Orkney team designs cabinet incorporating waste plastic

08 December 2017

The second leg of the Scottish Design Relay has been completed in Orkney. A team of five young Orcadians were challenged with creating a new prototype design inspired by Orkney’s unique design heritage, utilising locally available materials.

They teamed up with renowned Orkney furniture maker Kevin Gauld and V&A Dundee’s Leanne Fischler for the project. The workshops, which spanned five days, were delivered in partnership with the Pier Arts Centre.

The final design is a prototype oak and straw cabinet decorated with waste plastic – known locally as ‘bruck’ – gathered from nearby beaches. The young people choose their own design brief and decided to make a product which would raise awareness of marine waste pollution.

Andrew Harvey, 15, one of the participants, said: “We are very aware of the impact of tourism on our local economy and we are also aware of the amount of plastic that washes up on our shores. The prototype cabinet repurposes the plastic to create a decorative and beautiful inlaid finish to the piece, similar to marquetry.”

To create a wave motif, colourful plastic was ground into small pieces before being mixed into a resin and used to fill engraved hollows in the wood. A quote about beachcombing written by Orcadian writer George Mackay Brown was also carved inside the cabinet doors.

The prototype design will be displayed in V&A Dundee when the new museum opens next year, alongside prototypes from the five other Scottish Design Relay teams across the country.

The team took inspiration from a hooded Orkney chair designed around 100 years ago by David Kirkness which will also go on permanent display in V&A Dundee when it opens in the second half of 2018.

Orkney furniture maker Kevin Gauld said: “I have really enjoyed taking part and found it a rewarding experience. I know it was mainly about the participants, but this project has benefited me as well. The cabinet design and the story behind it are a credit to everyone’s involvement.

“It was great to see how the participants worked together as a team to design the cabinet. It was challenging to incorporate something as ugly as bruck into something functional and beautiful that people would want in their homes.”

The workshops included learning the straw weaving technique that has been used by generations of Orkney chairmakers, studying objects on display in local museums, beachcombing for waste materials, experimenting with alternative uses for waste plastic and making a miniature working prototype.

Carol Dunbar, Education Officer at the Pier Arts Centre, said: “We were delighted to be approached by the team at V&A Dundee to be involved in the project. Having previously worked with Kevin Gauld we had no hesitation in suggesting that he would be an ideal local maker to be involved in the Orkney leg of the relay.

“Through the assistance of Voluntary Action Orkney’s Laura Drever, we were able to recruit a group of engaging young people to take part in and benefit from this exciting project.”

Leanne Fischler, V&A Dundee’s Scottish Design Relay Project Facilitator, said: “The second leg of the Scottish Design Relay has been another fantastic success and I would like to thank everyone involved for all their hard work and dedication. The final prototype design is both beautiful and functional and at the same time highlights the important issue of marine waste.”

The Scottish Design Relay is being supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and the Mathew Trust. The first leg was held in Dundee and the relay will also travel to Caithness, Shetland, Govan and Aberdeen.