Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Live CNC

I decided to stream my CNC process live so that I can keep an eye on it whilst I am unable to be at work. Figured I should post it on here to.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Unseen, concealed, encased, buried, secretive, veiled, hidden, mystery, are not common words linked to the marketing or branding of a product. But these words are suited to my current honeycomb surfboard which conceals what many find intriguing about the board, that is the honeycomb structure hidden inside. This sense of intrigue can only lead to discovery, and when that discovery unfolds a fascinating new object, people are captured and begin to engage with the object. And everyone knows the journey of discovery is a memorable one.
So I'm wondering how to brand this or name it and at the moment I feel it's important to have a name/brand but this doesn't need to be the dominant feature which will forever be associated with the surfboard, it can be small and subtle and maybe not even on the board itself. Which is why I am designing a protective cover for the board which will subtly communicate the brand, when discovered.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

3 weeks

The past month has felt like I've been trapped inside a cave formulating a document which nicely structures my research into something that others can read (a process of staring at images of surfboards and surf, whilst having 0 time to surf). Being entrenched in an assignment of this size I find that where I have arrived at is so far from where I began that I can barely remember half the things considered in the process, which is where this blog steps in. Reading back through my ramblings I get snapshots of ill formed thoughts and ideas as i started out piecing this all together, with side topic ideas like refuse collection...??fruitless meetings with materials scientists, and early recordings of experimental surf-craft. It all helps capture this years journey from beginning to where-ever it leads next...

Really thinking a lot about high-tec vs low-tec at the moment, which could be a possible avenue to investigate. i.e why should someone run a CNC for hours if there is a way to make the same object by hand with minimal tools and energy required. I call it amish vs the techno-geek. What I'm really questioning, is the energy used in making products, when we live in a world where it is a lot easier to turn to the laser cutter or CNC router when there are hand tools in my garage outside with which I can build a surfboard from. Is it possible to build a surfboard by hand that is as symmetrically balanced as one produced on a CNC?? I have some thoughts...

Monday, September 6, 2010

ideas vs time

In an attempt to begin the next series of boards I've decided to focus on the use of paulownia and really try to push the already successful internal structure to almost breaking point. There are areas with which I can further reduce material during the cut as well as tweaking the structure to make the honeycomb pattern larger with reduced wall thickness. It seems like there are endless possibilities with wood, surfboard shape, style and construction method, in a way I want to experiment with every aspect but have recently been reminding myself why I am heading in this direction.

I guess every sport has trends that come and go, dictated by what is deemed fashionable at the time. The return of the retro fish and it's modern interpretations, as well as the mini-simmons and also the resurgent interest in nose-riding shows how styles come and go and are constantly re-invented.
I would like to try my construction method out on a wider variety of shapes and think it's important to test its versatility across all surf-craft, but there's no point in pursuing a forever changing form until I am happy with how this method performs to the level of what synthetic materials are able to achieve. This is why I chose to model my form from existing performance shortboards I already own. Also because if this works, these boards will be on high rotation this summer. It even seems a bit risky putting it all out into cyber space, especially as it isn't totally resolved yet. I guess that's why its called a research project.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Just having a browse through as a friend had sent me a link to the amazing ocean-green surfboards. Looking at all the products (some of which are far more interesting than others), the main thing that the website uses is a medium thumbnail image to catch my attention, with a short sentence to describe the product. This is the one thing that regulates which of the squares are clicked on and how many hits you get on your website, so the ability to capture the product and communicate you're ideas in a photo is extremely important.
Of the products I chose to investigate, most of them where the images that communicated enough information but not all, maybe the picture was of a detail or from an interesting angle, this made me even more inquisitive to find out about said product. So this sense of intrigue is important because if the image communicates too much then why should I bother going to their website to find out more info when I have it all right in front of me.
These are important points to consider as I'm trying to capture my products in a way that speaks of the idea yet adds intrigue and draws people in who may not even surf but are inquisitive to read more about these new boards.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

