Thursday, December 15, 2011

Direct Digital Print: Musing on a sustainable practice

Direct Digital Print has been exploring the advantages, both design and environmental, of digital printing on fabric since 1999. We were originally attracted to the process in order to offer our fashion clients the opportunity to do quick turn-around sampling. 

However, the more we used the process, the more we realised its possibilities. We now know that digital printing is an excellent way to reduce water, ink and material waste in the textile printing industry, as well as reduce product wastage for our clients. From a creative viewpoint, it also offers greater design and creative flexibility.

Image: Julie Ryder, Transmorphing 1 (detail) 2011, Reprinted with permission of the artist. Image copyright Julie Ryder, registered with Viscopy.

Digital printing allows our clients and our textile design studio the possibility to do sampling, small run productions, and one-off textile pieces in a print-to-order capacity. This minimises wastage and eliminates the need to store unnecessary stock.

We specialise in direct printing onto natural fibre fabrics using inkjet technology, and also sublimate onto polyester. With either option, we print only what is needed by ourselves or our clients. This allows clients to print as little as one metre of fabric to trial their product before ordering exactly how much they need for their season, production run or individual project.

The flexibility of the process, and the very low minimum waste, means we can cater to a  large variety of creatives - designers, artists, illustrators, photographers, students and crafts people, and indeed anyone interested in printing their own images.

The process also allows us to assist businesses starting out, offering them the opportunity to start small and grow as their customer base grows, reordering their product at anytime. We keep all files and information in our library ready to recall when needed, completely removing the need for businesses to keep excess stock.

We have been working with textile artist Julie Ryder for a number of years on specialised projects. Ryder's design work is often complicated digital imagery (see top image), that can really only be reproduced using digital printing. Each piece is individual, with a rare few being reprinted. For each design, Julie normally requires only a few metres - not achievable with traditional printing methods due to the excessive volume of  minimum print runs. The flexibility of  "print-to-order" allows Julie to do one-off pieces or reprint should she need to.

We are continually inspired by this technology and it’s possibilities, and are committed to promoting the sustainable nature of not only the process, but the business model it supports.

In each of these case studies, the client ordered (and continues to order) only what is needed.

Image above: Lisa Haymes, homewares - Lisa is a photographer and was interested in using different media and context for her images. Her original order was a pair of each image  to make up her samples, and on her next order she was able to double her numbers. 

Image above: Katelyn Aslett Couture: Katelyn is well-known for hand-crafted felted garments. She came to us wanting to translate her work onto silk. Her work was ideal for digital printing, as the digital process retains fine detail of the original image. You can see the texture of her felting clearly in the textile print. Her original order was a few metres to make up her sampling, and since then she has regularly re-ordered various quantities depending on customer requests. 

Image above: Sara Philips, fashion label: Sara started her fashion label about 3 years ago, originally ordering only a few metres of two prints to inject colour into her range. Now we do her sampling for each season, and then go to production once orders from her buyers are finalised. Each season has grown well - from 20m in her first year, to 400m in her last spring collection, which was majority print. 

Digital Direct Printing website 
Sustainability Stories link 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sustainability blogs

Supercyclers blog

Liane Rossler blog

Climarte website

Bindarri website

Have you signed the defunding petition

Craft Australia Defunded by the Australia Council

Craft Australia is challenging this decision and is also seeking your support. 

What will you lose if Craft Australia is lost to the Australian craft and design sector. 

 The ramifications of not having a national peak organisation representing the craft and design sector are significant.
  •  There will be no visible national portal to represent the work of the many artists, designers, gallerists, curators, writers and researchers working in this field.
  •  Australia will be the only OECD country without a dedicated agency to advocate and promote the work of this area of practice.
  • The many initiatives that Craft Australia has been advocating for that link craft and design with innovation and industry will be lost.
  •  Substantial digital content about this sector will be lost, creating a significant knowledge gap about our cultural traditions.
How you can help: 
  1. Sign our petition
  2. Forward to petition to friends and interested parties 
  3. Write to the Visual Arts Board, Chair: Ted Snell email 
  4. Write to the Minister for the Arts Simon Crean MP contact details
  5. Write to the Shadow Minister for the Arts George Brandis SC contact details
  6. Write to your local Minister

