Left: 'Cascade Lacashire’ chandelier full view; Right: ‘Cascade’ chandeliers partial view
After completing her BSc in Product Design and Development at the University of Salford, and her MA in Bioclimatic Design at the Manchester Metropolitan University, UK-based artist and designer Michelle Brand has gone on to participate in numerous artist-in-residencies, exhibits, and workshops. Building on her interest in sustainable waste management, she has created a portfolio of work using plastic fizzy drinks bottles to create stunning and functional pieces such as her Blossom chandeliers, Cascade chandeliers, and Flowerfall window coverings. With these beautiful aesthetics and her modern outlook on green materials and recycling, it is no wonder that she has won numerous awards and has been featured in publications including Cosmopolitan Italy, Homes and Gardens, Marie Claire Japan, The Robb Report, Vogue Italy and the Wall Street Journal. At the core of this designer's work is a strong environmental ethos which does not compromise aesthetic desirability, making Michelle Brand's work the perfect choice for the eco-conscious.
Michelle Brand Speaks with Ava Living:
You began your post-secondary education in Manchester in Foundation Art & Design. Was this the time where your interest began to develop in sustainable waste management?
There is a big gap between the dates! I started my creative journey in fine art, sculpture, painting, and print. My father died during this time, and I left my studies and found employment as a nurse. However, my creative itch still needed to be scratched, and 12 years down the road, I finally got the courage to go back to school. It was during my undergraduate degree that I realized I had a fascination with reusing materials and closing loops to make sustainable systems. I chose plastic as my medium since it is a material that is often overlooked and is problematic logistically in the recycling collections of local councils in the UK.
You have exhibited your work in the UK, the U.S., and also have worked on commissioned pieces for clients in Italy and Australia. Do you find that the interest in green and sustainable design is a larger concern from one country to another?
Generally, people are mostly concerned and interested in being a part of something green and great. In the end, it comes down to governments being proactive or reactive. The only way a country can truly start to make headway when it comes to recycling and sustainability is through legislation and government.
How do you understand sustainable design?
I think that we talk about sustainability but never really reflect upon it's numerous meanings. To answer this, I don't see 'sustainable design' as a singular entity, it's a multiple of questions and considerations.
It is sustainable because:
- the material that it is made from (ie. is it a natural or man-made material?)
- the way it is made/it's eco-footprint: (ie. were there any chemicals used in the process that damaged the environment? how much energy was used during the production process? was it made and sold locally?)
- the intent of it's creation (ie. is just another mass-produced product on the market, or did it have the greater good in mind during it's inception?)
- the education value of usage to the owner (ie. does the owner consider and promote recycling? does it help to promote green habits?)
- when it is no longer wanted, can it be disassembled and recycled again?
You presently occupy a freelance position as the Eco Design Maker/Research Associate, and Associate Lecturer with Emerge Recycling in Manchester, a local pioneer in waste recycling with over 10 years of experience. Can you tell us about this involvement?
My vision between Emerge Recycling and I are working and researching together to push the boundaries of how recycling is perceived, and how that process operates. It is a very interesting position, and together we are striving for new knowledge and ideas to sprout up as a result of working side by side. Most of the time, this experience is about problem solving, and facing and resolving obstacles which happen in the everyday setting. Often new knowledge comes from reflecting the everyday stuff–that’s whats so exciting about being their Artist/Designer in Residence.
Your current portfolio of work is elegant, delicate, and also ecologically sensitive. What was the inspiration for your chosen material of cut, sanded, and assembled plastic bottle bottoms in your current portfolio of pieces?
The early work was thinking about and referencing the amount of waste that is produced and not recycled, and also addressing the lack of sustainable consumerism. The money, the energy, and the time it takes to design, produce, market, and ship fizzy drinks is unbelievable, yet when the bottles are empty, they are just thrown away. Can something so crazy and wasteful exist in today's modern world? Yes, it does, and it will continue until we make a real sustainable change.
Left: Flowerfall screen; Top right: Michelle Brand; Bottom right: Flowerfall garden
What do you use to connect your plastic bottles?
Tagger ties that are used in the garment industry to attach price tags to clothing. I use these as they give my pieces an architectural quality, they are practically invisible and also, because I'm not very good at sewing.
What is challenging about designing products that use recycling as part of their make-up?
The collection of materials can be difficult and time consuming, and also the process of making a piece that looks beautiful while introducing something new to the mainstream market takes a lot of consideration and thought.
Last year, you exhibited your lighting pieces at the Lighten Up exhibition in London. Do you have plans to exhibit again this year? Where can we see your work in person in the coming months?
Yes, I will be exhibiting in Milano during Fuori Salone 2009 from April 21st to 27th with Laboratorio DAGAD-Progetto UMUL.
For more information on Michelle Brand’s work, cv, and upcoming shows, visit her site at: http://www.michellebrand.co.uk/
U.S. and Canada inquiries, contact:
Lisa Fontanarosa Collection
Tel: (505) 872-1929
For Sales inquiries in the UK, contact:
the greenhaus ltd.
Office: +44 (0) 1279 658400
Cell: +44 (0) 7818 003592
Contact the artist at: