[vimeo 96953371 w=750 h=420]
What started as a project exploring ways to mould plastic, despite limited resources or tools, Waël Seaiby did a little digging and discovered a few things: Firstly, one of the most common (and cheapest) forms of plastic available was in the form of plastic bags–the kind we get at the supermarket. Secondly, there are various ways, using heat, to fuse the thin sheets together in order to make thicker material. And thirdly, making things out of recycled plastic has already been done, so what next? That’s when Seaiby’s project shifted, and took on a more experimental tone.
As the project progressed, and the more research I conducted on recycled plastic, the more I started to understand what the material needed to have to stand out; recycled plastic already exists, but people have always been critical of how tacky or cheap it looks, so I set out to turn the plastic bags into a material that did not necessarily look recycled, and from which precious-looking objects could be made.
It’s precisely the aesthetic quality of the products that drew me to the project in the first place, which probably comes as no surprise. I’m always drawn to design that utilizes recycled materials, or those that would otherwise go to waste, turning them into something that’s not only useful, but in the case of PLAG, beautiful as well.
The bowls and vases are surprisingly light. Displayed on a shelf or surface, to the eye they appear, in brilliance and heft, like ceramic or stone, but when you lift them up, they are wonderfully light. Yet they still don’t feel or even look very much like plastic, and that’s where the unusual processing of the plastic comes in.
After trying many different ways of moulding the plastic, including an iron, a toastie-maker, even a burger press, he started to make steel moulds and place them in the oven. This successfully moulded the plastic in plywood-like boards, but didn’t quite meet the requirements for the organic shapes Seaiby had in mind. At that point, he added another step of powdering the plastic once it had been moulded in the oven, and then again moulding the fine plastic powder into any shape he wanted, giving him the flexibility to experiment with different colors and sizes.
Because the plastic bags are so thin, their transparency causes the color of the plastic to seem much more faded than if the same plastic existed as a solid block. As Seaiby fuses and moulds the bags together more densely, their colors become more vibrant. The color is an important aesthetic aspect of these products, making the obvious artistic choices evident, but I like that the colors already occur in the bags themselves, and only when they are fused do they show their full strength.
PLAG was awarded and Innovation Initiative Grant from the University of Edinburgh.
More information on Waël Seaiby and additional design work can be found on his excellent website, waelseaiby.com.