Among our favourite finds at this year’s Salone del Mobile was meeting Bethan Gray and the team from Nature Squared for the unveiling of their Exploring Eden collection. This collaboration between one of the UK’s superstar designers and one of the world leaders in sustainable solutions has created an extraordinary collection of innovative products: at once contemporary and timeless.
Don’t be deceived by the Art Deco lines; these materials from Nature Squared are cutting edge. The resins used are unique, developed to minimise plastics and pollutants in the manufacturing process and to eliminate VOCs.
The Nature Squared Story
Nicholas Gee of Nature Squared gave us the lowdown on their 20 year mission. It’s not just a matter of creating luxurious finishes: it’s creating them from waste. Across the globe, hundreds of industries harvest animals for their meat without a thought to the utilisation of the waste materials. Nature Squared set-out to change that by buying the waste shells from fishing villages in the Phillipines, and tail feathers from pheasant hunters and goose down merchants in the UK and Eastern Europe, preserving the natural colours; making a showcase of what would otherwise have been discarded.
Not only does this cut down on waste (obviously a Good Thing™), but it provides an alternative source of income to their communities.
Our favourite example is in the case of the Filipino shells, where demand for scallop meat led the fishermen to move to using larger, nylon nets to increase their harvest. While it worked in the short term, the nylon nets enabled them to over-fish, reducing scallop numbers to endangered levels, and the synthetic nets, caught more than just scallops, killing large numbers of unwanted sea creatures, and harming still others when they broke. By purchasing the shells that were otherwise destined landfill, Nature Squared were able to supplement the village’s income, making their traditional harvesting techniques more economically viable despite the smaller harvests.
It’s a case study in how sustainable practice should work. When done right, it’s not a matter of sacrifice or compromise, it’s a fundamental change in how we conceive of the situation, which when done right, enables even greater value to be derived from the process.
That’s the Nature Squared story over the last 20 years, but until now their processing costs have been prohibitive, restricting the final products to bespoke units in luxury homes and super yachts. That’s no longer the case, and by partnering with legendary designer Bethan Gray – former chief designer for Habitat and winner of the Best British Designer Award 2014 – the goal of bringing these beautiful materials to the mainstream is a step closer to reality.
Exploring Eden @ London Craft Week
We were lucky enough to receive an invite to the Milan debut of this initial collection – dubbed Exploring Eden – and the wraps come off it in London this week for London Craft Week at the Sea Containers venue at Southbank.
If you have a chance to get down there and see the display you won’t be disappointed, and if you don’t have time, make time! You won’t be disappointed, and if you’re lucky enough to have a chance to speak with Bethan or Nature Squared founders Lay Koon Tan and Paul Hoeve, you’ll only be more amazed by the skill and technology in each of these products, and the exceptional, natural beauty they’ve unlocked in each.
Exploring Eden will be open to the public from 10am-6pm from Wednesday May 8th – Saturday May 11th @ The Sea Containers Gallery, SE1 9PD.
Go and enjoy it!