restoring hope: reviewing cultivated

 

by Miller Keys and Eilish Jackson

 

Showcasing what it takes to create a circular economy within the furniture industry, Cultivated is a captivating exhibition that restores hope to its visitors. Located in Cult Design’s Melbourne showroom, the exhibition displays a number of restored pieces, as well as items from local designers, and a short film exposing the wasteful practices that drive the manufacturing industry.

As part of Melbourne’s Design Week 2021, Cultivated is true to this year’s theme: ‘Design the world you want’, and the three pillars that uphold this: Care, Community, and Climate. From the moment one enters the exhibition, you get a sense of the true appreciation the Cult team have for their products, those who design them and those who create them.

Cult’s showroom creates the ideal backdrop for the exhibition. Located on Melbourne’s iconic Elizabeth street, the building features original brick walls and large glass windows. Every detail of the building’s interior has been meticulously designed, from stair railings to the curtains, which only adds to the experience and reinforces the notion that good design must be appreciated and cared for.

The 1955 Series 7 Chair designed by Arne Jacobsen is an integral element of Cult’s circular design process. At the beginning of the exhibition, the chair is displayed in various stages of its life cycle. The resurrection by the Cultivated  studio, including sanding, painting, and even upholstering to create something seemingly new is shown, while explaining the process on banners hanging behind them. Importantly, these chairs were not just made for the exhibition: each chair was acquired by the Cultivated initiative after a long life in service from many locations throughout Australia. Several have found new homes for continued service post-cultivation.

The exhibition’s layout invites visitors to walk through each step taken to restore pieces of furniture. Guests view the before and after of a few classic items, before settling in on a quintessential Series 7 chair for a short film featuring several Australian designers and creators. They speak of their experiences with waste in the industry and how they are working to change it. Although the film leaves very few questions unanswered, the Cult staff are eager to inform and interact with their visitors and they are evidently proud of the work they have done to create change in such a conservative area.

Cult brand manager, Joshua Ellis, was especially excited to explain how many of the fabrics are made from the same material as plastic bottles, polyester, and was proud to announce that they have partnered with a textile factory being built on the Australia’s Gold Coast, which intends to use both recycled textiles and plastic bottles to create new upholstery materials. Ellis explains the recycling process and how the materials might be used, which certainly gives a greater understanding and appreciation of the work that goes into creating each piece upon visiting the showroom. What stood out about this, however, was that the factory will not be opened for another 12 to 24 months and Cult have already started saving fabrics to send to them, which testifies to the fact that this project is not just a concept or scraps of hope for a better world – these people are making it happen.

After visiting the ground floor, visitors are encouraged to make their way through two levels of showrooms, which display only the best of furniture design (along with the biggest of price tags). While these products are a showcase for grand design of sustainable products, they also demonstrate that ideas like Cultivated don’t come cheap. Many of the products cost well into the thousands and sometimes even tens-of-thousands of dollars, which clearly isn’t within the average home decorator’s budget. This highlights that although Cult is doing important work, until more “wallet friendly” businesses start implementing similar processes, people are not likely to jump on this bandwagon too casually. After visiting Cultivated, it is difficult to see how these processes could be made cheaper before becoming mainstream, and even then, this runs the risk of devaluing the exceptional craftsmanship involved. This is information that was omitted from the exhibition, as Cult’s demographic are very clearly people with large wallets and a strong appreciation for good design. It will take some time to overcome this issue, and that is time that is simply unavailable.

The final stop is the third floor which has been arranged into a studio apartment. Complete with a kitchen and bathroom, the room has been created using only items from Cult’s Nau collection. The apartment is an exciting look into the future of Australian residential spaces, utilising furnishings which are not only Australian designed and made with the best materials, but are designed for longevity, styled to individual taste, and can be repaired many a time so as not to contribute to landfill. Although beautifully arranged and a dream for those with a keen eye for design, this only raised more questions about how it could be made available to those who do not have the money to spend in these situations.

Not only does Cultivated showcase the ways in which furniture and lighting can be restored for longevity, it also invites people to discover new, more environmentally sustainable material options and how these new materials can be used across multiple settings. It is incredibly important to showcase the hard work of people like those at Cult, who are finding innovative ways to change the way people think about  products, while simultaneously taking action in regards to sustainability practices. Although some might see the challenges that arise out of this new way of doing, the exhibition answers more questions than it raises. Cultivated is for both novices and experts alike, who will walk away with a renewed sense of hope for the world.

