There’s a huge global waste problem, and one of the biggest design challenges out there is finding ways of looking at and transforming ‘trash’ into something new, beautiful and useful. While more ecologically mindful approaches — and even the “zero-waste” lifestyle — are slowly becoming mainstream, we still need to cultivate this growing awareness at the grassroots, educational level. One educator doing this is Mexican artist and academic Mariana Acosta, who teaches a creative upcycling class at Universidad Gestalt de Diseño in Xalapa, Mexico. The idea is to get students to rethink what is waste and what can be used for fashion, transforming trash into striking examples of design creativity.
© Alejandra Castillo
A dialogue between the maker and the material is enabled through a process of profound research and experimentation. Understanding the possibilities of the material to be transformed into an out of the ordinary body ornament was central to the success of the work. I feel very proud that some of them were able to develop their own personal exchange with the material.
© Alfredo Quezada
© Anabel Sánchez
Dubbing the works “Precious Waste,” the course prompts students to question the definition of waste, and how experimentation can be the catalyst to probe any issue further. Perspectives around waste, disposability, scarcity versus abundance are challenged, and students’ relationship to materials can also shift.
© Fernando Benítez
© Karla Márquez
Students also tested different ways of putting materials together, and we can see that the use of distinctive shapes, patterns and repetition can achieve extraordinary effects, elevating so-called garbage into the realm of haute couture. PET bottles, CDs, egg cartons, books, scrap metals, tetrapaks, VHS videotapes, paper tubing — many different materials were reclaimed and remade into tasteful accessories.
© Carla Sánchez
We need more classes like Precious Waste in our educational system — and not just for designers, but for everyone. Recycling and saving energy is a good first step, but there’s no doubt we could go farther into all the interconnected issues, and see that the very idea of “waste” is the problem. Understanding that “waste” is merely a label and “disposability” is merely a mentality, and that things can be reused and upcycled into new, useful and valuable objects is something that everyone could benefit from, not just designers. More over at Mariana Acosta.