Evergreen Sustainable Fashion: Musing on a sustainable practice

EverGreen: fresh sustainable fashion
Object Gallery 27 January -  25 March 2012
EVERGREEN presents a new generation of designers who are changing the look and feel of eco-fashion with innovative and beautiful designs. While sustainability is a lifestyle choice on the lips of many Australians, these values have yet to be confidently applied to fashion. While consumers and designers are united in their aspirations for sustainable choices, there is a gap in consumer education and eco-conscious designers face considerable challenges in realising their designs.

Today there is a myriad of ways for consumers and fashion enthusiasts to embrace sustainable fashion and support eco-conscious designers. Consider this exhibition a starting point, as we highlight designers dedicated to sustainable practice, uncover innovations in textiles and fashion and suggest more sustainable ways to enjoy fashion.

[Sustainable fashion is an ever-evolving term used to describe a commitment to ethical production, responsible resourcing and natural processes. It considers an article’s enduring value in relation to social & emotional attachment and consumption patterns, and aims toward a system of practice that does not deplete non-renewable resources, does not pollute during manufacture and produces clothing able to be re-absorbed into the environment.]

Julia Knupfer studied fashion at ESMOD Berlin and is set to open a flagship store in Berlin in early 2012. Her label ica watermelon combines sustainability with high fashion, using organic cotton and wool sourced from biological controlled animal welfare. Julia’s knitwear has been described as “futuristic, directional and daring”, with a striking balance between angular, structural forms and delicate knitted accessories. Website

Holly McQuillan  is a lecturer in the Fashion Design program at Massey University’s College of Creative Arts in Wellington. Her research focuses on sustainable design practice by exploring the possibilities of Zero-Waste pattern cutting - a philosophy that challenges existing techniques and encourages smarter design. Website

Georgia Mccorkill  is a designer and PhD candidate dedicated to sustainable special occasion-wear. The Red Carpet Project is a design driven collaboration between designers, celebrities, stylists & publicists, using the red carpet as a forum to raise awareness of environmental problems faced by the fashion industry. Georgia uses natural eucalyptus plant dyes and up-cycled fabric remnants to achieve stunning environmentally conscious gowns. Website

Object Gallery website 
Sustainability stories website 

Try This at Home: Musing on a sustainable practice

Object has been working in partnership with the National Institute for Experimental Arts (NIEA), UNSW to present Try This At Home in October 2011. 

 The Project Space was transformed into a cosy yet unusual lounge room inviting audiences to consider the way in which we are each designing the future in our everyday actions.
Artists, designers and collectives including CO2penhagen (Denmark), Haque: Design + Research (UK), Magnificent Revolution Australia, Makeshift (Australia), and the Slow Art Collective (Australia) present examples of adaptive practice, in which existing resource use is redirected for more sustainable outcomes.

Image  Slow Art Collective, Fieldwork, 2011. Photo: courtesy the artists

From 8 October Try This At Home was presented in the Object gallery and through the exhibition’s online presence:

With the help of viewers’ contributions to this site, the exhibition will perform the ways in which the urban contexts of our homes support or hinder our attempts to live sustainably, identifying opportunities for positive changes to the social and structural fabric of our city.

In Natural Fuse by Haque: Design + Research, carbon-sinking plants are networked into an analogy for climate change. Viewers may borrow a Natural Fuse unit comprising a planter box and appliance to use in their own homes. Before they use the appliance, they need to check online to see if there is enough energy in the network. If there is, they may proceed with a clear conscience. If not, they face a choice: do they go ahead anyway and risk another planter box receiving a fatal shot of vinegar?

Image: Haque: Design + Research, Natural Fuse, 2008. Photo: courtesy the artists

Utilising abandoned objects left by local residents for council pick-up, the Slow Art Collective present an installation made from household refuse and document the hidden world of fellow jumble scouts, who collect and repurpose these discarded items.

Viewers earn their television privileges by pedalling Magnificent Revolution Australia’s bike-operated home cinema, to see the story of the world’s first carbon neutral festival CO2penhagen and can later participate in a bike-power workshop.

