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Alex Cashmore: Domestic Methods for Design

In a collection of furniture, designer Alex Cashmore forms structures and joints by swelling MDF with water and combining it with with metal sheets.

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Text by Heini Lehtinen

In a collection of furniture that designer Alex Cashmore rather bluntly calls ‘Some Things That I’ve Made’, the designer combines metal sheets with MDF and water. The MDF swelled by water forms joints that hold the structure of a piece of furniture together.

With the collection, Cashmore criticizes current designers-as-craftsmen movement. To him, the counterculture employs notions of authenticity to promote overpriced goods. Instead of presenting himself as part of the movement, Cashmore brings together common household materials and techniques anyone could use to form a collection of furniture.

Prior to coming up with a solution of MDF and water, he tested a variety of materials and tools used in every household.

“I used a potato peeler to shred plastic bottles into string, made a machine using fishing line, a potato peeler and a fork to shred string and used a clothes iron to melt plastic and join textiles. That was kind of domestic mcgyverism,” Cashmore explains. “In the end, I decided that water is the most unanimous tool. By pouring water through the MDF, it becomes a mechanism, and the energy stored in the MDF when it’s produced is released and it becomes a joint.”

In the furniture, MDF sheets are finished by casting them in polyester, which creates a lacquered look.

“That’s quite interesting, because polyester is quite a brittle material. When you soak the MDF in it, it softens and moulds with the MFD because of the heat and locks the form in.”

The collection is a graduation project from the Master department Contextual Design at Design Academy Eindhoven. So far, the collection consists of a shelf and a bench, but Australian-born designer will continue experimenting with and developing the technique further.

“The cast polyester on MDF is a really beautiful finish, so I would like to use that a bit more,” he says. “Moulding MDF with water is really interesting as well. I’ve done some experiments in which I have stacked a big pile of MDF and used kinetic control for the top layer with wire. Then swelling is kind of aggregated – the bottom won’t move much but the form might form a lot.” •

The collection will be on show at the Graduation Show of Design Academy Eindhoven during Dutch Design Week 2015 on 17–25 October 2015.

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