Inspiring artist…Paul Squire

As a designer we are surrounded by creative people and it is in those relationships we have with people’s work we evolve our own selves.  In the posts I often mention other’s work but it is how I relate to their works which progresses my own.  There isn’t really a place to list some of the people who have made me stop and think in a more general sort of way.  So this post…

I have written about “iconic” design in objects. Why this area interest me so is that I believe it is through what we create as people we try to make sense of our relationship with the world.  Art is a way of communicating those things we can’t put into words.  Art captures something. At least that is what great art is to me. And the “rules” of what is contemporary art fall aside and really for deep longevity it needs something, well long lasting, something with relevance and meaning.

One artist who’s work does this for me is Paul Squire.

at the core - Paul Squire

at the core – Paul Squire

These images capture to me something about our times in such a penetrating way.  The images linger in meaning remaining fresh long after the first viewing.  His work to me seems to be an investigation to visualise the micro and macro “stuff” around us.  In a dream like way it leaves us to wonder.

atomic - Paul Squire

atomic – Paul Squire

My work is based on what happens when we manipulate natural materials and in doing so I feel the outcome of my work needs to be rather man-made in the forms I choose to use.  Maybe because it is the ideas which explore organic subjects. I think that is why I am drawn to Mr. Squire’s work because it is right that the visualisations in this conceptual stage are so fluid. And that is why I need to be surround by this in the thinking stages.

I guess my need to keep the 3D form outcome structured is because the objects we create are the second stage of the thinking that is much closer to our rational mind. We can never mimic nature with justice.  That is why a marble statue to me is regal whist a painted statue is cheap in some way.  I feel we need to respect we are man and we are part of nature but we have this brain which provides reflection and that means at points of analysis we are separate from our instinctual self.

bridge - Paul Squire

bridge – Paul Squire

Without getting too heavy I guess this is what Aldous Huxley wrote about in The Human Situation. But when it comes to 2D work, imagery it can be rich, fluid and emotive. because it is there where we find our inward relationship with the world around us.

union - Paul Squire

union – Paul Squire

The Construction…proposed

Using natural non wovens generally means sourcing sheet material. Mainly because it is very difficult to compress or tangle the non wovens into a uniform material without the use if industrial machines.  And since we are past the age of injection moulding and on the edge of a digital printable material, sheet material seems well, a bit “flat”. So in the design we need to express this “flatness” to our advantage. And “flat” material is used in conventional footwear so to use these natural materials as leather shoes are made seems inappropriate. So carrying on from the hollow heel/sole of the previous felt shoes in which the flat material becomes the structure seems right.

over lasted felt with hollow sole, the lasting is the structure photo: Panos Damaskinidis

As designers we often work intuitively and then later analyse why we have done something a certain way. I still can not clearly put into words why this hollow structure is intriguing. It has something to do do with the decorative upper becoming the structure of the heel. It is about simplicity maybe not in construction but to the eye and mind. And I guess that is what we do as designers.  We are the bridge between the engineering and people to hopefully make poetic artefacts.

So  evolving on there are some practical concerns about using various non wovens.  Some are rough next to the skin so came the idea of using a felt sock or bootie which is resined on the sole to form the insole structure. Then side walls are over lasted and wrapped around, undercut under the insole area to form a ledge that the bootie rest on.  The bootie is slipped in to this “over lasted shell”.

…explode view felt sock centre with resined sole and moulded sides with ledge that the resin sole sit on.

hemp sides, insert sock resined, sits on feather line ledge

Paper pulp concept and material test…

A few months ago Jess the Materials Librarian at CSM and LCF suggested I contact the people at Sodra to possibly use this mouldable paper pulp material.  She showed me a sample of the finished material.  It was like a plastic styrene with a velvety surface finish.  The material is really strong and was used for furniture.  When I first approached Sodra the company were concerned the water wear would prevent the application in footwear.  After a couple months being urged again by Jess I contact the company again explaining that these shoes were prototypes which could be applied to further research and development in which the water wear issue could be investigated further at a later stage.

They agreed and sent the material. Fantastic!

The pulp is paper so cellulose with a biopolymer.  Water is added and then the material is poured or put into a mould which needs to compress and heated once the water is removed. In manufacturing a metal tool would be used with heat compression for best surface quality.

But we will have to rig up a workshop method to recreate this process as close as we can get.  I am sure the surface quality will suffer a but these things go in stages!

Above is a link to the Sodra Labs website.  In it the material is explained.  We are using Durapulp as the pulp comes in three strengths.

In the workshop at the college I tried playing with the material initially as I do not have the moulds yet.  This play was also to help inform what might be needed in the moulds.