workshop time

The rather large gap in time between my last post and these posts tonight has a lot to do with the ridiculous hours I was spending in the workshop building surfboards. I think blogging that experience would have been a plus, but my work, eat, sleep routine couldn't allow any flexibility for blogging. Thankfully I had the foresight to record the experience in film and here is the heavily edited version, sped up about 100 times.
I will make a 'directors cut' which I might even sit in a folding deck chair and narrate the entire film... just so I can add it as a special feature. Jokes aside, it has really helped in the reflective practice even putting the video together I could analyse my process and make quick reflections on what I could change for the next iteration.


After completing my 20min seminar not only was I exceptionally relieved, but also far more confident and keen to have another go. I've watched my fair share of TED talks and it's fair to say some people are much better communicators than others, I think this has a lot to do with the balance between an engaging visual presentation and also communicating ideas verbally in a way that people can be drawn in and in a way entertained with knowledge about my project. Weather or not I managed to verbally communicate the ideas surrounding my project well or not, was helped immensely by my visual presentation as it took most of the attention away from me droaning on about surfboards and helped the audience jump into my thoughts and feelings regarding toxic chemicals and the manufacturing process of surfboards... well that was the plan anyway. I mean who wants a room full of bored people staring you down picking out the flaws in your ideas because they can't relate or engage with the project... it can seem that way.
If I were to do it again I would probably try to speak around the on screen images in a way that flowed better as it felt like my presentation stalled a couple of times, both the visuals when I had too much info to talk about regarding a slide and then when I'd run short of things to say when a video would play too long. Nonetheless talking in front of an audience is skill that would probably take a while to master, and I don't think it's just for those who have a gift of the gab, after all you have to have something interesting to talk about. Unless of course humor is used and then you can actually talk to the audience about the speech you're giving them...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

the challenge

After taking my new alaia out on the weekend, it was far more difficult to surf than I had realised, I think we surfers may just take our current boards for granted. With the amount of bouyancey we now have, it makes paddling into surf very easy in comparison to what has been used historically. Up until this point I had always thought of surfing as a sport which was no where near as easy as snowboarding or skateboarding where you are up and riding more or less straight away, after a couple of hours on the alaia I can now appreciate the skill which people must have had to ride these boards, and it's not like they had the luxury of cutting their teeth on a nice light polyurethane foam board and eventually progress to smaller/harder to paddle boards.
From the clip you can see how low I am in the water which makes paddling anywhere a mission, one good point tho is that it duck dives deeper than any other board i've riden, infact it might make a better submarine :). By the end I was starting to get a better feel for how to react when paddling for a wave, and as hard as it seemed, it's just a totally different style of surfing which I really wouldn't mind getting used to.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

craft - design - technology

Working with wood I can't help thinking about the connections design has to craft and technology, especially when I'm trying to use CNC technology to cut a historically hand crafted material like wood, to enhance it's natural properties in a way that would be very difficult/impossible to do by hand.
Design combines craft and technology. The intimate knowledge of materials and the advancing processes which can be used to manipulate it are also opportunities for designers. The two problems facing a lot of aspiring designers is the time it takes to learn a craft and limited access to the advancing technology available. We can have the best ideas in the world but if we a) can't make it ourselves and b) can't learn how new technologies can be applied, then we have a very limited means to work within.
This got me thinking about how great designers can work across such a broad spectrum of disciplines, from cars to furniture to pasta shapes, how do they have enough time to research all they need to know?
One thing they probably have learned to do well, is rely on knowledge and skill which others have spent years perfecting. Participatory design, action research and co-design, are all based around the idea that the designer is not the one man band and that we need to involve the expertise of others in the process of arriving at our outcome.
I have spent hours in conversation with local surfboard shapers and read pages of online forums and web articles, all of which are hard to record and summarise but have been crucial to the building of my own knowledge base which then goes on to inform my decision making.

