Thursday, 28 May 2009

upping the upcycling...part 2

Whilst brushing my teeth this morning I was thinking about my recent post on upcycling, and what I can make to stick in another post.

Anyway, as I was standing there, my eyes fell onto the wonderful makeup bag I received for my birthday last year.

A perfect example of upcycling, fair trade and function, so I thought I'd write a bit about them to show another prime example of what can be created from crap.

So - what will I make from my recycling bin? Not sure. Maybe a sculpture for the garden? Maybe something useful for the garden? Hmmm. Pass that thinking cap...

Have you been inspired yet...? As always - answers on an e-postcard.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

I went to Chelsea and did some recycling...

Ah, yet another Chelsea posting.

I am truly aware that the blogosphere is awash with the ramblings of both exhibitors, visitors, spectators etc, etc, so now that Chelsea is completed, I thought I'd do a little post about recycling, and the many forms that I saw when I visited last week, rather than my previous offerings.

Firstly - the best sort of recycling - the recycling of stuff. I was extremely pleased when I saw a mass of products, available to either buy at the show, or commission for future delivery. Planters made from old tyres, sculptures made from rubbish and re-made fabric shopping bags. Many lush things, but my vote has to go with the beautiful wares on show from Toby Clayton of HME, which included some re-configured recycled metal planters. Nice.

Secondly - the recycling of waste. At last, there were large bins throughout the show for combined yet recyclable rubbish, from paper to cans to plastic. As shown by the BBC on their coverage, these bins were taken to a large depot to be sorted and split - great stuff, and I only hope that the bins were used responsibly by all and contamination was not an issue. I was also massively impressed by the recycling bins in place during the build up period for the general and varied construction waste, and I only hope that the same were in place for the breakdown.

Lastly, but perhaps the most frustratingly, was the intangible, yet quite obvious recycling of ideas. Some things excited me at Chelsea, were wonderfully executed and conceived and made me whip out my camera in a bout of 'ooh - nice'. Unfortunately, I'm afraid a lot did not. As I wandered around, there were a lot of things that I thought I had seen before, either at Chelsea or other shows over the last few years. And not just little bits, but a lot of things. Some were still done extremely well, but I'm afraid it was been here and seen that.

As a designer, I know that it is incredibly hard, if not virtually impossible, to create something so brand spanking new that it has never been seen before, but I think we should all be trying to push this boundary as far as we can at all times, to progress our profession. There were not many boundaries being nudged at Chelsea this year.

Maybe the blessed 'crunch' has a lot to say for this, as we all hark back to better times when we felt more comfortable in our lives (have you noticed how many ads are reminding us of how long a company has been established, or how many 'retro' graphics are being employed?). We all want the comfort of yesterday, not the uncertainty of tomorrow.

This is sad, as without a tomorrow, there is no hope and excitement left for anything.

And with that in mind, I'll leave you with a picture of a Chelsea recycling bin. (yes, I did get some funny looks as I took it)

Remember - recycling is great, but thinking should be done outside of the kerbside box...

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

perfectly permeable...

'with great power comes great responsibility' or so it says in Spiderman (or something to that effect), and even though I do not have great power, I do feel I have a great responsibility as a designer.

A responsibility to be true to my ethics, my client, my passions and to not adversely affect our little planet if I can do something to help it, and this is why I pour over every single one of my designs to ensure that I am doing all in my (limited and not great) power to make a small difference.

But designing a show garden brings a much greater responsibility. You are not just designing for one, or a few, but for potentially thousands of people who come to look at your garden. Stick in a bit of TV coverage, and boy do you have a weight on your shoulders. With all of this in mind, I feel I have a massive responsibility to show the masses what is available and what can be done, all with the responsible eco slant.

And this is why I choose the materials, methods, messages and plants that I do.

So when it came to sourcing a path for 'dancing with the trees' I knew that I had to provide a sustainable path, which was able to effectively turn a tight corner, with minimal or no wastage, be beautiful and permeable to boot. No virgin trawled gravels or pavers with lots of cuts here.

And what filled my requirements? A stunning, permeable, resin bonded, recycled glass path from my good old friends at SureSet.

It was quick to lay, set in a few hours, coped fantastically with the sudden cloud bursting downpours during the show, and glittered in the sun that broke through.

But surely, you say, there is wastage, even in this path after the show? Nope, as we broke up the path into small 'biscuits' and have laid it as a loose material on our allotment. It was made from a recycled product, and we have recycled it again. Perfect.
Plus, this is another good example of upcycling...(cor, you would think I plan these posts...)

Sunday, 17 May 2009

upping the upcycling part 1...

Recycling is great. I love it, and do as much as I can.

But there are many shades of recycling that we have to contend with...

It is generally understood that a great deal of recycling takes the raw material, reprocesses it into another similar raw material, or the same product again. But, even thought this is completely necessary, the reprocessing takes energy and sometimes downgrades the properties of the material, eg paper and plastic.
This is downcycling.

The opposite? Upcycling.

This is the term given when someone takes the waste raw material and reprocesses it into another product of equal, or higher value and quality.

And it is upcycling that we should be seeing much more of, and supporting in any way possible, so, with this is mind, I will be doing a series of posts on people doing interesting upcycling stuff, beginning with Aurora Robson.

Aurora makes the most wonderful sculptures from crap - plastic in all shapes and forms and even junk mail. It has been predicted that 30,000 plastic bottles have been intercepted from the waste chain to be turned into these lovelies.

Take a look and be inspired - what can you do, Blue Peter style with the contents of your recycling bin? Send me your pictures, and I will post any interesting offerings...

Saturday, 16 May 2009

chelsea, chelsea I believe...

I am properly shattered.