I mixed the pulp with water…

Tested it under flat compression and let air dry.

compressed sodra

The result was very dense and tough but really the material needs to be baked soon after or as it is compressed.

The toe was wrapped with pulp and gauze and let to air dry.  I tried putting the material in the footwear flash oven and some densifying of the material happened but again this needs to happen as compressed or close to this stage.

sodra wrapped around last bound with stretch creep gauze air dry

sodra toe test 1- air dried and flash oven baked

Now in theory this material could work as it has been used on furniture as below…

(all from the Sodra website…)

sodra chair from website

on the left showing surface of early prototype of chair

sodra chair on tool

So the chair is a “bucket shape” with nice draft angles…

I am hoping to create a “up-side-down” bucket with the side ledges that the felt sock with the stiffened sole can sit on – be glued in?

as below…

Designing a collection or designing a classic?

From when I was in school doing my Bsc in industrial design I was fascinated by design in which the engineering and the function were in equal balance.  In fact where the design was on the edge of “non-design” and the engineering was stretched to become foreign.  I first noticed this when an old boyfriend was looking to buy a motorcycle.  At the time fairings on a Japanese bike were it.  I wondered why as I looked at Harley Davidsons of the time circa late 89′ these were “naff”.  But when I looked at a 1909 Harley it was rather beautiful. But there was something about the idea of covering the guts of the bike with fairings that seemed not right.  Interestingly over the next couple years cafe racers were emerging as the IT bike but not Harley’s for the young hipsters.

1909 Harley

I think the reason is that we have an inherent need to understand things by looking at objects.  So it was ok that a classic Harley showed it’s “guts” as it was new at the time, made a lot of noise and was aggressive. So by showing us what it was made of it kind of demystified it and eased our minds whilst giving us a chance to explore it, learn it.

Bare with me a little longer I am getting there!


I also recently looked at some of the history of Olympic torches and in my opinion the London torch by Jay and Ed at Barber and Osgerby is fantastic.  See we had the need to separate out the parts to the torches historically because we kind of needed to understand  the workings of it. And while I am sure the current engineering of the mechanism of the London torch is probably so advanced we are no longer interested in understanding it.  We want the mystery and the gesture of primitive, iconic man running with flame.  We want poetry. This torch has a hierarchy of meaning. See in gross gesture the London torch is “man running with flame” but the three sides represent the landmark 3 times London has hosted the games, and the 8,000 perforations the 8,000 miles and people who carry it. The gross shape is also longer to elevate the flame especially since there is no change of material handle or heat protection ledge, the three sides keep it from rolling, and the perforations ventilate and cool the whole thing.  Maga thought gone into such a simple shape – respect your guys!


At the same time I am thinking about the absolute simplicity of the I phone with the attention to detail. Again iconic “man with wafer thin brick ti talk to and notepad to write on” but a treasure chest of mystery inside!

How do these designers do it and what does this has to do with Fashion.

Then I stumbled upon an article with Jonathen Ives…

He said: ‘I refute that design is important. Design is a prerequisite. Good design – innovation – is really hard.

‘Really great design is hard. Good is the enemy of great. Competent design is not too much of a stretch. But if you are trying to do something new, you have challenges on so many axes.

‘We say no to a lot of things that we want to do and are intrigued by so that we only work on a manageable amount of products and can invest an incredible amount of care on each of them.’

Read more:

So ok still bare with me… We have a bespoke mass produced iconic Olympic torch, a totally mass produced anonymous iconic (if that is possible) communication device. Then we turn to look at footwear… What is a classic? A brogue, stiletto? and why must we keep designing a brogue or a stiletto to make a classic. If we look at Converse why is this style still with us?  Is it “iconic” and why does the new takes on a classic seem to fall short of the mark?


Now we make the connection…How do we design a collection without just styling good designs not great designs?  Is the act of creating a collection in contrast to what it takes to create a great design?  Furniture designers create ranges but these items tend to have differing functions akin to a “range” of an I phone, mac powerbook and mac tower.

So in trying to expand a range I can’t help but feel I am creating a collections of good designs but not great.  Maybe it is just me, maybe it is the structure and nature of the fashion industry but I can’t help but feel elements of “fast fashion” creep into the design of any “range”.  Maybe it is just me as I have no answers but maybe it’s ok to think about these questions.

Flax material test…

flax shoe drawing idea

flax shoe drawing idea

Originally, was going to try to laminate up the flax fibres into the mould similar to the hemp fibres.  But as the hemp proved to not be working I had to  think in other ways.  Like the hemp, flax is used in composites for surfboards and bicycles.

flax fibre

Jess the CSM and LCF materials librarian showed me a bag made of flax.  The company Norafin produces the flax sheets in various thicknesses in either 100% flax or a combination of 65% flax and 35% viscous.

