Material girl scoops sustainable design award

Press release: 27 June 2006

A project to rejuvenate unwanted ceramics and textiles into objects of desire is a winner at the BSI Sustainability Design Awards 2006.

Caroline Till, a final year student at the Royal College of Art, is one of the winners at this year’s prestigious BSI Sustainability Design Awards for her “Creative Intervention” project which reinvents discarded ceramics, textiles and furniture. The award is being presented tonight, 27 June 2006, at the RCA’s Innovation Night.

Whilst studying for her MA in Printed Textiles at the RCA, Till’s project has been to develop print processes and techniques to redecorate and rejuvenate previously discarded articles into objects of desire, anything from mugs and plates, to clothing and curtains.

Till’s project goes some way to “rescuing” the estimated 1 million tonnes of textiles thrown away each year in the UK, which end up buried in landfill sites. Not only does her project address the negative environmental impacts of landfilling and incineration, it also lessens pressure on virgin resources as well as reducing energy and pollution.

Other notable sustainable design projects

Till’s interest and strong belief in sustainable design is not new and previous work has included designing and printing fairly traded organic interior fabric ranges.  She has also recently invented and organised an RCA college-wide ‘Clothes Swap’ event. The event was aimed to increase awareness of the issues surrounding sustainability and waste in the fashion industry whilst raising money for related projects. “As well as huge environmental problems the globalisation of the textile industry has fractured manufacturing supply routes, ending vertical operations and allowing exploitative working conditions to occur.  Fashion acts as an effective vehicle to convey these issues to a wider audience as we all wear clothes” says Till.

Sourcing discarded ceramics and textiles hasn’t always been easy.  “I used to have to rely on charity shops for my materials but now I’ve forged a relationship with a local textile merchant, allowing me to access tonnes of waste fabric.  I’m also negotiating with some large ceramic manufacturers to get hold of their waste materials and seconds, and hope to have something positive to report soon” says Till.

Her ideas are not limited to ceramics and textiles, but include furniture, addressing wastage on a larger scale.  With her award of £2,000 from BSI she will be able to research the use of industrial processes, such as powder coating and vehicle wrapping techniques to update and renew discarded furniture.  To help make this a reality she has contacted one of the UK’s largest furniture retailers for assistance in sourcing the furniture.

Long term the plan is to set-up a business showcasing functional, sustainable and high design items. As well as showcasing items it would also act as a point of education for the consumer.  It also goes without saying that she will continue in her existing practice of donating part of any profit to the charity where it was originally purchased. “I want to encourage a respect for materials, promoting consideration for where they have come from and where they will go after use” says Till.

Notes to editors

Other winners of the BSI Sustainability Design Awards 2006 are Susannah Clarke’s “Kyoto Kitchen” which is a new cooking concept to reduce energy consumption in the home, and Jonathan Michaud who won first prize for his project on ecologically and socially sustainable design practices which would support hand-weavers and their communities in India. 

Caroline Till is from St Albans, Hertfordshire and is a final year student at the Royal College of Art (RCA), London, studying Printed Textiles.

About the BSI Sustainability Design Awards

The BSI Sustainability Design Awards support design projects that promote awareness of sustainability issues or provide sustainable solutions.  Now in their 13th year, the Awards are open to all students studying at the Royal College of Art.

The Awards help students find out more about their chosen subjects while learning about the relevance of sustainability issues to design.  Prize money is used to help research and realise projects. 

Past winners include: Peter Brewin for his high performance water-saving shower – The El Nino – which uses 70 per cent less water and 40 per cent less energy than a conventional shower; and Will Crawford and Peter Brewin for “The Concrete Canvas” – a rapidly deployable hardened shelter for use by aid agencies in disaster regions.  This ‘building in a bag’ won the $100,000 first prize in the Saatchi & Saatchi 2005 Award for World Changing Ideas.

About The Royal College of Art

The Royal College of Art is the world’s only wholly postgraduate university of art and design, specialising in teaching and research and offering the degrees of MA, MPhil and PhD across the disciplines of fine art, applied art, design, communications and humanities. There are over 850 masters and doctoral students and more than a hundred professionals interacting with them – including scholars, leading art and design practitioners, along with specialists, advisors and distinguished visitors.

Innovation Night 2006, Tuesday 27 June 2006, at Royal College of Art gives business and research partners the opportunity to meet the innovators of the future. On show will be the work of graduating RCA students from the Schools of Architecture and Design, Communications, Fashion and Textiles, and Humanities. In addition there are four prestigious award events to attend and a review of the second year of Innovation RCA. At the heart of the evening there is a rare chance to hear RCA alumnus James Dyson talk about the business of innovation.