As you can see from my lack of bloggage over the past few weeks, I have been up to the eyeballs, albeit in a pleasantly panicky way. Malvern, home, tidy, clean, work, paperwork, some drawing, then to top off the week, I went to Chelsea.

I was very privileged to be invited to site to have a general nose about and do a smattering of work on the 'Dawn Chorus' garden of Chris Beardshaw and the last year's scholar, Lindsay Anglin.

Now, I always visit Chelsea, but never before had I been on site for a build up, so I was very interested to see how the maniacal logistics actually worked for myself. And yes, it was busy, with lots of people in small places, lots of passing traffic and plant, high vis on at all times, and no reversing without a banksman. It was much more like a building site than the relaxed openness of shows like magnificent Malvern, but was exactly what I had expected.

The 'Dawn Chorus' garden is a delight, and has been wonderfully planted by Chris and the rest of the team, who were also a delight to work beside. I picked up a good many tricks of the trade which I am storing up for my next show garden, and it was very interesting to see the planting methods of another designer in progress.

I was also able to have a good wander, so, with notebooks in hand, Paul Hervey-Brookes (scholar for 2009-2010) and I trundled off to do a whistle stop tour of the show. This was both exciting and interesting, as we come from very different ends of the design spectrum with very different knowledge bases. With his plantsman hat on, Paul noticed even the most subtle of horticultural details, whilst I revelled in the constructional details and general spacial qualities of the gardens. It was a very enjoyable and informative little walk.

So - how are the gardens looking? Honestly, some are spectacular in many ways (both good and bad), some are almost finished, some are no way near, but generally, it is an interesting bunch this year. Some far more interesting than others, but interesting nonetheless.

Have fun if you visit, go and say hello to Lindsay and drink in the wonderfulness and mentalism that is the Chelsea Flower Show.

Maybe I'll have a bash at getting in next year with my own garden, as I was already pencilling in sketches as I sat awaiting my coach home yesterday, my brain full of ideas and too tired to sleep, so watch this space.

But in the meantime I'll leave you with a sneaky peek at the lush little 'Dawn Chorus' garden of the Chris Beardshaw Mentoring Scholarship Team 2008-2009 - well done all and good luck!

Thursday, 14 May 2009

we danced by the light of the sun - part 2...

As a follow up to my recent post on the wonders of good solar powered lighting, I thought I'd better stump up with the proof. So, here are a series of images taken from the beautifully illuminated 'dancing with the trees' garden, at Malvern earlier this week...

and yes - these were all taken from the garden, using only the solar lighting...

want some yourself? go and see the fantastical guys at the solar centre...

not bad eh? and no glowworms in sight...

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

going to the movies...

a short post:

our little arty film about our recent show garden at Malvern is now live.

look at it here.

let me know your thoughts...

Magnificent Malvern...

I have come to believe that building a showgarden is very much like riding an extremely long rollercoaster. There are ups, there are downs, there are twists and turns, and somewhere along the line you will scream, cry and probably be sick.

And with this in mind, we set off a couple of weeks ago to build the latest in our offerings - 'dancing with the trees' at the Malvern Spring Show.

I have to admit, the staff at the Three Counties Showground are wonderful, so the rollercoaster runs much smoother than at other venues, but the threat of precipitation and a tight build schedule always tingles the nerves a little...

My first few days were spent working alone, excavating what seemed to be a roman path left over from previous gardens, and sleeping in a tent which I had somehow pitched on a scale replica of the Malvern hills themselves. Nice.

But then, on day four of the build, our proper accommodation arrived... our green bean trailer...

The prototype version of what we are now putting into production rolled up from Brighton on the back of Alberta, our Morris Minor, all shiny and new and itching to be used. The Green Bean is a little teardrop trailer that we have designed and built which we believe is possibly the most eco friendly mini caravan in the UK and was shown very briefly on Gardeners' World...but more of him in another post...

With an increased workforce, we rattled through the rest of the build, hampered only by the occasional rain, gale force winds and frequent biscuit breaks with our friends and neighbours (which made up most of our diet for two weeks...)

Judging day. Last minute touches to the garden. Leave. Cannot bear to watch judges on the garden so wander off. Hear reports from spies that the judges did indeed 'dance with the trees' as we had intended...

The first day dawns of the show, and we dutifully man our gardens from 8.00, awaiting the RHS medals or the dreaded 'no award letter'... So, what did we get? Another silver, which was great, but again, room for improvement.

So, up and down and up and down, the show rollercoaster, the Chris Beardshaw Scholarship... after hearing a report from Chris about how each of the potential scholars were received by the judges, 5 were invited to speak. I was lucky enough to take the stage, and spoke about my sustainable commitments as a designer. Others spoke about their own desires and aspirations as designers, then the board retired to deliberate...

An hour later, we were all reassembled, and even though I was disappointed not to be chosen, I was over the moon when my friend and show garden neighbour Paul Hervey-Brookes was awarded the scholarship. He is a wonderful and modest designer with a wealth of knowledge, and I have no doubts that he will do fabulously in his next year and beyond. Follow him via his very new blog here. Welcome to the blogging fray Paul...

The sun shone on us all for the vast majority of the show, which included a fantastical fashion show, cookery demonstrations and general frivolity, courtesy of the ever eloquent and engaging James Alexander-Sinclair, who I adore to bits.

So - hello to all of those who visited us, hello to those who didn't make it, and hello to all those wonderful people who made the garden happen in the first place. And congratulations to all of the scholars, who did themselves proud and were each awarded a medal. Another special well done goes to Deb, who dressed Lola to perfection, and was awarded a Silver medal and Best Border status. Well done and well deserved.

I will be doing a series of posts in the next week or so, highlighting specific bits and bobs in the garden and the show, so in the words of the eco Arnie himself, 'I'll be back'...