Designers have historically chosen materials based on their physical, aesthetic, chemical, and economic properties. With todays ecological situation there are now imperative environmental parameters to be considered. Through the framework of material innovation I have chosen to explore, speculate and produce artifacts that will help achieve environmental progress. I believe that the simplification of materials can create artifacts that are responsive to the true needs of the environment and in this way my goal is to realize materials and processes that won’t deplete non- renewable resources and could potentially replace hazardous plastics and chemicals that currently pollute our environment.
In my research I have chosen to engage with seaweed because it is a renewable material, derived from the biosphere that does not use fresh water for irrigation, pesticides or take up fertile farmland. Seaweed is an abundant resource in my local environment that could create a new production culture that supports the local rather than the global. Furthermore, applying an environmental solution on a local level could potentially contribute to a larger global solution. The future that I can envision is titled ‘Sea Harvest’. This future includes a range of innovative outputs that showcase the potential of this abundant resource.
I have been investigating how seaweed can be transformed into a material that biodegrades at a faster rate than synthetic polymer plastic. Manufacturing single use packaging from seaweed makes it easy to forecast how the material will biodegrade and its ecological impact on the environment. Through methods of heat pressing I have been able to bind layers of seaweed together to create a strong and flexible material. Mimicking a plastic like film this useful material is non- toxic, affordable and organic.
I can envision this material as fish and chip packaging, harvested from locally sourced seaweed. I feel that there is something beautiful and natural about eating from packaging that has been harvested from the ocean so when purchasing the fish and chips the consumer will be encouraged to consume the food at their local beach so that the packaging can be returned to the ocean. This will create a closed loop life cycle and prevent the packaging from contributing to land fill. I hope this new material will stimulate a more mindful consumer atmosphere and facilitate a social conversation surrounding plastic packaging.
The natural environment offers a vast collection of environmentally harmonious pigments. After collecting and identifying nearly twenty different seaweeds, algae’s and kelps in my local area, I began extracting natural colour from the seaweeds using eco- dye techniques. Because I am working with seaweeds local to my area, the colours produced are unique to my local, cultural geography. The four most vibrant colours I discovered came from kelp, sea grass, ulva and neptunes neck which I chose to work with exclusively, taking a scientific approach to each experiment to create controlled recipes.
Once coloured, I wove the fabric on a four- shaft loom to highlight the natural pigments of the ocean and mimic the weightless and organic structures found in the sea. These environmentally sourced forms offer viable alternatives to chemical and synthetic dyes and could shift industrial practices in the textile industry.
My obligation as a contemporary designer is to speculate and create new ideas of sustainability and wellbeing. I believe that ‘Sea Harvest’ has established innovative and meaningful solutions to waste and disposability. Each output embodies the idea of living minimally in the modern world to encourage the consumer away from materialism and the system of indulgence.