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Make Good: Rethinking Material Futures

Posted by Bath Bespoke on 15 March 2022

The V&A Museum has launched a 10-year project, Make Good: Rethinking Material Futures, dedicated to investigating natural renewable materials and what forests can teach us.

This ten-year project is supported by the designer and furniture maker John Makepeace OBE and encompasses an annual display, symposium and programme of acquisitions committed to examining the use of renewable, natural materials and the future of sustainable forestry in connection to design and architecture.

The programme aims to question the responsibilities of designers and consumers towards the natural world at this moment of crisis.”

Johanna Agerman Ross, lead curator of Make Good

Make Good: Rethinking Material Futures invites practitioners from different disciplines ranging from science, design, forestry and academia to share research, knowledge and skills. The programme encourages ideas of stewardship of natural resources and considers the responsibilities of designers and consumers towards the natural world in a time of climate crisis.

From the Forest

What can the forest teach us? That is one of the key questions which runs through the From the Forest display of contemporary design projects on show until 18 July 2022.

Image: @GabrielHemery

Featuring works from the V&A collection, and others on loan from makers, this display showcases design projects that engage with questions around environmental stewardship and the sustainable use of wood.

It prompts us to think about material use and its consequences, encouraging engagement with a topic that is now at the forefront of the debate around the climate crisis.

It brings together works of design and material experimentation from Playfool, Formafantasma, Gitta Gschwendtner, Mac Collins, Sebastian Cox, Fernando Laposse, Marjan van Aubel and James Shaw. The featured projects interrogate how forestry can teach circular and renewable production practices, and how wood can be used sustainably in design.

The interests of growing timber, manufacturing and ecology can be symbiotic, as shown by traditional and some evolving systems. Timber is a uniquely precious source of structural material and the sustainable management of woodlands can be the most effective way of enriching diverse habitats for wildlife.”

John Makepeace OBE

Circularity in design

The V&A, Make Good: Rethinking Material Futures 2022

The Make Good symposium, held in February 2022 , was dedicated to looking at the use of renewable, natural materials and the future of sustainable forestry in connection to design and architecture.

It considered the care of forests and what forestry can teach us about circularity in design via four parts: Plant, Care, Cut and Make.

Speakers included scientists such as Dr Kate Hardwick and Victor Declerck from Royal Botanic Garden, Kew and designers Sebastian Cox and Playfool. The programme invited designers, scientists, manufacturers and academics to share their insight during an afternoon of thought-provoking talks about forests and their influence on design.


A permanent change

Bodge Bench by Gitta Gschwendtner, 2010, W.1-2022. Photo: © Jason Orton

Make Good will also undertake a number of acquisitions to embed the rethink and overall thinking of the programme in the V&A’s permanent collection.

The first acquisition is the Bodge Bench by Gitta Gschwendtner created in 2010 using English ash and sycamore. The bench will form part of the From the Forest display and is made using a traditional type of making called ‘bodging’ or ‘chair bodgering’.

Bodging is the traditional way of creating Windsor chairs from green timber using only hand tools, close to where a tree is felled. The approach avoids the carbon cost of transporting the wood before putting it to use.

An evocative example showing a woodlands’ capacity to nurture creativity, the Bodge Bench exemplifies the beauty of basic making traditions.