So Norafin kindly send me a selection of weight sheets to test.

from left 4 layers 100% flax moulded in one go after 2 days wrapped in inner tubes , 2 layers 100% flax wet laminate after 6 days wrapped in cloth mesh, 400 gsm flax and viscose combo 1 layer wrapped in cloth mesh

flax test

350 gsm with felt boot

350 gsm flax moulded

flax 350 gsm wetted and moulded then felt sock inserted

Acrodur was tested on the flax and flash heat in the oven several times…Again this was too high heat too fast and the result whilst strong was brittle.  The 100% flax absorbs the binder better and would need to be layered up and dried slowly over a period of time. The reaction again of passersby was that they wanted to touch the the moulded materials.



Hemp shoe material test…

Originally, I thought about using raw hemp stick which is the long, tough, coarse fiber of the cannabis plant, used to make cordage.

I through a bunch into my crude plaster test mould and added point shoe shellac and came up with a promising potential. But the feedback I go was the hemp looked a bit messy all tangled.  The problem was the messy tangles were what gave the hemp it’s strength.

hemp and shellac

I wanted to layer the hemp up in one direction and then cross the direction.  I layered up the hemp wet and let it dry around the one side of the last.  However, this whilst potential beautiful and a bit subversive was propbematic in the sense that the fibres even if place and proper moulds were hard to control.  Gravity pull these fibres down in clumps.  I tried holding it with PU glue but I was worried this would interfere with the resin application.

I also tried with dry hemp resined but found whilst strong it could thin in areas and these areas were weak.

hemp and resin

I revisited the information and realised I missed the matte suppliers of hemp.  These are the mattes Werner Aisslinger used with his hemp chair. The company J. DITTRICH & SÖHNE sent me a selection of hemp mattes, some pre preg with the acrodur.  This meant the mattes only needed to be moistened once delivered, however these mattes usually come with moisture still in and waterproof sealed.

So we created a rig to test the material of clay and ply

clay rig for testing moulding material

Then clapped the material through and pressed around the last

clamped clay rig for testing moulding material

The result was a surprisingly strong form

hemp matte pre preg moulded

hemp and acrodur

The design is to use the hemp shrouded around the felt sock

pre preg hemp matte 1450 and 3mm felt sock

pre preg hemp matte and 3mm felt sock

But this was just the start.  This matte is a combination of hemp and kenaf another natural fibre.  So I tested the 100% hemp and it moulded really nice.

100% hemp matte moulded with water and left to dry

100% hemp matte moulded with water and left to dry front

100% hemp matte moulded with water and left to dry back

See I want to mould in this way so working with the material is a challenge. J. DITTRICH & SÖHNE the material supply have been great, a designers dream.  These people are so helpful.  They contacted BASAF the acrodur suppliers and sought further advice for me. I emailed images of my test and they were not put off by the fact I am trying to recreate compression moulding and resin transfer moulding in a workshop, non industrial environment.  They picked up that my wall thickness should be less on the upper so suggested I use the 600 gsm weigh sheets but realised I will need thicker in the heel area and double checked I could fuse the two sheets together via heat and compression. They suggested with the consultation of BASAF to use a glove iron the heat thus curing the acrodur whilst on the form.

So the mould is for compression and once open and the material still around the last and the heel, insole blank I can run the iron over it.  Brilliant! They are so cleaver!

Then once pat cured I can further cure in the oven at anywhere over 160-200 degrees. The lower the tempature the longer curing time.

But that is not all…They recognised I will need to potentially add binder to stiffen the heel areas of stress and I can either spray or brush on the acrodur BEFORE it cures in stress areas.

In my test using the flash oven I realised two things…if any water is still in the fabric the binder bubbles and becomes brittle.  It really is using the sensitivity of a chef in these workshop conditions.

Thing I realised in this process were that for some reason people respond more to the 100% hemp moulding. The kenaf hemp combo is apparently 90% with a 10% polyester fibre.  I am not sure if it is that 10% which is somewhat of a deterrent, or the 100% of a natural material which seduces us with it’s elegance or if the thinness of the material moulded over the last is so seductive, but something is happening which makes this material notable for a passer by.

A Design Boost for Natural Fibre Composites

Wonderful Blog and would love to see the exhibition. Further evidence of the potential and relevance of natural fibres.


Layer Chair by Jorrit TaekemaIt is expected that the use of renewable raw materials can give a substantial impulse for a sustainable society. Natural Fiber Composites can provide an alternative for increasingly scarce raw materials.

View original post 733 more words