Tuesday 10 March 2015

A snippet of Circular Economy News - Ella helps rescue a sofa at the GREAT RECOVERY DESIGN RESIDENCY for SITA

As part of her ongoing commitment to the Great Recovery Project of the RSA, Ella has just participated in the Great Recovery's latest design residency - below film maker Paul Wyatt's short documentary about the action-packed 10 day residency, that involved trips to waste sites, Ikea, Reuse centres, and tear down workshops at the FabLab in London. 

SITA is, in its own words, 'a recycling and resource management company with a vision. We want to live in a society where there is no more waste, a society where waste materials are reused, recycled or recovered for their energy content.' (http://www.sita.co.uk/

If you have trouble with the video below - here's the direct link to vimeo: https://vimeo.com/121566784

And here is how the Great Recovery sums it all up on their blog: 
'In December 2014 the participants in the latest Great Recovery Design Residency, commissioned by SITA, hauled a sofa from a skip at the SITA Community Recycling Centre in Leatherhead. It was in excellent condition but missing its crucial fire label, resulting in it being relegated to landfill rather than sent for resale.
Our Design Residencies enable designers to experience first hand the end of life implications of the products they create, and the systems that reinforce those implications. This short documentary follows the journey of the sofa and the experiences of Ella DoranKirsty EwingXenia Moseley and Sarah Johnson as they set out to rethink and redesign bulky items for a more circular economy.
According to WRAP, approximately 1,590,000 tonnes of bulky waste was disposed of in the UK during 2010-11. Of this bulky waste, around 42% consisted of furniture. WRAP also estimates that 32% of this waste (by weight) is reusable in its current condition.
Film: Paul Wyatt (http://www.paulwyatt.co.uk)'

WRAP stands for Waste Reduction And Prevention and you can find out more about them at http://www.wrap.org.uk/.

Thursday 18 September 2014

Day 5 at the Victoria and Albert Museum #LDF14 #LDFredesign

Almost ready! The love seat waiting for Charlie to put the casters on.

Here's a close up of one of the finished front crochet legs. Except for the blue bit at the bottom and the pink at the top where she did increase and decrease the number of stitches in places, Kaja shaped it by simply changing the size of the crochet hook as needed and using yarns of different weights. It's small but it was a very time consuming piece of work, especially as she had to figure out how to mould the transition from round to square to achieve a snug fit. The yarn is from Knit with Attitude, an independent wool shop in Stoke Newington that specialises in eco-friendly and fairly traded yarn.

Below, Charlie and I lounging on the finished chair for a moment, after it was wheeled into the auditorium just in time for our panel talk at 4pm. 

The quality of the pictures below isn't great as they were all quickly taken on a mobile, but I think this one shows how hard Charlie worked to get the love seat ready for the talk. It is flanked by the Wood Grain Blue chair on the right, and you can just about catch a glimpse of the (still unfinished) chair I collaborated on with Kyla McCallum of Foldability earlier this week.

Below, us three collaborators, from left to right: Sophie Thomas of The Great Recovery, me  and Lucy Mortimer of Galapagos Designs, as we are getting ready for our talk. The atmosphere was very relaxed and we had quite a good discussion with our audience afterwards. 

I started off the talk by tracing my creative journey from capturing the raw photo material in Reykjavik earlier this year to the making of the repeat that is now on the love seat. Below a partial view of the images of the houses that came together in my repeat pattern 'Rekki in Reykjavik' for the love seat. As I explained in my talk, I also launched 'Rekki in Reykjavik' as a home wares collection this week to recover my cost of our LDF event. It will become available on my website at the end September.

In her part of the talk, Lucy Mortimer detailed the 10kg waste that had come from two of our 'circular economy' chairs (pictured below). She applied these numbers to a high-quality, expensive three seater, which needs to be reupholstered once in about 12 years. By juxtaposing this to a cheap standard sofa with a material life span of just about 2 years, she arrived at about 10-15kg of mostly recyclable or compostable waste in comparison to about 320kg of bulky waste going to landfill in the same period of time. Her example impressively drove home the difference between the low price the consumer pays for a cheap standard sofa and the true costs of waste management and environmental impact that society as a whole has to pick up for this kind of sofa.

Sophie Thomas, last but not least, talked about the Great Recovery's visits to waste management sites and got us all shaking our heads over the absurdity - in this age of growing environmental awareness - pictured below: 'do not reuse' unapologetically imprinted in all-caps on a piece of electrical equipment.

This much for today. If you happen to be in London today or tomorrow, do pass by at our live workshop at the Victoria and Albert Museum's Learning Centre on Level 3. 

