Wasted

This is Wasted, a project curated by Arts Co that was part of year’s London Design Festival and was located in the tunnel connecting the Underground to the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A).

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Architect Ian Douglas-Jones and designer Ben Rousseau lined the tunnel with the foil-lined paper sacks that tea to Britain from other countries, such as Argentina. As the architect explains, “Wasted showcases the throw away by-product of our penchant for tea, recomposed along with other disposables to form an immersive and jewel-like, semiprecious environment.”

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The “other disposables” include fire-hoses that droop down the centre of the space and help define a seating area; the tunnel becomes a space to sit and contemplate, not just a conduit for movement.

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But lest the project exist solely to make visitors question their drinking habits and the waste created from partaking in afternoon tea, it also “forms the launch of E&K Arts, a range of everyday, beautiful products created in collaboration with artists from waste.”

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It’s pretty easy to see how this environment crafted from tea sacks is fitting for the launch of “chic, environmental products from reclaimed materials.” It utilizes a portion of the waste product unseen (foil liner) so that the origins of it are basically unknown. Douglas-Jones and Rousseau take their medium and sculpt an enchanting space that elevates the mundane into something special.

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This subterfuge of a sort raises questions about luxury goods and their relationship to art and design. Elvin & Kresse’s (the E&K in E&K Arts) saddle bag — made from old fire hoses — goes for £99.00 ($165), hardly an inexpensive item but less than a comparable Louis Vuitton or Dior bag. Nevertheless, will cheap, recycled materials become the next mark of luxury, for their design as much as for their eco-sensitivity? Will the LV and Dior stamps lose favor to Freitag, E&K and others opting for recycled rubber over calfskin? In time perhaps, especially if their designs are as striking as Wasted.

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