Makeshift bring a new social practice to Surry Hills and Darlinghurst with 6 Jars, forming a collective that exchanges home-made food. 

Image: making time Tessa Zettel & Karl Khoe, Making Time, 2010
Try This At Home is the first exhibition in the Australian Research Council (ARC) funded five-year Curating  Cities research project, investigating how art and design can effect sustainable urban transformations. Within this research project, the role of Try This At Home is to explore methods of community engagement and participation, with the results to inform future exhibitions.

Try This At Home is an Associated Event of Art & About Sydney 2011, produced by City of Sydney. It is held in conjunction with Curating Cities: Sydney-Copenhagen at Customs House 17-24 November 2011.

Try This at Home website
Object website
National Institute for Experimental Arts (NIEA) website 
Sustainability Stories link

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sam Parsons: Musing on a sustainable practice

Sam Parsons of Studio Sam


To me sustainability goes beyond material selection, recycling and minimizing environmental and social impacts. These should go without saying.  To me sustainability is about asking the bigger questions.  Do we really need more designer furniture?  Does the design contribute something worthwhile?  Will the design be desirable in the future?  Could it possibly become a heirloom to be valued for generations to come?  if not, what happens to the item when it is no longer desirable? 

As a designer I grapple with questions like these on a constant basis.  I am consequently committed to designing solutions that have real purpose, respond to everyday needs, are adaptable, contribute to the quality of life, can transcend transient fashion, and importantly challenge society’s 'throw away' mentality.

The Studio Sam products that have resulted from this approach could be placed into two broad categories: 1) those that involve reuse and 2) those that address a real issue.


The Booksmith range and the Betty Blue / Blue Print ranges demonstrate reuse. The former exhibits reappropriation while the later retains the original function.

The Booksmith range as the name suggests consists of products handmade from discarded hardback books which have outlived their intended function.  The reuse of books, mminimises the need for raw materials and in some cases helps to divert materials going to landfill.  The range includes the Bookscreen, Siena the Bookblock Table, Dust Jacket Gift Cards, gift tags and notebooks. 

The Booksmith range gives the books (or parts of) a new role and value.  In the case of the Bookscreen, the books now form part of a more permanent collection, one that has a new functional role and is prized for its aesthetic merits.  Each screen, being an individual, is appropriately given a christen name and a certificate of authenticity which adds further reverence to the screen.   Bookscreen won a Victorian Premiers Design Award in 2008.

Image: Bookscreens can be custom made to a specific size or colour composition. Ruby the Bookscreen  was a commissioned piece consisting of  64 books.  Helga the Bookscreen consisted of 18 books and was only 3 books high. Photographer Peter Bennetts

Bookscreen builds on the character of the original books.  The colourful covers (which are still in good working order) are removed,  arranged according to colour and reassembled utilising traditional book binding techniques.  The sturdy covers provide structure while the book spines provide the hinges for the concertinaed screen.  Some of the pages from the books are reused to line the back of the screen.  Bookscreen celebrates the high quality craftsmanship of the original books and provides (in a day of increased digital technology) a tactile reminder of how books used to be made.

Bookscreen is portable, flexible and adaptable. It is an ideal privacy screen or delineator of space in the open plan house, retail or corporate environment.  The screen can be reversed to provide a totally different characterLower screens (eg upto 3 books high) provide an alternative to standard workstation privacy screens.  

Image: Siena the Bookblock Tables are functional, sturdy paper structures. Photographer Geoffrey Marsh

Siena the Bookblock Table is constructed from, as the name suggests, the bookblocks (or pages) that have been removed from the cover.  No additional glue or toxic materials are used in the construction.  It is the original spine of the book that provides the main structure, along with the folded pages. This material simplicity enables the table to be easily recycled if required.
The appeal of Siena comes from not only its surprisingly sturdy, sculptural form but also from the beauty of the original pages themselves.  The quality paper, varied themes, bright colours and vibrant images are put on show and given new appreciation. 

