How a new material influences new ideas
April 23, 2022 | Written by our designer Hans Thyge Raunkjær
It is always an exciting challenge to come across new materials and figure out how to utilise them, particularly, in this case, with a material that gets a second life. The technique we use is similar to creating porcelain. The wet recycled paper pulp gets poured into forms like the wet liquid clay in porcelain forms. After absorbing water from the pulp, the object becomes relatively stable, so it can be extracted from the mould and left to dry outdoors on wooden shelves. The drying process and the fibre structure create a beautiful design which resembles many forms found in nature that have minor defects and variations in the surface layer.
Starting to design with a new material always creates anxiety, but if you manage to capture the true feeling of the material, every other element will fall into place. You need to find out how to create moulds and understand the limits of the material. You also need to know how the cutting and finishing processes can be done without compromising on look and feel.
The entire startup phase of Paper Paste’s designs involved living with the material and trying to truly understand it. We found that an important component was colouring the material to see how it would influence the final product. After some time, we started to get a strong feeling about where the material was supposed to go.
The paper itself should play an influential role in the design, and when we saw the first subtle earthy colours emerge, it all became more apparent. The simple geometric forms and strong heritage influence combined with the new material created bespoke designs and an incredible sense of accomplishment and artistic expression. It was like the material somehow took over the voice of the project, which was one of the more exciting elements of the Paper Paste Living project.
We started to spread some of the first designs around the design world to get some feedback, as when you create things with new materials without a visual vocabulary, it’s hard to devise impartial opinions. For example, how is a simple bucket-shaped form made out of paper received and valued? The process of showing prototypes and discussing the material's potential confirmed the idea that we should be playing and experimenting very much with the paper itself.
Almost by accident, we placed some paper paste pieces on top of some brass and a piece of wood. We then discovered that by combining smaller elements of other materials into the design, something really beautiful happened. The objects gained more complexity and the added material revealed a stronger sense of intrigue.
Through this process, we discovered that Paper Paste Living was about evoking our heritage and memories with a twist. As in all other designs, it ended up being a story about quality and expression, defined and emphasised by the small details.
I always loved the quote: "The devil is in the details". That phrase reminds us that the secret to good design is down to opening your senses while keeping your eyes open, and if details are wrong, the design will not work.
Paper Paste's story emerged as a unique narrative as we slowly became consumed by a brand new material. With time, we established a connection and set out some rules which partly came from our creative minds and partly from the material itself.