Alt.material is an experimental design collective established in 2018 by Nancy Beka & Ben Edwards of Studio Edwards. Created as an outlet for design thinking through the exploration of materiality and fabrication techniques. Inviting designers to produce works that specifically respond to a thematic line of enquiry – a word that describes a material property. Previous exhibition themes have included ‘plasticity’, ‘elasticity’, ‘ductility’, ‘ingenuity’ and ‘community’. More recently there has been deviation from material investigation due to the circumstances of lockdown, prompting an immediate need to bring people together though digital discourse. Exhibiting works within high street shopfronts due to the limitations of public gatherings.
In a world where we encounter a shortage of resources and ever-changing social conditions, the lifespan of design must be reinvestigated and expanded to consider a wider range of materials and fabrication techniques. ‘Availability’ aims to connect designers with traditional technologies to engage with and consider the environmental impact of a project. How might we employ new approaches to fabrication with consideration to life-cycle, future functionality and environmental footprint? Why mine something native and diminishing when we can reuse, reappropriate and reconfigure pre–existing components, materials and systems?
‘Availability’ invites designers to respond to the theme by designing and fabricating a chair. Adapting proprietary components, reinventing existing systems and exploring ‘off-the-shelf’ materials. Emphasis is placed upon on how available materials can be reimagined and used in inventive ways. Low-tech assembly of high-tech or vice versa, recycled, waste, bio and readily available materials requiring minimal intervention and customisation.
— Ben Edwards & Nancy Beka, Studio Edwards