And as for that alaia... surfed it on the weekend and yes it is a lot harder than I thought, managed to get a wave but without the buoyancy of surfboards I am used to, it is like learning to surf all over again! I have some photos so will post some soon.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

build 1

I have yet to try out my alaia, but have recently finished the relatively simple construction process. Supposedly the oldest and purest form of surfing, I decided to keep the overall design as pure as possible but use modern technology (CNC) to carve out the shape and get a perfect double concave throughout. I probably wont be able to notice the difference the perfect concave makes as I've never surfed this style of board before but the combination and balance of this old style and new technology seems to work really well as a process. I thought it might almost be sacrilegious to CNC cut an alaia instead of hand shaping it, but during and after the process I've been inspired by other possibilities the CNC could add to and enhance the construction of these old boards. I can see how purists would say the hand shaping is an equally important part of the process as surfing the end product, as this apparently adds a deeper connection to your board. However i would estimate that only a small percentage of surfers end up shaping their own boards, and most would buy them from the local shaper... who in this case might have more of a personal connection with the product he is selling, but is essentially acting just the same as a CNC would to produce custom products for a market. So wouldn't it make sense to add even greater precision and the option of customization to a product which is going to be sold to someone you may not even know.
There is something quite nice about hand crafting objects for someone you do know well, maybe it's just the romantic notion of pouring your own time and sweat into crafting something which somehow adds even greater value for the person receiving it. But I think this can only apply if there is already a relationship between producer and consumer, as the product is not built for display but to function and perform in the surf as a surfboard. Not to totally discount the fact that surfboards are beautiful objects in themselves, as these days a large part of the customization involves the artwork on the board, i.e. the spray job, stencil or resin tint unique to the board. This involves the consumer in the production process or can collaborate with practicing artists to add value and create one-off or limited run productions which some board manufacturers already do.
So this combination of precise technology and unique design creates the same feeling of personalised craft whilst increasing performance... I'd go as far to say it's better than growing your own tree then chipping out your own board with a stone adze.

Seeing the trailer for Thomas Campbells new film 'The Present' and hearing a bit about it, it sounds like it may be a better portrayal of surfing than what I constantly see in most movies and magazines. What you see and read around surf-culture is mainly based around competitive surfing where as a massive percentage of surfers don't compete and their surfing lifestyle doesn't look anything like what is portrayed. This all adds to surfers wanting labeled boards which they see pros riding and stops them experimenting with different equipment and surfing styles to discover what they enjoy for themselves, instead being channeled into a 'correct' way to surf with big hacks and aggressive turns which score points in competitions not local beach breaks.
I think the alaia could be a great escape from competitive surf culture while still being a tough skill to master and providing a great material to work with... wood (no foam, no resin, no fiberglass) , unlike the recent stand up paddle boarders (SUPs) who carve a path of destruction at breaks when they fall off and their boat is left to plough through unsuspecting surfers and swimmers, don't get me started.
Something to watch again... I've just posted a little vid of my making process for the alaia, hoping to add a surfing section soon, it's a great way to record and reflect on the overall process.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

the slide

Tom talking about his alaia's and how they surf.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I managed to escape to raglan for the weekend and surprisingly surfed an uncrowded and very lully 2ft indicators on Sunday morning under clear skies and warm sunshine. Not such a common event, but it was small enough to keep the crowds away and provide the odd fun little wave... a much needed escape after completing my methodology essay.