You can read more about our event at the London Design Festival events web page and our hashtags for the week are: 
#LDF14 #LDFredesign


Wednesday 17 September 2014

Day 4 at the Victoria and Albert Museum #LDF14 #LDFredesign

It's been the 4th day, and I am excited as we are back to my key piece for the week, which we hope to have complete before our talk on Wednesday at 4pm in Seminar Room 3, just a few steps down the hallway from our open workshop at Level 3 of the Learning Centre of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Galapagos Designs' Charlie with his staple gun, ensuring the tension is good along the back, before we add the final backing, a beautiful blue corduroy that I have died myself, like all the other corduroy on this chair, as I couldn't find the colours I wanted anywhere.

Above you can see how my design mirrors itself for each side of this 'love seat', and the  yellow and coral corduroy on the sides.

And below my favourite bit to finish the whole sofa off: the wonderful work of Kaja Kippenberg, who is part of my company, for PR and communications - and in her words "knits to relax!" In this case she has been a whiz with her crochet needles and her maths to ensure this 'leg warmer' fits like a glove ...

.. and wait until tomorrow when we show you the final final finishing touch!

Or, if you happen to be in London this week, do pass by at our live workshop at the Victoria and Albert Museum's Learning Centre on Level 3. We'll be there all week, showing, telling, making ... 

You can read up on our event at the London Design Festival events web page and our hashtags for the week are: 
#LDF14 #LDFredesign


Tuesday 16 September 2014

Day 3 at the Victoria and Albert Museum: Kyla's chair in progress #LDF14 #LDFredesign

If you are new to this blog, please find the background of our collaborative project with Galapagos Designs and The Great Recovery (RSA) on the London Design Festival events web page and on our previous two posts.

Charlie, the upholsterer of Galapagos Designs, placing the arm back on, with Kyla McCallum's origami folds on the outside. The top of the armrest, which you're looking at in this picture, will eventually be covered with the original wood. You can find an image of how the original chair looked in our blog post on Day 2.

The back of the chair. It's still work-in-progress, but you can get an idea of where it might be headed.

The right hand side beginning to take shape...

If you happen to be in London this week, do pass by at our live workshop at the Victoria and Albert Museum's Learning Centre on Level 3. We'll be there all week, showing, telling, making ... and our hashtags for the week are: 
#LDF14 #LDFredesign

We'll be back on here tomorrow - stay tuned!

Ella x

Monday 15 September 2014

Day 2 at the V&A: Collaboration under way with Kyla McCullum from Foldability

Day 2: Kyla McCallum of Foldability joined us to make her folded origami pieces from my printed fabrics of abstracts from the corrugated roof tops of Iceland.

We started with the logistics of how we can ensure they will remain secure on the fabric of the chair, and then planned out the pattern they will form across the arms and back of the chair.

Below the blue chair in its original vintage state.

Kyla, preparing one of the arms of the chair. We have used bonda-web to attach the folded fabric directly to the new base fabric of the arm. In addition, we will hand stitch in various areas to ensure an even finish and no bulging, once the origami fabric is attached and stapled into place.

This is Charlie of Galapagos Designs, measuring the bare skeleton of the chair after arms and all insides have been removed. 

We didn't get a chance to include a picture of the waste collected from the old chair in this post, but you can see an image of the waste baskets from the day before on Galapagos Designs' blog.

Lastly, a close-up of the printed fabric origami pattern. We were so pleased! Thank you Kyla, for coming over for the day and making this happen!

If you, dear reader of this blog, are interested to see the finished chair, do pass by at the Victoria and Albert Museum's Learning Centre on Level 3. We'll be there all week, showing, telling, making ...

More info on our collaborative event is available at 

And our hashtags for the week are: 
#LDF14 #LDFredesign

More to come tomorrow - stay tuned!
Ella x

Sunday 14 September 2014

Day 1 #LDF14 #LDFredesign

We opened our live 'workshop' yesterday in the Learning Centre on Level 3 of the Victoria and Albert museum. It was just as busy as we were expecting it to be, with lots of interesting nice people passing by and talking to us!

Below are two of the posters that we put up in our make shift workshop. The Great Recovery made them to illustrate some facts about our waste.

F A C T ! !

Below is the waste material that Charlie took off our first chair. We will sort  between recyclable textiles and waste that's destined for the bin. (Oops, looks like the picture is the wrong way up, but you still get the idea...)Charlie told us all this is natural material, the brownish fabric is called Hessian, and it's made from hemp fibre. The ginger coloured fibres that peep through are in fact coir fibre, from the husk of the coconut The cream coloured over padding, which was the final layer underneath the red vinyl that covered the chair for about sixty years, is cotton felt. All of these materials can be composted. 

And this is our first chair underway ...

