There has to be a first time for everything. And so is today’s post. Yes, it’s about upcycle design and yes, it’s about furniture, a table. But what’s different is the way it’s written. It’s a sort of interview-like post. Hope you like the story and the design as much as I do. When I saw this upcycle design piece for the first time, I was totally amazed by it’s design and use of materials and objects.
Wooden spool with copper touch
The table is called ‘CUPRO‘ and is a creation by Colombian company Desobra, based in Medellín and founded by industrial designer Alejandro Palacio.
What triggered this project?
Last year I was walking from the metro to the workshop. One block away, right at the corner and almost completely blocking the walking path, I saw a pile of discarded industrial empty wooden spools. Judging from the markings they had on them, they must have been used for copper wire storage.
Even though I was unsure of what to do with them, they looked like they had design potential to me. So I went for help to collect them and take them to the warehouse. Unlike many reels I have seen in the past, these were made of plywood and were very narrow with little space between the circular sides. They were stored for a while until one day a very good customer of the brand said he was looking for a coffee table. Then he pointed at the reel’s plywood in a picture I was showing to him. Later on I was back at the workshop and I read the markings written on the reel that said Cobres de Colombia, Spanish for Copper of Colombia.
How did you come up with the design?
As I always strive for making meaning in what Desobra intends to do, I checked around a little bit more. Finally I found at one of the warehouses’ corners, some old copper pipes that had been picked up and stored before. The pipes were perfect for the legs of the yet-to-be-finished table. So I started the experimental process until I was satisfied with a suitable way of assembling the copper legs and the marked plywood surface.
Once aesthetics were approved, function had to be improved. Things wouldn’t be easy to stack upon the table because the legs were in the way and were crossing the plywood. So there was not much space on top of the table. I started looking for a solution using a sheet of glass. It would cover the plywood and the visible part of the legs as well. Also it would let me see through and read the original markings ‘Cobres de Colombia’. Which was the ‘main course’ of the design concept and table.
Where did you find those fantastic c-clamps?
I ended up using the c-clamps I had for tools at the workshop and luckily they even had copper finish in their threads. I had to modify these last ones and make holes to the tempered glass. Once I was satisfied with the result I treated the copper with acid, cleaned the plywood. Then I assembled the copper legs with anaerobic glue and mounted the circular glass onto the c-clamps with special knots and o-rings.
A new product was born. I decided to name it Cupro as it reminds anyone who looks at it, not only that the copper is part of the origin of the pieces that made it possible. But also a meaning and a pretext that was a big help during the whole creative process and that we are very proud to offer.
Please tell me about the company and name Desobra
Desobra is a commercial brand under which an upcycling company based in Medellín | Colombia operates. Together, the Spanish words ‘de’ and ‘sobra’ have two separate meanings which perfectly describe our aim and doing. When you have plenty of a certain resource -ideas and discarded objects in our case- you could say I have ‘de cobra’ of this and that. On the other hand, it could also mean ‘out of waste’.
Both meanings of these two Spanish words describe very well what since 2008 started as an industrial design academic project. Later on selected as participant to the Youth Encounter on Sustainability in 2010. A course organized by the Spin-Off of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich -ETHZ- that took place in Armenia | Colombia. And finally after a pause, it initiated as a business once it was awarded by the city’s administration’s contest ‘Capital Semilla‘ back in 2014 as a sustainable business idea. With the prize’s resources, Desobra started acquiring the necessary tools and materials for its own workshop and started selling through Social Media in Medellín and other major cities in Colombia.
Is the design process experimental or does it follow a plan?
The design process at Desobra is organic and experimental. Sometimes it starts from the given shapes and forms of the discarded objects. And sometimes the initial idea of a product needs a little something that has to be searched for in the streets, the internet or the rubbish itself. The intervention of objects is not always the same. Some are recovered and keep its original use and some other change context, use, form and purpose. There have been cases in which the creative process even involves tools from the workshop to be added to the final product.
What distinguishes your product?
Besides, from the customer’s point of view, the idea of purchasing an object that has been elaborated by hand and heart, that may be unique or one piece from a limited quantity and full of history and essence is attractive. Also the fact that it’s environmentally friendly is appealing now that the product’s life cycle is increased considerably. Therefore, having a piece is some sort of a treasure that somehow is a time capsule and a story teller. Aesthetically it will surely stand out and say something that an average mass produced product would’t.
The idea of upcycling means things evolve in use and appearance. Sometimes new pieces and virgin materials are added to the product, mixed, blended and put to a different function. In any case, ideas and recovered objects are always involved in the process. Because as it was stated at the beginning, Desobra means both, plenty of ways of looking at things and the use of discarded objects in order not to lose the original form and shape that would otherwise cost an adiotional amount of energy, transport, water, workmanship and time if they would ever be recycled.