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Helping people to help themselves

Nov 27, 2017

What does a refugee’s craftsmanship, digital tools for glass and plastic have in common? Ambiente!

Tuareg making a metal bowl under the UNHCR initiative Made51.
Tuareg making a metal bowl under the UNHCR initiative Made51.

There are often people who escaped with their lives, yet they’ve got a lot to offer to a global consumer goods industry. The Made51 initiative of the refugee organisation UNHCR has therefore set itself the aim of helping refugee artisans to gain access to the market with their products. The focus is on helping people to help themselves, as skills and experience are of inestimable value on the consumer goods market.

Whether it’s Tuareg leather craft or Syrian finesse in embroidery, artisan skills can form a basis for a new and secure life. But the initiative also helps to preserve people’s cultural identities and artistic traditions in the context of a global value-creating community of artisans. At Ambiente 2018 Made51 will have a prime spot in the foyer of Hall 11.0 where it will be presenting itself with a selection of products.

The art of surplus

When plastic is used on an industrial scale, then it is impossible to avoid a surplus. To be precise, whenever a production series is completed, then some residual plastic flows from the injection moulding machine – waste material which has so far never been put to any use. Four students from the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design are now converting such plastic into a totally unique material under the supervision of Professor Hansjerg Maier-Aichen. Their initiative is called Scrap Life Project.

The resulting stools each look different, depending on the random shapes of the plastic scraps. “Using this multi-coloured starting material, we’ve been creating some elementary archetypes,” says Professor Maier-Aichen. “And we’ve been doing so without any technical sophistication or high-tech pretences. It only takes a few scraps to turn an asymmetrical piece of plastic into an unmistakeable piece of seating furniture, so that each item is definitely unique,” says the passionate designer. 50 of these works of upcycling art will be on display in the foyer of Ambiente Hall 11.0 from 9 to 13 February 2018.

It all starts with a glass lab

Take some silicon dioxide, sodium oxide, calcium oxide and some more or less secret additives, and heat up all three to a temperature of over 1,400 degrees Celsius.
The result: glass. The material that is created in this way can be given any shape whatsoever – provided that the right tools are used. “A product can only be as innovative as the tool with which it is made,” says Mark Braun, entrepreneur and lecturer in product and industrial design at the Saar College of Fine Arts (HBK). He also heads up the Glass Lab Special Exhibition at Ambiente 2018, presenting a studio project under the same name where students at the College have been experimenting with the optimisation of manual production processes. “The purpose is to apply digital thought processes to analogue mechanisms. This leads to tools which can either be manipulated or modelled. Moreover,” says Proffessor Braun, “it produces totally new design options.” Both the unusual tools and the resulting sculptural glass structures can be viewed at Stand F 82 in Hall 4.0.

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