The ability to create is powerful and this power needs to be executed with significantly more respect, responsibility and accountability than it is currently given.
Designer Byron Clark has become increasingly conscious of the impact that he has as a designer/maker using conventional methods of design and has come to the conclusion that until this point, he has been part of the problem. He was confronted with the fact that the planet is under threat from decades of bad practice and unless something shifts, we are facing a downward spiral. From a human-centric perspective, change needs to happen in order to protect our planet.
He believes that we currently recklessly consume material in order to create. We continue to use intensive extraction and manufacturing methods, producing new raw materials that later result in wastefulness, due to a lack of foresight and awareness. But how can he advocate for change as a designer when it is highly probable that ‘bad design’ has been a contributor to the burning of the planet?
‘Dust' as a project marks the beginning of a drastic shift in the way the designer operates within his designer/maker mindset. With the project, he is aiming to address elements of his practice that he believes are not well-considered or sustainable. He wants to start being more deliberate in his practice, being conscious of what he is designing and the impact that it has on the environment.
From this point onwards, he wants to work with waste materials that he has sourced from his local area, in this case, London, as he thinks that this is an important direction to take when creating objects that will exist on the planet. All of the tools and equipment within this project have either been salvaged, repaired or found, to deliberately result in a process and a product that is considered and aware of material impact on the environment.
Throughout the course of this project, Byron worked predominantly with waste plasterboard, sourced from within his locality of London. It is a material that is used in abundance in the construction of housing and despite ample capability to do so, is not often recycled.
By dehydrating, crushing and finally rehydrating the plasterboard with water and paints, Byron manipulated the material to create new objects. He recognises the value in the potential of waste, the value in the aesthetic of the created object, and the value in its ability to be dehydrated, crushed and rehydrated into something new.
This process of creation has allowed him to better understand and minimise the impact that he has when creating objects. An attitude of environmentally-conscious respect and responsibility has been carried the whole way through the project, from the conception of ideas, material decisions and manufacturing tools, all the way through to the finished object.
To communicate these principles to his audience, he has focused on creating high-quality, aesthetically rich objects that deliberately blur the lines between art and design. He has concentrated his efforts to occupy the overlapping arenas of both the gallery and the home, exhibiting objects that both challenge and defy today’s perception of function, sustainability and aesthetics.
It is his ambition to treat wastefulness as an opportunity. He wants to change the way in which he views unwanted materials – seeing their potential as a viable source of raw materials, and giving them value and the weight of innovation instead of viewing them as a problem to be solved.
The primary step is to dehydrate the plasterboard in the oven at 150 degrees celsius for about 3 hours. This removes all the water from the board.
The dehydration process is crucial for two reasons. Firstly, it makes it possible to peel the face paper from the board, separating it from the gypsum. Secondly, and more importantly, it removes the moisture that has been holding the particles of gypsum together through crystallisation. This makes the gypsum far easier to break down and workable later.
The dehydrated plasterboard is then passed through a blender, breaking the material down into dust and particles that are sized between 3-4mm.
A sieve is then used to separate the particles that are 1mm or under, resulting in dust that is then ready for use. All of the remaining material is sieved a second time to remove any paper and other non-gypsum materials. This then passes through a second machine to break down all remaining particles to the desired dust consistency.
From all of these processes, the plasterboard has been broken down into 1mm or less sized particles. This is now ready to be applied to the object.
The core structure of the objects is made from plasterboard. It is cut into panels accurately with a builder’s saw and glued together to create a kind of skeleton. The structure of the objects is both stronger and easier to make when glueing stacks of plasterboards together, rather than trying to make thin sections. (for a seat top it is recommended to glue 3 layers of plasterboard together). Face paper can be wrapped around a corner that’s getting glued together to make the joint stronger and to create a seamless transition.
Information submitted by the maker and edited by the Future Materials Bank.
Waste plasterboard, water, recycled paints