Verena Witthuhn                                                                                                                                               Work    About    Contact            

There seems to be an opportunity for designers today to take their own position on what the task of design is and how they want to fulfil it. In design, it is mainly product designers who have set out to find new materials and applications. New practice-based work processes can allow designers to use different research methods that are not necessarily about proving an existing thesis, but rather letting the seeker determine the process. More may be found than was sought, and multiple answers may emerge that can point to alternatives.

Here in Portugal, we have eucalyptus trees growing not just in the countryside but also in the cities. The smell of eucalyptus is in the air everywhere. In a large city park near the sea, I discovered eucalyptus bark peeling naturally from the trees and lying all over the ground. The long and wavy bark aroused my curiosity. I collected it and let my hands experiment with the possibilities that could be done with it. I collected bags of bark and began to chop and process it by hand and with kitchen utensils. I decided to use cornstarch as a binder to keep it natural. After mixing all the components, I filled the mold and then let it dry outside in the sun for several days. Especially from May to October, I find the summer sun in Portugal is very strong and contributes to a regenerative production.

Besides my conceptual artisanal process, which is to be local, holistic and regenerative, I am looking for other ways of making and disseminating the MESA concept on a larger scale, following the same values. For me, this is not a contradiction to my work. Industrial manufacturing today has the possibility to also work in regenerative processes.

I  see great potential in interdisciplinary teams. Working with creatives from other disciplines allows for a broader perspective and more insights can be gained - this includes the exchange with industrial manufacturing as well. I believe that I can create positive maker and user experiences with the parameters I use to achieve my design outcomes.

Designing as a method for learning and grasping the material culture that surrounds us. Reviving an appreciation for making things and a heightened awareness of the material universe that surrounds us fosters a greater appreciation for the quality of objects and lead to more conscious consumption.

Collaboration with the aim of using local materials and incorporating knowledge of traditional craft techniques into the design process holds potential and equally creates new networks.

Lounge table MESA

For me it is important to test my own scope of action in my immediate environment. As designers, we enjoy spending our time outside where the adventure happens. Spending my time in nature always brings inspiration to me and has become essential for my design practice. I discovered that starting my design journey in a natural environment provokes a different process that leads to the use of different materials and different objects appear.
For my work I’ve developed a creative method, enabling nature-inspired and spontaneous design practice, that allows me to work outdoors, where I have free access to materials, natural light and an open workspace.

I define my work as an open and ongoing research for natural materials and their use and applications in design. My design practice also questions the usual office workspace and is exploring the wide working field of design today. As designers we are not just asked to design surfaces but even interfaces that will shape and change structures and processes. Often we think about the user experience and how a service or a certain product can have an influence on the habits of our user. To me it also seems to be important to design products that allow a positive maker experience as well.

The Lounge table MESA is the first furniture resulting from this design process. So far MESA is a conceptual work and intended to show a field of application for this and other natural and plant- based materials in lower complex products. Properties of my material are that after drying completely it becomes very light and weight resistant at the same time. Since 100% natural components are used it is biodegradable and compostable. Also it is possible to reuse and reshape the material which allow long-life-circles.

It has become more and more common for designers to start designing and producing small batches themselves in FabLabs. In combination with new technologies a variety of new forms of objects can emerge.
Many machines simplify work steps and make production processes faster but also the aesthetic of a handmade object seems to be a different one and brings different value to an object. Working by hand saves energy and can create precious time for the makers. Designers could include both techniques as a communication of design tools that define the look of an artifact.

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