Speaking with some older friends who have surfed most of their lives, I was interested to hear that when shortboards became popular, they described it as a week in the early 70's when everyone went home and chopped their longboards in half, and began surfing with more 'carving and radical turns'. This highlighted to me that maybe shortboarding could also change in a instant from being the popular 'style' of surfing, to something completely different which changes board design and the way I surf... my surf style. It seems surf styles are so varied now, between stand up paddle boarders (SUPs), longboarding, shortboards, bodyboards and a few kneeboards. The increase in longboarding in NZ has been massive, from 10 years ago when there weren't many to be seen and everyone was crazy about shortboards, to nowadays when people are more willing to admit that breaks like Raglan actually work really well for longboarders. So with the combination of preferred surf styles and wave types around the country/world, it is very hard to pin down a generic shape for a surfboard that suits everyone and everywave. Seeing as I'm not as concerned with shape as i am with finding a material that lends itself to creating great surfboards, then high performance shortboards are a good shape to design for, as they require the lightest strongest materials. Then again if everyone suddenly decided that Alaia's (which are growing in popularity)were the new cool then the sustainability question could be answered quickly and change surf style for the better, using a historically proven method of surfboard construction. But is this just taking the easy road by dismissing where surfing has progressed to by returning to old traditions? Surely there's a way to keep what we have and add to an already historically rich experience that is surfing by finding readily available materials and processes which help iron out the unsustainable areas of surfboard construction.

I question what has most influence on surf culture, weather it's the surf industry, or surf professionals... for example what would happen if Kelly Slater won his tenth world title on an alaia??
Will alaia's be the next craze?

Check out Tom Wegeners thoughts.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Introducing my venus fly trap, the recent addition to the windowsill ecology in my flat. So far it has consumed ants, a couple of flies and even a spider which may have been persuaded gently to venture across one of the treacherous traps.

Providing a controlled environment for our windowsill ecology would seem fairly easy but as I have recently found it seems that it's the 'control' of the environment that throws everything into possible chaos. One way to control ants in a flat is for people to not leave food scraps lying around, easy for some and somehow not so easy for others, now we have ants. So cleaning up I find some ant poison which I squeeze into a convienient container and then hours later the ants are carrying the poison back to their home, ruthless I know. The next day I notice that my exceptionally keen hunter of a fly trap has, yes you're right, sneared some ants. Now I am faced with some questions and choices to make, were those particular ants carrying poison, do I now chop off the arm of the venus fly trap, will the venus survive, do I just wait and observe the ensuing carnage as a lesson for messing with nature?

Though this may have seemed a cheesy example, how often do we make uninformed decisions as an immediate response to a problem, lets face it the ants are doing me a favour, they are carrying away the food scaps that have been left out, and are very tidy ordered creatures which some people could learn alot from. So my own rationale for wiping out an entire colony of tiny creatures because some large creature is messy, hardly seems fair, never mind the possible chaotic domino effect on the rest of the local environment.
When it comes to sitting down and really considering my options to remove the ants as quickly as possible I reached for the poison because it was there, it was available. Surely if someone had gone to the trouble to design the packaging and provide clear instructions then it must be the best solution. Perhaps this is what my subconscious was thinking. Or it happened because I had seen it done before and considered it my only option.
To be honest the decision wasn't very considered, and given the chance to sit down and think it over would have had different outcomes, but not necessarily new outcomes that I wouldn't expect either, I'm pretty sure I already know what I would have done different, so yes ashamedly you could call it careless decision making.
The fact that I already know what my 'other' decision would have been is easy to say in hindsight, but funnily enough alot of the time when we have a decision to make or are indecisive we interestingly enough don't surprise ourselves with the final outcome. Talking about decision making during the week and how most of the time if you result in flipping a coin you'll find you're wishing it to be one side over the other, or changing it to best of three to get a different result after seeing the first decision.
Maybe because we've already decided.
Which could mean that the interesting part is figuring out why we made that decision, what educated us to do so. Here's an interesting (but exceptionally boring) clip on how the brain works in regards to decision making. (They need to learn something from TED talks).

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


There's something very concluding about writing thoughts down as opposed to letting them drift past without recording them in any cohesive manner. And if I'm really honest, they sometimes sound like shit when I write them down. Maybe that's the brilliance of blogging, it's like a filter which helps straighten out my own thoughts which sometimes turn out to be very unresolved, but this is a process which helps form them into something I am able to better articulate later on.

