye was a wooden heavy-duty clamp, a tool that is generally used to add extra pressure or to hold materials together on building sites.
Second Stage – Playing with the ideas
I sketched some ideas using the clamps and then I tried to play with the actual materials. Often the visualisation that I had in my head didn’t work out because the materials didn’t respond as I thought they would. I finally arrived at the idea of making a table supported by four of the clamps. This simple idea then grew into a collection of furniture using the clamps : a table, a shelf and a lamp.
I wasn’t sure what the table-top should look like. Would it be square or round, made of wood, rusty metal or glass? After playing with the materials it was easy to see that the beauty of old wood was best appreciated against the glass. The contrast between these materials was perfect.
While testing ideas for the table I accidentally broke one of the glass panes. The piece of glass gave me the idea for a shelf. To design it I simply tried turning the clamps upside down and attaching them to the wall with a screw.
For the lamp, the plan was to drill a hole through the screw of the clamp to fit the cable. However, there was too much risk in breaking the screw, so instead I chose to use a metal strip to support the bulb socket. Now it was just a matter of choosing the right cable and the bulb.
Third Stage – Preparing the materials
Time and disuse had deteriorated the materials. The clamps were covered with a thick layer of dirt and exposure to rain had left marks of limescale on the glass. I cleaned the clamps using hot water, soap and a strong brush. Cleaning the glass required spraying acid to loosen the limescale. Afterwards a brush stroke of flaxseed oil brought back the beautiful golden colour of the wood. This was the last touch before the collection could be all assembled. The whole design is simple and portable.
Fourth Stage – Putting it all together
Once the materials were washed and oiled the whole collection was ready to be assembled.
It has been fascinating to see the project through from the beginning till the end, and the outcome has been extremely satisfying. Making the Clamp Collection has taught me to see old, broken objects in a different light. I also learned to value the importance of good quality and durability of materials that can stand the pass of time. I think all designers should feel responsible for promoting a collective responsible mindset by showing that reuse can produce unique and fashionable products.