While designing Siena I resisted producing a table top: 1) so the sculptural form was not hidden and 2) because it would have required the introduction of new materials which was against the principles of Siena.  The intention was for a tray / plate / glass / book (whatever you have at home) to be placed on top when required to provide a surface.  

Image: Dust Jacket Gift Cards are hand-made blank giftcards. Each is an original and comes with a100% recycled (post consumer waste) envelope. Photographer Sam Parsons

After making the screens and Siena there are left over book parts. I subsequently created several other products to join the Booksmith range as a means of minimising any wasteThis is perhaps epitomised, by the Dust Jacket Gift Cards.  These handmade cards are made from the original dust jackets. They are prized for their varied themes and titles, the nostalgia they create and their quality artwork among other attributes.  These cards are only made when the dust jackets are available / left over.  They are therefore limited in supply due to the very nature of their existence. 

Other products that have been produced for the Booksmith range from time to time include gift tags, notebooks, wrapping paper and presentation folders.  Once again, these items are only produced when there are left over book parts available and the need arises.  On other occasions, I have also used books (or parts of) to create installations or one off commissions.

Image left: The Booksmith Gift Tags were devised to utilise the pages left over from the construction of Bookscreen and Siena the Bookblock Table. Photographer Sam Parsons

Image right: The Booksmith Notebooks is made from 2 (double sided) discarded hard back book covers.  Custom made notepads can be slipped in to the covers and refilled as required.  The intention was to give the covers  an ongoing role so their use was no longer limited by their contents. photographer Sam Parsons

Image left: A commission for the Clara Display Suite, Melbourne. Stylist Megan Morton. Photographer Tim James

Image right: An installation titled 'Tomorrow'. Discarded hardback journal covers (given to me by a library) were used to create an undulating landscape for the display of homewares. Photographer Geoffrey Marsh

The Betty Blue range also demonstrates reuse.  Decals were applied to found,  mis-matched,  'as good as new’ ceramic crockery.  The concept was not purely about redecorating the ceramics.  The intention was to go a step further and address one possible reason the plates were discarded in the first place; that being their separation from their original set.  After all un-matching crockery is typically undesirable.  Betty Blue created new sets which restored the plates role and value. 

Although each of the resulting ceramic pieces were different, they were related to one another through the application of blue and white circular motifs.  The artwork was based on found, traditional blue and white patterned plates which themselves were incorporated into the new limited edition Betty Blue sets.

Similarly the Blueprint range (which was a collaborative effort between Studio Sam and Lightly in 2009) also reuses found ceramic plates.  This range continued on the basic design concept behind Betty Blue.  The designs however were rationalised rendering them suitable for small production runs. The resulting limited edition wall plates were produced and distributed in Australia by Lightly.  The range won the Home Beautiful, Product of the Year (Home Accessories) award in 2009.

Image left: The Blueprint (left) and Betty Blue (right) ranges create new sets from found, mis-matched crockery. photographers Lightly (left) and Peter Bennetts


A case study in this category would be Outee; a range of outdoor furniture that Studio Sam is currently working on.  The modular furniture is designed with small scale outdoor spaces in mind.  It was initiated to address real needs, in particular the challenges of urban growth.  As we are faced with increased population growth we will see more small scale outdoor spaces. Although there are a variety of outdoor furniture products on the market, few cater specifically for these smaller spaces.  Outee provides a spatial solution, one that aims to improve the function and efficient use of these spaces and ultimately contribute to the quality of life. 

Outee is being developed with life-cycle in mind; from material selection and efficiency through to production, distribution, use and end-of-life.  Importantly the range was designed for longevity and adaptability to try and minimize premature obsolescence.  A Lifecycle Matrix has been prepared to provide a preliminary assessment of Outee and a prediction of how it may perform over time.

Outee is not a product that is going to solve the problems of the world or mitigate major environmental problems but it is a small, positive measure that does address real issues that would contribute to the well-being of society.

Sam Parsons is a design practitioner and the director of Studio Sam.  The Brisbane based design studio focuses on interior design, landscape architecture and product design.