At this stage - yes i am wanting this project to expand my own knowledge of sustainability and what it looks like for me, and on the other hand i want to make really nice surfboards. So both of these things are combined to make my project. But seeing as sustainability is something that reaches into every pocket of my life, it makes it hard to just pin the focus on surfing, which is a large pocket nonetheless. So I find myself thinking about what veges to buy = seasonal, what shop I'm gonna buy them from = maybe a market somewhere, how I'm going to cook them = or eat them fresh? So many choices are made everyday which most of the time are done by a gut feeling with a little knowledge/wisdom which has managed to filter through. These conscious choices are linked to my exploration of design and sustainability, because the subject itself is a prominent discussion throughout the western world. Current discussions include the "impact of humanity upon supporting ecosystems, the potential for behaviour modification based on consciousness research and the impact of technology upon the fundamental dynamics of human consciousness itself". All of which are based around - human nature. But then, what is human nature? The term itself eludes to the fact that it must be based around a set of characteristics or 'things we tend to do' which define us as humans. Is it the presence of these characteristics that we are interested in this discussion, that ultimately humans have the ability to care, show empathy, compassion etc? How does this develop, does this come from a spiritual component? I just found some text which makes some interesting reading...The 2005 World Sustainable Building Conference,


Amongst those engaged in thinking through the extent of the current ecological crisis there is overwhelming consensus that reclamation of human nature’s spiritual / biological nexus is a fundamental prerequisite for rehabilitation (see for example Naess 1986, 1989, 2002; Siu 1957; Capra 1983, 2002; Laszlo 1989, 1995;
Varela et al 1991; Suzuki 1997; Ricard & Trinh 2001). Characteristically such critiques start with a review of the cultural triggers that have given rise to contemporary Western culture. Therein they trace the cumulative effect upon the human psyche of the separation of mind and body in scientific, philosophical and religious thought. Such dialectical dualism is presented as significantly loosening the spiritual / biological nexus within human nature and to eventually giving rise to a homo-centric and ego-centric mind-set which, now armed with ever more powerful technologies, drives societal and environmental abuse.

Friday, April 30, 2010

intellectual property

Searching for new materials is a mission. It seems like industry is waiting for new materials to eventually become available and up until that point they can't do a lot because the material they are after is only produced in one off blocks the size of a piece of gum. And even if they could produce lots of these pieces of gum, it seems they wont because of supposed IP issues, whatever "IP issues" are they sure do bring development to a grinding halt. It would be great to put some of these new materials experiments into products to see if they can perform, but it seems that the step between scientific research and design is a long road of issues.
For example, if biodegradable plastic made from corn starch (PLA) is such a revolutionary product then why isn't it readily available in varying sheet sizes and thicknesses. Look at acrylic which comes in so many different forms which I can buy from a myriad of places around Auckland city. Apparently bio-plastics account for less than 1 percent of the 181 million metric tonnes of synthetic plastic the world produces every year... yeh a very small portion. However, it is growing 20-30 percent a year, and is expected to drop in price as petroleum based plastics continue to fluctuate due to unstable production regions and dwindling resources. So are companies willing to pay the extra money for a biodegradable plastic?? Well it doesn't seem like they're all rushing out to get it in stock, so although we talk about the worlds tragic environmental state is it fair to say alot of people aren't willing to pay the price for a possible solution.

sources: CIA World Factbook, Jewell, Lamb

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Why do we care? In a society that seems pretty self-centered why is it that some of us care more than others about the environment? Is it only the people who have recreational pursuits in the environment who care because they don't want to give up their lifestyle, or farmers who depend on the local environment to produce an income, or hippies, religious people or concerned parents? Whatever it might be there has been some sort of education along the way that's told us that the way we are living is unsustainable and we need to change our behavior.
So does it all come down to education? Aside from most city and suburb dwellers being disconnected from the natural environment by comfortable lives sheltered from all natural forces. Is it that some people just don't care?
I look at smoking and the tobacco industry, and how that has changed dramatically, where big business ruled peoples health through clever marketing, yet through education this is changing... finally where it would now seem totally disrespectful to light up inside a building. Yet some people still smoke.

