Today I want to show what one can do with plastic bottles. Upstairs in my home I’ve collected some plastic bottles and I’m trying to make my first upcycle lampshade. And I can tell you, it’s fun and it’s difficult. Working with this material and these objects I’ve become very interested in what other people come up with using plasic bottles. And I’ve seen some fantastic designs.
Rubbish that shines
But a few days ago I came across the stunning and unique work of Heath Nash, a South African designer. He studied fine art at University of Cape Town, majoring in sculpture in 1999. He developed a very playful and experimental way of dealing with simple materials and together with the paper-skills he’d developed, he tried out plastic sheets instead of paper and eventually designed a system for making pleated lampshades from folded die-cut panels of polypropylene. In 2004 he exhibited this work at the inaugural Design Indaba Expo. The international buying audience found that his work wasn’t looking African or South African enough for their markets’ needs. That made him try to figure out what a South African product was, or how to represent his feelings for SA through design.
Around the same time, he met a wire artist called Richard Mandongwe. He was selling incredible flowers made from old plastic bottles and wire. The history of re-use as a typical SA mode of production was immediately inspiring. He had found a new voice. “By working with Richard, adding his wire skills and an amazing new material (bottle-plastic) to my structural knowledge and play, giving rise to a range of re-purposed post-consumer plastic waste products. I called the range ‘Other People’s Rubbish’. It was intended as a possible form of future upliftment for a country in desperate need of employment opportunities, and as a way to promote the idea of recycling to a very unaware South African public. There was also much discussion around the idea of a national identity through design at this time, and the possibility of inventing my own craft/design mythology for our new democracy was a real possibility, and it appealed to me. I realised that by using the right materials and knowledge – wire and plastic – combined with typically South African skills and contemporary design, a new aesthetic could be created which really spoke to the then current South African situation. This was in 2004, and later the same year. I registered my name as my company. Heath Nash was officially reborn (as a brand).”
This is just a short version of ‘My story‘ on the Heath Nash website, that tells the whole story of how it all came about for the company, the employees and for him. Definitely worth reading, it made me even more thrilled about upcycling! I recommend you to take some time to explore his website, because there’s a lot of interesting stuff to see and read.