Using just recycled paper and a whole lot of creativity, designers are creating a new type of homeware and furniture. We talk to three of the pioneering new brands championing this new design medium to discover more about its malleable charms.
As co-founder of gallery 8 Holland Street and former managing director at The Fine Art Society, it’s fair to say Rowena Morgan-Cox knows a bit about art and design. Like many, however, she suffers from impostor syndrome. ‘I can’t help feeling like a fraud for not having practical experience,’ she says, ‘but I really wanted to make things for the home.’
With the seed of an idea growing while she was still at the west London gallery, her first thought was to create elevated upcycled furniture. ‘But the logistics were impractical,’ she says. ‘I was trawling the internet for vintage lighting for my own home, and nothing was in my price range. With pandemic downtime, I decided to design things myself.’
The result is Palefire, a new brand offering papier-mâché lighting manufactured by a small family-run workshop just outside Barcelona. ‘A friend gave me a papier-mâché bowl, which was beautiful and surprisingly robust, then I came across several other objects in quick succession. The fact that you can use pure recycled paper rather than plundering raw material gives the designs a level of consideration. I’m not claiming they’re perfectly sustainable, but I’ve tried to be thoughtful about each component.’
Inspiration for the hand-painted collection draws on past design movements including art nouveau and art deco, as well as the Omega Workshops and the work of French artist and designer Sonia Delaunay, while its modular nature leaves the door open for new configurations. ‘I’m thinking about artist collaborations, bespoke customisation, seasonal colours and limited editions,’ says Morgan-Cox.
‘There’s really no end to the combinations that I can continue to adapt, which makes this all very exciting.’ palefirestudio.com
DE LA JARDIN
Egg boxes, cardboard, magazines and junk mail are just some of the types of household waste that Jacqueline de la Fuente, the artist and maker behind de la Jardin, hand-shreds to create her sculptural paper clay vessels.
A favourite of top stylists including M.A.H Gallery founder Laura Fulmine, her pieces take their inspiration from her Filipino roots as well as found relics and abstract forms. ‘I was born in the UK but spent several years in the Philippines as a child, and that culture and environment strongly influenced my work today,’ she says. ‘I love that very little energy is used to make the vases, and that there’s minimal, if any, waste.’
Combining paper pulp with glue, flour and a small amount of joint compound (a type of filler), the former textile designer creates a malleable clay, which she uses to build her one-of-a-kind pieces before gently sanding and painting their tactile surfaces. ‘The whole process is slow and quite meditative,’ she says.
She has recently created an exclusive collection for The Ode To, an online Swedish art gallery, and future plans include escapingLondon for a bigger studio and experimenting with larger sculptural pieces and wall hangings. ‘I’m excited to explore new patterns and shapes,’ she says. ‘My work is constantly evolving.’ delajardin.com
It was an unloved side table that inspired Greek artist Polina Miliou to first experiment with papier-mâché. ‘I really hated the table,’ she explains,‘so I decided to adapt and remake it using stuff from around my house – newspaper, cardboard and flour – to make paper pulp to coat the piece. It was messy and slow, but something clicked and I started making more objects.’ Charmed by the process, the former architect, who’s based betweenAthens and LA, began spending more time creating her idiosyncratic designs.
‘I needed to make things with my own hands,’ she says. Like that first table, her playful, brightly coloured pieces are made using either found objects as a base, or carved Styrofoam and repurposed wood forms. These are coated in pulp, the recipe of which varies hugely. ‘I’m not very consistent; I use a big blender and different paper, then I’ll add stucco paste, glue and acrylic or powder colour,’ she explains. ‘I squeeze and slap the mixture on with my bare hands. I like the fact that you can see the process in the final piece, which makes it very personal.’
With shows at Dio Horia Gallery in Athens, Superhouse in New York and the Collectible fair in Brussels all in the pipeline, Miliou is also keen to work with other artists. ‘A collaboration with someone who uses another medium,’ she muses.‘I’d be very interested in that.’ polinamiliou.me