So people need to vote with their money by buying products that are supposedly sustainable or organic. How can we get to a place where the majority of people are concerned about what is in their food or how their clothes or products are made? Education would seem a good idea, but also wouldn't it be easier if the producers of the food/products did the hard yards with sustainability and sold better products to the mindless consumers? But again awareness is helpful, knowledge is helpful. It still seems strange that educated corporates can overlook their own values to keep producing rubbish to make money.
OMG I think I'm turning into an activist or something. I don't think I'll stop eating meat, maybe just start shopping better.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

3 times a day

I've heard the word 'multi-nationals' thrown around a lot and usually in quite a negative light toward 'those big multi-nationals'. And after watching Food Inc I find myself again seeing the brief case carrying multi-national business suits as some kind of Smith without morals or regard for the plebeians.
So in Food Inc, there's the farmer versus corporation, and as usual the large corporation refuses to comment. Having been raised to believe that there is always two sides to a story, I wish they would just comment for once and join the debate, as I'm sure there are a few more considerations that may not have been portrayed in the film. However, there is a segment that showed the growth of a particular organic trade show which was about 20% a year and as they walked around the displays quite a few of them were of organic brands that had been bought out by none other than... large multi-nationals. Obviously words like organic/sustainable/eco-friendly/green-alternatives are all the rage, so these large organisations are quick to jump on the band-wagon, so surely they have a conscience too or as usual they are beginning to see dollar signs in these products, because at the end of the day we are the ones driving the band-wagon. So even depending on what we eat, we have the chance to vote how these large companies will act, 3 times a day.
Do we buy local? Do we buy organic? Do we buy free range?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

what is shaping

With the increase of digital technologies such as CNC cutting in the realm of surfboard shaping or any other hand craft for that matter certainly raises the question of what it means to be a 'shaper' or a 'craftsman'.
I recently 'shaped' a few surfboards on my CNC router at work, having never hand planed foam myself I was able to produce a board with incredible accuracy, incredibly quickly, with very limited practical skill needed in the production process. So to be a shaper or craftsman, does this only relate to the physical communication of the imagined concept in our head and the hand driven tools we have honed a particular skill with. The ability to communicate 3 dimensional ideas using our hands. Hand - Eye co-ordination.
After having a brief conversation with a shaper who believes that for someone to be a good shaper they need to have 'mowed foam' for a number of years and have experimented with different shapes and surfed these to eventually master the material. So in what I am hearing, maybe the art of being a good shaper is not solely reliant on having good hand-eye co-ordination but is in the greater understanding of how the small changes made to the width, height, tail, rails, rocker etc will change the performance of the board.
This would be particularly true seeing as anyone like myself can learn to create a CAD model of a surfboard and then produce it, though it may be shaped perfectly, is it a good shape?
But if I continued to shape boards and experiment with them myself then surely I would learn about the certain nuances involved in the creation of a great board. This brings us back to the need for investing years into the skill of mowing foam, does this part of the process add to the overall picture or has it just been a necessary part of the process for so many years that we aren't willing to let it die by the wayside of digital technology... so what is it's importance?
Considering the material itself is petrochemical based and hardly very good for human contact let alone the environment, why are shapers reluctant to say the electric planer is redundant? Is there some mystical connection formed between shaper and craft through the shaping process, and if so, is it important for every surfer to feel this connection? So rather than just handing over hard earned cash to buy their next board should surfers begin hand shaping their next craft themselves, would this add to the experience or deplete their health?
These questions are still debated between other subjects like digital photography vs analog and will constantly evolve as technology progesses, and this is a good thing as we shouldn't drop past technologies straight away to jump on board with every fleeting trend that may not stand the test of time. There needs to be informed discussion and debate to iron out the bumps around these technologies so that we are heading in a sustainable direction.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


