Coathanger Bowl

This bowl is made from plastic coathangers woven together and simply held together in tension. It plays with the ideas of form and function, and the contemporary obsession with repurposing obsolete products into überobsolete products. The essential form and strength of the coathangers are subtly manipulated while still retaining their original purpose. The bowl can be deconstructed and the coathangers used once again. The bowl, without any real function, questions the ongoing need to create more new products, which seems only matched by the need to create more new categories for rubbish. But rubbish is as rubbish does. With so much already made, the first question the twenty-first century designer, living in a world of diminishing resources, must ask themselves, is: Do I really need to make this?

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Bloom is made from over 12,000 plastic lids zip-tied together to form over sixty organic shapes. The pieces were floated together on the Derwent River at the Glenorchy Arts and Sculpture Park (GASP) for the Flotilla project as part of the biennial Glenorchy Works Festival.

The plastic tops used are typically discarded without a thought, end up in landfill, and are rarely recycled. But because they float they also have a great chance of circulating in waterways if discarded inappropriately. Placing these plastic tops in a seemingly precarious position in the natural environment created an uneasy tension provoking conversation and interest about how the way we live and consume impacts on the local environment. Working with the inherent shape and colours of the plastic tops created a bloom effect mimicking the natural environment in which it was placed.

The new GASP boardwalk is situated on the Derwent River, and has given many people a new perspective on the river environment, allowing them to consider what it is that is coming into the river from our built environment. However, the foreshore is not a natural state as such, with much of the original shoreline being reclaimed, and the boardwalk dissecting water and land. So while the plastic tops seem out of place in 'nature', they create a playful interruption between the natural and built environments.

There is a great amount of interest in plastic pollution and particularly the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. However, we can easily overlook that much of the plastic that ends up in the ocean started out in a waterway after being discarded inappropriately within the built environment. Plastic is now a much-maligned material accumulating around us, and although it originates from petrochemicals derived from oiled formed from living matter buried millions of years ago, it does not break down into the environment like scientists once believed it would.

The artwork is fundamentally a re-presentation of post-consumer materials, but it is certainly created with intention and attention to an art-form; it isn’t simply a pile of rubbish tipped into the river. Although the latter could create intense reactions and conversations about consumerism and the environment, it could also be divisive and inaccessible. Creating an aesthetically pleasing and playful artwork, however, can be interesting and accessible, allowing an opportunity to contemplate issues that are in fact deadly serious.

Photograph by Lucia Rossi

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dematerialization /de-muh-teer-ree-uhl-ize-shuhn/ n1. materials that mysteriously appear in shops, are used briefly, then seemingly disappear without a trace. 2. materials that do not matter [Latin: related to: de DOES NOT, materia MATTER]

The idea behind this installation was to juxtapose materials we value, with materials we give little value to. It is simply a travesty the amount of clothing that goes to landfill each week even in a small city, like Hobart.  The ONO Project, curated by Kate Kelly and Pip Stafford, held at the derelict baths building on the corner of Collins and Molle Streets, Hobart, offered a tremendous opportunity to create an installation that would highlight the disparity in the way materials are valued in contemporary society.

Although few people could care less about the amount of unwanted clothing that is dumped in landfill, many were filled with anger and disgust at the idea of the old Tepid Baths being demolished. A site visit revealed one of the upstairs apartments had been stripped of all its plaster walls and ceilings, leaving only the exposed frameworks and floorboards. A single room of one of the apartments was re-lined with clothing salvaged from the local landfill. The clothing was stapled in place replacing the walls, ceiling and floor coverings, leaving only an empty doorway to enter the room.

Clothing is something that many people buy on a whim, and don’t give a second thought to throw away, even if never worn. Charity donation bins are overflowing with unwanted clothing, most of which are perfectly wearable. So much so that charitable organizations regularly dump clothing in landfills, some of which is unopened, unsorted bags of donations. The simple fact is, there is way more clothing being discarded than there are people buying it. Even if it was all given away, there would still be a glut. The new market simply outweighs the second-hand market.

A considerable amount of clothing now is made from cotton, which uses an incredible amount of water to produce. An average T-shirt uses up about 4000 litres of water! Yet many of us wouldn’t think twice about throwing away a T-shirt. Not only is it a waste of resources, cotton buried in landfill will emit methane, the worst of all the green house gases, while it decomposes. Same goes for leather, linen, denim, hemp, or any other material used to make clothing that is derived from a living plant or animal.

The bricks, timber, glass and tile, that makes up a building is far more likely to be reused after a building is demolished; though an incredible amount still goes to landfill. Building materials are perceived to be more valuable than clothing, though this may not actually be the case. It is more a matter of what we assign value to. Ironically, the same protestors who may well chain themselves to demolition machinery to prevent a building being toppled, may over their lifetimes throw away tonnes of usable clothing.


Daily Bread

We can assign a certain preciousness to materials, that is not always rational. Newspaper, as a paper material, is of relatively poor quality, but the words they contain are often of significant interest, especially the headlines. The often clichéd words and sensationalist images can fill us with all manner of emotions, from disdain, to outrage, to sadness, to laughter. The bundles of newspapers are made up of folded cover pages containing the headlines that capture our attention every day of the year.

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If necessity is the mother of invention, then modernity is the father of obsolescence.

In the 1970s the average ten-speed bicycle cost around $195. At the time they were considered the ultimate in recreational cycling, light years ahead of the single speed ‘clunkers’ that had hardly changed since the ‘safety bicycle’ of the 1880s. Although once considered so highly, they became a product of programmed obsolescence, and are now discarded without a thought. Once kept safely in the garage, or even the house, cleaned and oiled regularly, they now sadly collect cobwebs, or slowly rust away left out in the weather. Worse still, many are now buried under tonnes of other materials in landfills all around the world.

10 Speed

 What are these bicycles worth?

To a teenager in the 1970s: freedom and independence.

In scrap metal today, about $1.

You can have everything you ever wanted, and so can everybody else. But there’s a catch. It requires a paradigm shift. We can no longer consider our planet’s resources as endless, but limited and needing to be shared. It doesn’t mean you have no possessions at all. But it does mean that you do consider the other six billion people you share the planet with. If everyone on the planet did get everything they ever wanted, we would have disappeared from existence a long time ago.


 This is the paradox. It requires love.


We can’t really have everything we ever wanted if we are greedy and selfish. But if we are thoughtful, patient and understanding, perhaps we can. How long will it take before we affluent westerners realize that we cannot sustain our current consumption of limited resources? A bicycle, and the materials that formed it, were once considered highly valuable. They were handed down from older sibling to younger sibling, from parent to child and grandparent to grandchild. In many parts of the world they still are.


 Scrap steel is only worth 7 cents a kilogram. Maybe it should be worth more.


Perhaps it isn’t about money at all. Maybe we should use something until it cannot be used anymore, before we even consider replacing it. Maybe we should design things that are long lasting and not subject to the latest fad or fetish. Maybe we shouldn’t believe that new is always best. We should consider that only fifty years ago we had the ingenuity and creativity to manage to live with only a fraction of the resources we have today. Most people around the world still do.

We westerners still have much to rethink.

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