Material Imagination


One benefit of being grounded at home has been spending more time exploring the land we inhabit. Living on an island in the present-day Pacific Northwest means hiking wooded trails and combing the shore for washed-up treasure. These are places we know well as they are the places of our childhood. As well as being our current home, they are the ancestral summer fishing grounds of the Suquamish and Salish Coast Tribes that inhabited them for centuries.

This past spring, in an effort to keep up with our kids and their endless collections of sea glass and favorite rocks, we started collecting pottery shards. We wonder about these blue and white shards that find their way to this particular stretch of beach. Recently a piece washed up with the words “Buffalo Pottery 1914” and it took our imaginations with it. We could not help but be curious about the journey it took over a hundred years ago from upstate New York to the shores of the Salish Sea. 

This little shard drove us to check out a stack of books on island history as well as almost place some late-night Ebay bids. It also made us think more deeply about materiality - the way some materials last and age and become more valuable over time. Being a family of amateur beachcombers, we also pick up a lot of trash while looking for treasure. Heaps more. Why is it that a piece of plastic zip tie or chunk of polystyrene leaves us with dread instead of inspiring us to learn more?

We think about the work that we make and the materials we use in relation to these finds now. What are the seven generations of our furniture and objects? We hope that they are loved and used and passed down, but at the end of their desired or useful life, how will they wash up? Will they be trash or treasure? Or maybe they won't wash up at all, but be reused as parts for something new.

For this reason, it is important to us that we work with high-quality materials in their natural state and finish them with non-toxic plant-based oil and wax finishes. Our FSC certified ash can be repaired, refinished, cut and reused, burned for heat, even chipped and composted. 

Our woven cotton textiles can also be repaired, reused, cut and composted. By not using chemical dyes, treatments, or backings, they are well suited for safe decomposition. Our lighting is designed so that components can come apart to be repaired or replaced over time. Glass (with the exception of mirrored glass) and metal can also be reused or recycled.

Our braided rugs are more challenging, but something we are thinking a lot about. Even though their natural undyed wool is compostable, separating the fibers from the braids is too labor-intensive for an at-home compost project.

Life cycle analysis is something we should all consider. We are hopeful that it will become more commonplace as our collective awareness around making and consuming deepens. Along with pottery shards and local history, we’ve been recently inspired by the concepts of Doughnut Economics. Now we are envisioning a future where everything from individual products to whole buildings systems might one day come with material passports. These passports would take stock of each material component used and layout plans for how they can live on beyond a single-use.

In this imagined future where materials are truly valued, we see more opportunities to share within our communities as well as repair shops for everything in every neighborhood. It will be a future where we live within our planetary resources while making sure everyone has their health and safety needs met. 
We hope to see you all there soon!

Add Comment
 June 2022
 April 2022
 March 2022
 December 2021
 November 2021
 October 2021
 September 2021
 August 2021
 July 2021
 June 2021
 May 2021
 April 2021
 March 2021
 February 2021
 January 2021
 December 2020
 November 2020
 October 2020
 September 2020
 July 2020
 June 2020
 May 2020
 April 2020
 March 2020
 February 2020
 January 2020
 December 2019
 November 2019
 October 2019
 September 2019
 August 2019
 June 2019
 May 2019
 October 2018
 September 2018
 May 2018
 June 2017
 May 2017
 January 2017
 December 2016
 November 2016
 August 2016
 July 2016
 June 2016
 May 2016
 December 2015
 November 2015
 October 2015
 July 2015
 June 2015
 May 2015
 April 2015
 March 2015
 November 2014
 October 2014
 September 2014
 August 2014
 July 2014
 June 2014
 May 2014
 April 2014
 March 2014
 February 2014
 January 2014
 December 2013
 November 2013
 October 2013
 August 2013
 June 2013
 May 2013
 April 2013
 March 2013
 February 2013
 January 2013
 December 2012
 November 2012
 October 2012
 September 2012
 August 2012
 July 2012
 June 2012
 May 2012
 March 2012
 February 2012
 January 2012
 December 2011
 November 2011
 October 2011
 September 2011
 August 2011
 July 2011
 May 2011
 March 2011
 February 2011
 January 2011