This is the last year of my undergraduate degree in 3D Design and as with most Art & Design courses at university in the UK, the weighting is more heavily geared towards the Graduate Degree Show. As such, more time and effort goes into establishing a really solid foundation and carrying out lots of exploratory play. In this preparation phase for our Final Major Project, there are no limits and no end result in mind. We are simply tasked with looking at everything from all angles, and revisiting materials from the previous project to initiate this research.
I am really enjoying this experimental stage for its no-holds barred feel and open-endedness and have no great urge to produce something I’ve already thought of. Saying that, there are a couple of areas of interest I might lean towards. My background in teaching and education has always been important to me and non-classroom based learning is now becoming one focus for my design work. Another is helping to increase awareness and understanding of waste. I don’t want to come across as preachy or press any ethical points on people but think most don’t know what happens to rubbish once it leaves their hands or the doorstep. Neither do I, but sharing my thoughts as I inform myself is a possible way to reinforce my own knowledge.
Broadly speaking, I’m interested in waste materials and whatever is often discarded without much thought. To narrow this down slightly, I have a strong curiosity about bicycle components and paraphernalia, mostly for the contrasting qualities of tough, vulnerable, solid and elastic.
- chains are interesting 2-dimensional materials to play with and I haven’t really worked with them before
- gear cogs or cassettes are hard-wearing and made of stainless steel. I wonder what could soften them? Or make them look less like single function bike parts?
- rubber inner tubes as stuffed/solid matter instead of hollow round tubing
- what more can I do with plastic reflectors than slice them on the bandsaw?
- and the same for the highly reflective acrylic sheeting used on emergency service vehicles
- other materials from bicycles such as handlebar strapping, brake cables, spokes and so on
A few ideas stand out to me as aspects worth pursuing:
- visibility, reflected light, playing with the effects of light
- the outdoors, especially cycling and camping as great confidence-building and multi-sensory experiences (not sport)
- furniture and interiors, such as lighting and functional pieces
I have just heard a fascinating documentary on BBC Radio 4 about the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura in Paraguay (La Orquesta de Instrumentos Reciclados de Cateura) and how children are slowly being lifted out of lives of poverty/drugs/crime by learning the discipline and joys of playing classical music. This story is more unusual because the instruments are made of materials from the local dump, including paint cans, old piping and even high heels from women’s shoes. Only reed mouthpieces, strings and bows (for playing the saxophone, violin, cello etc) are not from the landfill site. The orchestra has been going since 2006 and has enjoyed enormous success worldwide, touring several times a year and performing in some of the world’s most prestigious concert venues. Despite this accolade and available finances, instruments are still made from found materials because it serves to enforce the idea that so much can come from so little and be of greater benefit to the whole Cateura community of 25,000.
“Actually, in even the very worst conditions, one can imagine playing Mozart or Vivaldi or Beethoven. It’s like a vindication of the values behind the music, such as respect, perseverance, consistency, sensitivity. These are universal values regardless of how people live. What we try to put forward is that beyond the curious look of our instruments the ones who transform that rubbish into something beautiful is the children. Children turn rubbish into music. Without the children, that stuff is still just rubbish”, Nicholas ‘Kola’ Gomez, principal maker of the Recycled Orchestra instruments.