The tension springs on the back and the coil springs underneath the seat are the originals. They just needed a bit of tweaking. The back springs are probably good for another sixty years as they are under very little tension when nobody sits on the chair and only minimal when somebody does. The seat springs have to work harder and therefore have a shorter life expectancy. They won't probably last for more than another 10 to 20 years.

Below, Galapagos's Charlie with his scissors, cutting the Wood Grain Blue fabric that Ella designed specifically for the installation. This fabric will go onto our first chair and we will show you more pictures as we go along.

Here's one of how it looked this morning, with fabric on the inside back and the first layer of padding on the seat, and two of our first visitors this morning taking a look at it.

This new padding is made from shredded recycled fabric, and Charlie calls it 'a very Galapagos material'. He likes to work with it as it is similarly long-lasting than the original materials that were on the chair.

Have a lovely day - and do stop by at our workshop @ the Victoria and Albert Museum if you can.

Hashtags for the week: #LDF14 #LDFredesign #elladoranvamldf14

Bye for now!


Monday 8 September 2014

Putting the circular economy into action with 'haute-design' refurbished upholstered chairs at the V&A during the London Design Festival 2014

We are drawing very close to my collaborative event at the Victoria and Albert Museum with Lucy Mortimer of Galapagos Designs and the Great Recovery (RSA)for the London Design Festival 2014 (13th to 21st September).

It all started with me, as a fellow of the RSA (Royal Society of Arts), wanting to raise awareness of the valuable work that the Great Recovery do. So I invited Galapagos Designs, with whom I first collaborated in 2013 on a range of vintage chairs, to join me, and 
over the recent months we then developed our event in conversation with the Great Recovery. 

My part is to demonstrate through real design 'practice' the kind of thinking that the 'circular economy' demands of a designer if we want to stop mindlessly filling up our land with waste that could be recycled, reused, remade or even avoided in the first place.

In a nutshell, it's going to be a live installation, in which we will display vintage and refurbished upholstered chairs in the Learning Centre Foyer (level 3) of the V&A. Every day we'll take one of the vintage chairs into the Design Studio, immediately adjacent to the exhibition. Galapagos Design's upholsterer, Charlie, will refurbish it right there and then, except for one chair, which we're already doing now. We'll collect all the old materials and sort them through in terms of what can still be done with them, and you're invited to come and look and talk to us about all of it. In addition, on Wednesday 17th at 4pm to 5.45pm, all us collaborators will give a panel talk about the whole project and its background in Seminar Room 3, just a few metres away from the Design Studio. The talk is free, but places are limited, so get there early.

Just to give you a taster, some pictures from our preparation process ....

Above, Charlie's handsome tools that will be in action in the Design Studio.

Below, Charlie and I, discussing the chairs with Lucy at Galapagos Designs' workshop.

My grandmother's chair (she always used to sit on the right hand side and we grand children would sit on the left ...)

As you can imagine, this chair holds much sentimental value for me and yet, the way it looked before we took off the last cover, I would not have wanted it in my house.

So it made an ideal starting point for our event, with me wondering how I could reupholster it and tell a story both with my designs and the work involved to deconstruct and make good the seat and legs, and recycle what I did not like, and make it into a chair that I would love to have in my home. Naturally, this came to be the chair that we are refurbishing now so it will open the show on the 13th September. 

This is how it looks from behind.

Below, a few 'sneak peeks'. My designs are all new work inspired by my recent trip to Iceland. They have been printed here in England and I have also produced a range of everyday products with them. We are launching them to the trade as you read this, and they will be available on my website from the end of September.

As this was such a great opportunity for exploration, I decided to collaborate with two designers on experimental fabrics. I'll tell you more about this during the LDF - the plan is to blog a post every day about the chair we've done that day. 

For now, here's one picture from my meeting with Kyla McCallum of Foldability, taken as we were planning the shape we shall use. She will fold my print fabric and assist Charlie in applying it to one of our chairs at the V&A on Sunday the 14th.

The other designer, Avantika Agarwald, has developed a process called 're-weaving', which is based on a traditional Indian weaving technique. It produces beautiful abstract furnishing fabric from an image being digitally printed onto a string of cotton (or other material) that is stretched horizontally across a frame (the warp). The string is then unraveled and re-woven on a warp of white cotton. 

Below, my figurative design 'Rekki in Reykjavik', in the process of being unraveled. The finished fabric, which has turned out amazing, will go onto the chair we'll upholster on Thursday 18th and Avantika will be present on the day.

Lastly, an image of the V&A's Learning Centre foyer, where the installation will be. The closed door behind the grand arch leads into the Design Studio. All easy to find and close together.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Ella x