 

Photo by Miller Keys and Eilish Jackson

perfect

 

By Deanne Elizabeth

 

And to you, this seems polished.

All that glitters, all I touch is gold.

But in the words of Paul Valéry:

‘I have failed to please my soul.’

 

Photo by Simi Iluyomade on Unsplash

in between the tragedies and vanities, we’ve got each other

 

By Manaswi Dawadi Rimal

I might seem distant.
Not just through the mountains and oceans between us, but also through the fog of my mood swings while I drown in the pool of my insecurities.
My overthinking, like a colony of ants following each other, threatens to overtake me.
But I got you.

I am me and you are you.
I won’t let the ‘me’ of myself let you feel any less the ‘you’ of  yours.
I won’t let you feel how distant we are, because we are not. Not in the ways that matter.

I am in your heart.
When you randomly smile in the middle of your hectic day.
I am in your mind.
When you cry in the middle of the night because you miss me.
I am crawling through your soul in your morning coffee as you sip it, along with the jokes I made about how I would get into you the way coffee would.
I am distant, but I am still with you, in your heart, in your mind, and in your soul.

It’s because of all of this, that I am able to let go of  you, and let you go.
But love and poetry isn’t all there is, because while you are you and I am me, we’ve still got this world to survive.

Love and poetry isn’t all there is, if we only see practically, but poetry is everything to both you and me. So maybe I will write a masterpiece of tragedies, and you will carve the tears and vanities into words, which the world will admire.
And we will break. Or not.

It doesn’t seem practical, but we are not practical beings, and we’ve got letters and postcards and phone calls and origamis and art and poetry.
Maybe we’ll recreate our own world, where I’ve got you no matter what and you’ve got me. Not like we own each other, but constant.
Like a heartbeat.
And the way we’ve got each other.

 

Photo by Andrew Ly on Unsplash

fungi furniture: reviewing studio flek

 

By Ben Wood

Waste is one of the most significant challenges of our time. Australia produces approximately 540kg of household waste per person, per year. Melbourne alone can fill the Eureka Tower 50 times annually. Although some of this material is recycled, the vast majority is stockpiled in warehouses where it remains unsorted and continues to grow.

Fortunately, design is an industry that flourishes when presented with a challenge. A single material has the power to capture the imagination of a designer and inspire them to develop new, innovative products. Recently, the design scene has embraced the challenge of repurposing various forms of waste generated from daily life and business. We have seen the likes of iron residue and algae repurposed into striking new products for consumers to enjoy. The industry is on a mission to turn our waste into something of value, and challenge our current perception of the life cycle of a product.

For this year’s Melbourne Design Week, Brickworks Showroom teamed up with the Gold Coast creative studio, Studio Flek, to produce an exhibition of biodegradable, home-grown furniture. The founder and head designer at Studio Flek, Chris Miller, partnered with Balter Brewing Co. on the Gold Coast to develop their latest range of bar stools. Not, however, from the traditional materials you might expect. Chris and his team are repurposing the beer hops that remain after the brewing process to grow bar stools, using mushroom spores as a binding agent. In an almost poetic cycle, Chris is creating bar stools that are made from beer themselves, and will hopefully seat visitors in the Balter Brewery one day.

According to Chris, who I was lucky enough to speak to on the opening night of the exhibition, the bar stools will be entirely compostable. Spent hops and mash grain are bound together by mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms, to create a composite material that is 100% biodegradable. Previous testing has found that mycelium has a compressive strength greater than standard brick, whilst maintaining a light and spongy texture, similar to that of high-density foam. In addition to these incredible qualities, the mycelium is also cheap to create, fire-proof, and sound-proof. When I asked whether he believed it was commercially viable, Chris mentioned that there were already a number of studios in the United States and Europe finding commercial uses for the material, including acoustic panelling and insulation within buildings, or as a substitute for foam or plastic in packaging. Chris explained to me that there are a number of benefits of designing with materials perceived as waste. They are low cost, sometimes even negative, as businesses will pay you to take them off their hands. The potential properties are currently unknown and destined to shift and improve with new technology and production methods.

The need to design products with a considered, cyclical life cycle is incredibly important.