When starting out on this design project, I've found it really takes a while to build a picture of where a project is heading. Initially the idea itself seems pretty straight forward and simple enough but when trying to position it by asking questions of where exactly it is heading and what it's going to look like almost seemingly become a little more clouded the further I research.
The first ideas of what a project is going to look like will undoubtably change, and I think this clouded image of an outcome is what attracts me to keep researching to find a clearer outcome.
Mapping out my research in a visual form is really starting to help as there is just too much info surrounding what has already been done before. Part of the fun is choosing an appropriate way to document this collection of information and then diplay it in a cohesive manner in which I can see the grouping of info and ask what is missing or where I head to next.
All this is starting to demistify the cloud.

Monday, April 12, 2010

intentional living

In many ways it seems that the overall western system we live in isn't helping me become more sustainable.

I'm conveniently sitting up late right now writing this blog on my power hungry computer with my helpful artificial light source which is powered by the wires connected to it, and activated when I flick the switch. Should this power not work, all I usually do it wander round to the fuse box on the other side of our flat and reset the fuse, no more thought given to it really. Now this power may have some connection to the coal burning power plant about an hour away, but it's not the coal burning monstrosity of a power plant that's the scary part, the scary part is that I never think about where it comes from. I don't need to, it's always there. Anyway, the sun has gone and I've got a blog to write, power switch = on.

In my quest to try and live a more sustainable existence, I am careful not to become a crusader for sustainability because we all know how the crusades went down. If I was really serious wouldn't it be easier to move to some far north isolated town (near a surf beach) where I don't have to drive anywhere, I grow my own veges, teach at the local school, have limited power from my solar panels, hunt and fish and possibly plant a few trees to offset the carbon from my fiber rich diet. So if I vote with my feet, I could potentially reduce my footprint to nil, or even negative. I'm not sure this would help the current situation tho. As I see it, I'm a product designer who now lives in a society where consumerism is the norm and doesn't seem to be slowing down even with a recession, so I can either observe the obvious problem and leave or stick around and try to re-think how i can live sustainably amongst this system. I know which seems easier.

So instead of cycling, I'll drive to work tomorrow and switch on the 100 or so florescent tubes which light up my workshop and breath the artificial air which circulates so generously, then try and consider ideas of biomimicry which might help inform the way I design things... even tho I feel like I'm about as far removed from nature as a stuffed animal would feel like in a museum.

Because this feeling of disconnection is more evident today as the sustainability debate intensifies, I think my design process is more about how I can bring better connection with the world around us and how it functions through the products we use everyday. Instead of building more barriers of perceived comfort between myself and the world I live in.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

malthusian conundrum

New Zealand Herald 07-April-2010 P.B2 (Photo / AP)

Population growth vs agricultural production. This is something that seems so complex yet so central in the search for sustainability. Here we are trying to reduce greenhouse gases and at the same time meet the worlds ever growing need for food, feed, fibre and biofuels. Getting the balance right between these different agricultural products would seem hard enough without trying to reduce or offset the carbon produced from them.
In todays New Zealand Herald Fran O'Sullivan explains that 14-15 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions are from agriculture, yet in New Zealand our agriculture makes up 45 per cent of our emissions profile. This could be partly due to the fact that 80 percent of agricultural emissions are from live stock production. I'm no vegetarian but this may provide some extra drive for the crusading leaf eaters amoung us.
Without painting too gloomier picture of this tangled web of emissions trading and global food provision, apparently arable soils have the potential to sequester an estimated 6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year! Yet O'Sullivan is quick to point out that "as with biofuels - people will be severely impacted if too much is used for carbon trading instead of feeding people." Just one example she mentions from The International Food Policy Research Institute, is that rice and wheat yields in developing nations could each decrease as much as "19 and 34 per cent respectively", because of climate change. This may also lead to starvation in some countries as global population is expected to increase to 9 Billion by 2050.
This whole debate and the outcomes from this weeks first full meeting of a global alliance in Te Papa, Wellington, are trying to find a solution to this complex problem. What a job!
Depending on which course of action they take, will surely affect me as a 'product designer', especially as I begin a search for organic materials to use in the production of products which if you look at it in this light is using food for fun/liesure activities. But I guess the positive of using organic instead of synthetic materials is that the product will always remain in the food circle, when it breaks and is of no use it will return to the evironment where something (micro-organisms, insects) will eat it, live in it, and continue the food circle. So the question is how long should that food be taken out or paused from the food circle? I'm not sure we could ever measure this, but if there isn't enough food around, should we be making products from it at all?