Studio Sam website 
Sustainability stories link 
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Monday, November 21, 2011

Nick Randall: Musing on a sustainable practice

My recent work has focused on material minimisation by creating structures using slender pieces of timber aligned in ways to provide strength to the piece.  These structures also function as aesthetic elements. I have exposed these structures completely enabling them to be the major focus point.      

The major influence for this approach comes from the world of engineering where industrial structures are built to be completely utilitarian with their appearance not considered. I feel though that while these structures as a whole are not the most attractive sights they feature elements which are unintentionally quite beautiful forms which reveal an inner beauty when considered.

I find this an interesting notion, these industrial structures which were created for purposes one would not usually consider sustainable were designed by engineers to be built using the least amount of resources possible which is in very general terms a sustainable approach to design. 

This made me think are we as designers somehow unsustainable in our approach at times through the addition of unnecessary adornment and therefore resources for aesthetics sake to our work?  This is a somewhat Brutalist way of thinking but an interesting one none the less. I think that there is a middle ground in terms of balancing aesthetics with resource usage and the intrinsic value added to a beautiful object through adornment means that it will not be readily disposed of.   

My Tangent table utilities a very small quantity of material for its size (1200mm x 600mm x 420mm). The leg and rail structure are one connected element with the wishbone configuration of the leg structure providing strength through triangulation and the side and end rails double as edging for the table top. The entire structure only uses one board of solid timber 1800mm x 150mm x 38mm a very small quantity of precious timber for the purpose it serves.  

 Sustainable design at this time I feel is overly focussed on just using sustainable materials. Sustainable materials are a major element of a sustainable approach to design but I don’t see that using large quantities of sustainable materials instead of large quantities of unsustainable materials an overly sustainable approach. Rather I think that a more holistic approach should be taken by utilising a combination of methods to ensure a sustainable result. Some of these methods include minimising material usage through considered well thought out design, producing work with a high level of craftsmanship to increase its lifespan and possibly negate the need to recycle but for it to simply be refurbished far into the future and creating objects that are timeless in their aesthetic and not just reacting to short term market trends. 

I find our consumer culture with its throw away mindset quite disheartening. We seem to have lost our sense of the value of our possessions.  I think that the best way of all for us to foster sustainability is to simply consume less by focusing on quality and through our own work produce objects which will be the antiques of tomorrow and still cherished a many years from now and far too precious to throw away.   

Nick Randall website
Sustainability stories link 
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Thursday, November 17, 2011

What people are saying

The following are example of open letters to the Arts Minister, The Hon Mr Simon Crean and local ministers.

Crafts downgraded by the Australia Council again
Helmut Lueckenhausen
In a review of 40 key organizations 12-13 September, the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council decided to bring a 40-year history of national and international advocacy for the Australian craft design sector by CA to an end. Others have written, and will continue to draw attention to the issue of the inadequacy of the process, even in accordance with the Australia Council’s own published procedural guidelines. Read more

 OPEN LETTER: Why would you defund a cultural institution? 
Ray Norman 
 RE: Why would you defund a cultural institution?
Firstly, it must be said that neither you personally, nor your ministry, are seen as having defunded Craft Australia – an Australian Cultural Institution – but the 'institution' has nonetheless been defunded by the Australia Council's Visual Arts Board (VAB) [1] and ultimately in your name – albeit at arms' length. Read more

LETTER TO A LOCAL MEMBER: An expression of dismay!
Marion Marshall
I am writing to register my dismay that Craft Australia the National peak organization for the Crafts has been given notice that it will be defunded by the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council.
As a craftsperson (a gold and silversmith) who has operated her studio and gallery for 37 years, successfully building a creative business which has employed and trained 19 people.  Read more

To send your letter in response to the defunding of Craft Australia more information  
Read submissions about the defunding of Craft Australia  Read more 
Comments on the petition Read more

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

New Articles in the Craft Australia Library

Catalogue essay:
Grace Cochrane, Here by hand: 70 years of Sturt. 
Read more

Catalogue essay:
Patrick Snelling, Textiles Sensorial Loop. 1st Tamworth Textile Triennial. read more

Tale of Adventure:
Diane Moon, Seven Islands - curating Land, Sea and Sky, a tale of adventure.  read more


Top Ten articles read more