Chris also spoke about the Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi as a key influence for his explorations, where imperfection and aging are embraced as natural parts of the life of a product. His stools are able to be broken down and used for a secondary purpose when their primary function has been fulfilled. While these ideas of cyclic design are not new, it has taken until now for them to be adopted into the mainstream consciousness.

Exhibitions like this one, supported by the NGV and Melbourne Design Week, play a huge role in integrating and normalising these ideas, into new designs and materials. Neurasthenic research shows that we perceive design and art differently if it is labelled and displayed in a gallery or show, as opposed to a store, or even a studio. The recognition from an external ‘trusted’ body alters our perception of a product’s validity, especially if the show is world renowned. A product is unconsciously assumed to be vetted and tested in order to have made it to the stage. This phenomenon has the power to lead individuals within the wider design community to take the leap of faith and invest in these emerging technologies, helping them to become more mainstream. When knowledge is shared, it becomes a tool for entire communities of designers and innovators to push the possibilities of an idea, technology or material.

I for one, am incredibly thankful that Melbourne Design Week chose the theme, ‘Design the world you want’. In a time where resources are precious, it is a holistic theme that asks a very pertinent question. Designers can no longer be seemingly thoughtless in their production and encouragement of a consumer-based society. My hope is that we can all play our part in shifting this narrative of waste towards a circular resource economy before it’s too late.

Photo by Ben Wood

the universe was never as cruel as the moment it woke me up

 

by Eli Rooke

 

The cosmos forged me a new body

and I was finally made of stardust.

Constellations traced along my scars,

and the sun warmed me to my bones.

The galaxy embraced me, and it was love.

I held myself, and it was love.

 

The sky turned dark, as stars

suddenly fell from their places.

I became a shooting star,

and I was falling.

I was burning.

 

I held and clutched

at the warmth still blessed to my skin.

But in a moment of burning ash, I was awake.

I was back in skin, stretched tight over my soul

and back in breaths, caught in cages.

My body was cold.

 

–  The universe was never as cruel as the moment it woke me up.

 

About Eli Rooke:

Eli Rooke is a non-binary entity who enjoys writing queer stories, with a particular focus on trans journeys and experiences. They can usually be found playing god with original worlds and characters. Eli has a passion for collaborative storytelling, and believes the best stories are the ones created with others.

Photo by Matheus Bertelli from Pexels

pride

This piece originally appeared in the Identity issue of SWINE Magazine

 

By Alex Edwards

I get asked every so often whether pride events are still important.

Do we still need to celebrate being queer?

When I hear these types of questions, I think about all the pride events I have attended and what they meant for me….the most recent being Midsumma Pride March, held on the 23rd of May, 2021.

The march was a great event which ended up having around 8000 marchers from about 240 groups and a couple of hundred spectators. As one of the marchers at the event, it was amazing to attend – especially after the wild year that was 2020. Being part of the march, you can feel the love and support that exists, and for a moment you forget about the rest of society and just focus on the fact that there are other people like you with similar experiences. When you live in a society that is run by rich cis white men, a society that doesn’t understand you or your experiences, being in an environment that makes you feel included and a part of society is a huge thing. Pride events are a celebration, but they still act as a form of protest against a society that doesn’t accept us.

This is what pride has always been about. Queer people fighting for equal rights and acceptance in a society that doesn’t understand us. That fight isn’t over but also, sadly, we have our own problems accepting others, which continue to persist in the queer community (as in the community more broadly), including racism, gate-keeping of queer identities, and ableism. These things work to further isolate queer people who don’t fit into the more widely understood boxes of queerness or who aren’t cis or white, and who don’t have disabilities. These are issues that the community needs to work on.

I love being part of the queer community, however at times I am ashamed by the behaviours of some of its members. Instead of letting this dishearten me though, I see it as on opportunity to become better informed and then pass on that knowledge – something I work towards in my role as the SSU Queer Representative. I try to pass on knowledge about our history to those who are new to the community or want to become better allies. I also work towards finding out how we can better assist those who are marginalised within the community.

All of us deserve to feel safe and accepted for all elements of our identity. While we continue to fight for acceptance and recognition from wider society, it’s also important for those of us who understand what it’s like to be excluded, to ensure that we don’t continue to perpetuate those feelings of erasure or exclusion in our own communities.

 

Alex Edwards is the current SSU Queer Rep.

Photo by Raphael Renter on Unsplash