Computer Arts - - Contents -

How de­sign­ers are ex­plor­ing the use of hu­man waste as an abun­dant, sus­tain­able ma­te­rial

De­sign­ers are chal­leng­ing the neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions sur­round­ing hu­man and an­i­mal bi­o­log­i­cal waste and ex­plor­ing its use as an abun­dant, sus­tain­able ma­te­rial

with the world’s pop­u­la­tion ex­pected to ex­ceed nine bil­lion by 2050, shit, hair and dust gen­er­ated by hu­mans and the an­i­mals they keep are among the few nat­u­ral re­sources whose abun­dance is in­creas­ing. Now new tech­nolo­gies are al­low­ing de­sign­ers to take ad­van­tage of this ever-ex­pand­ing ma­te­rial.

Fabio Hendry and Mar­tijn Rigters, for in­stance, have de­vel­oped a way to turn hair into an ink. This can be used on var­i­ous met­als to cre­ate dec­o­ra­tive sur­face ef­fects. The de­sign­ers drew in­spi­ra­tion from both old ce­ramic tech­niques and con­tem­po­rary print­ing pro­cesses to de­velop their meth­ods. Us­ing lo­cally sourced of­f­cuts from hair­dressers’ floors, the project aims to re­po­si­tion hair as an abun­dant and sus­tain­able print­ing medium.

The Dust Jew­elry col­lec­tion by Ágústa Sveins­dót­tir, mean­while, rein­ter­prets dust as a pre­cious raw ma­te­rial, and in the process, poses ques­tions about ma­te­rial worth. ‘We al­ways de­mand that every­thing should be flaw­less but in the end, every­thing is dust or be­comes dust. Is it pos­si­ble to make use of ma­te­ri­als that have al­ways been con­sid­ered noth­ing more than use­less dirt?’ asks the de­signer.

Sveins­dót­tir gath­ered dust from derelict build­ings across Ice­land, in­clud­ing aban­doned farms, bound it us­ing a biodegrad­able ad­he­sive, and used it to coat metal rings and ban­gles. The dust coat­ing grad­u­ally wears away to re­veal the struc­ture of the jew­ellery be­neath, mak­ing trans­for­ma­tion and dis­in­te­gra­tion an in­te­gral part of the design.


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