When I began working on my diploma project I asked myself certain questions: Which aspects are especially important to me when designing an object? Where does my work start and end? What do I actually know about the life cycle of raw materials and products?
In search for answers to these questions, the way materials are used seemed most interesting to me. Therefore my diploma project didn’t turn out to be a specific design for a product but a research project in which I would search for and discover new ways of combining raw materials.
When reading up on the ecobalance of many allegedly sustainable products, it became evident, that an eco-friendly object does not have to be made up exclusively of biological components to be called “sustainable”. I nonetheless chose to use only natural resources and additives for my experiments. Even without adding synthetic materials, the outcome had to maintain certain criteria such as storage life, resilience or water resistance. Testing the boundaries made the task even more intriguing. Yet, a material can also be interesting for product development, if it does not maintain its condition permanently. Things that are used for only a certain amount of time and that then deteriorate, play a growing role in today’s product design.
By experimenting with natural resources I was able to gather insights into the world of materials and uncountable experiences. I now plan to deepen these insights with professional partners in research and industry. A great amount of time and even more so knowledge from various specialist fields is necessary for generating materials that are ready for production. Every material must furthermore be examined for its cost effectiveness as well. Yet for now, one can already tell that some raw materials are appropriate for generating packagings and press molds or for example for making paper. Textile-like materials will also play a large role in the course of this test series.
Before I began working on the actual project, I searched for raw materials, techniques and additives. Some information was acquired by chance, but the biggest part was done by way of extensive research. This project is based on a selection of all the information I was able to gather. Amongst others, I used residual products and solid waste from the food industry, such as for example spent grains or apple pomace, kitchen waste such as egg shells or onion peel as well as a selection of fibre materials – sea weed, hay, straw or hemp. These materials might have already been used for certain products in the past, yet their potential has by far not been utilized to the fullest.
After collecting the first raw materials, I set about to prepare certain scenarios. I sorted, cleaned, dried and milled the gathered substances to then mix them with binders and/or preservative agents, then pressed into a mold and dried again. To generate paper-like materials, I used a strainer as a mold. By adding natural resins I was able to harden fibers as well. I experimented with various mats and baskets by using a sewing machine to connect the fibers.
All experiments were based on finding a way to ensure stability and water resistance. I therefore also used various preservative agents and sealings to avoid decomposing.
The ingredients of every composite were carefully noted and the outcomes were documented in photographs. Keeping records on all results, be it successful or miscarried, was essential for the continuation of the project. Sometimes the smallest changes in an ingredient or varying dosage was what brought successful results. Possible variations in raw materials and additives seemed almost uncountable, so that the experiments could always be continued.