Monday, April 5, 2010


I've been thinking alot about how to capture the essence of surfing and what that imagery would look like. The connection with nature and more importantly trying to convey a physical feeling, we've all heard the saying, "only a surfer knows the feeling" but surely there is a way to convey these feelings through another medium. Surf magazines and videos are packed with great shots but are so heavy with branding and marketing, I find tiny logos on boards still imprinted into my brain long after watching.
I found this video which pretty much nails it.

Friday, March 26, 2010


When I went to clean up a room for a new flatmate moving in, and began hauling out peoples left behind and forgotten stuff, it definitely made me aware of how much 'stuff' I have. In a way I almost feel guilty. After thinking of various reasons like: it's just our consumeristic society, I'm not that bad compared to the people that make it... what!? I think some of that reasoning is sometimes a way to try and escape guilt, which is not really helpful at all, but it's a start.
Honesty is helpful. Awareness is helpful. Knowledge is helpful.
When we are able to see how much rubbish we are making, through uninformed purchases of more stuff, with more fancy packaging, then we can start to realise our actions have some room for improvement.

So once this awareness of a problem has increased, I (and probably most) search for alternatives.
There is a probelm with the sustainability of the earths resources but how do we address it, what are the possible solutions, how can 'I' start living more sustainably? Like the question states, living sustainably is about not trying to change others but ourselves. It is an extension of the Permaculture imperative of "going home and gardening"; taking care of our own back yards first (Mollison 1988).

Here's a good site I found with some practical steps toward a more sustainable existence.

The term sustainability still seems very vague and I found an interesting desciption I think is on the right track and describes it as an important but unfocused concept like "liberty" or "justice". Blewitt, J. (2008). Because at the moment I'm beginning to think sustainability is something that will constantly need to be re-defined as we change and challenge our way of life.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

early thoughts

I started recycling milk bottles at primary school, 20 years ago, sure it was good to get an idea about re-using toxic materials but it didn't encourage me to question why milk had to be stored in this non-biodegradable material, or why I buy products which I will only use for a very short period of time yet which will remain somewhere on this planet for eternity. Maybe thoughts like these are well beyond a primary aged school kid in little NZ, but why does it seem they are still beyond most people who are now recycling most products from their household waste every week?
We put it in the bin, someone collects it and takes it away. We put it in the bin, someone collects it and takes it away. I doesn't require anymore thought... or maybe it does, I heard someone put it this way: Have you ever later in the day thought to youself, I hope my rubbish made it There safely? Where is There? And how many There's are there? What do they do with it when it gets There? Does every town have a There? Can the people who live next to the There, smell the There? Are there laws about how many There's a town can have? Is there a point at which a There is full? How is this determined? Can the people who run the There's give us a percentage of how full their There is? Do they get together and discuss these sorts of things with other people who own There's?
This helps hightlight a disconnection and removal from what happens when we put something in the bin. After camping last weekend at Great Barrier and having to remove all our rubbish really made me think about how much stuff we pointlessly throw out, and if people had to be accountable for their own waste how different would we live, would products with less packaging suddenly become even more desirable?
For anyone in Auckland wanting to know what they should be putting in their recycle bin click here