Email from ‘Plyboo’…

I’ve had two replies to an email I sent to ‘Plyboo’ a couple of days ago, with regards to the use of their materials for steam bending in furniture manufacture:

There was a company (I’m not sure if they are still around) called Modern Bamboo that produced furniture whereby they did extreme bending by steaming our 2mm solid bamboo veneer, and building layers to different thicknesses using a template.

I don’t know of anyone who is steaming and bending our bamboo plywood to make furniture. Since people kurf and bend these panels, I would assume that the thinner 1/4″ panel could be steamed and bent, I just don’t know to what degree.

The other email read:

Steam bending can be done, we would recommend a 2mm or 3mm board for furniture applications.

This is positive, it seems sustainable bamboo suppliers would support furniture producers.


Estimated Material Costings For OrangeBox ‘Akimbo’ Chair and Desk Unit…


£43.98 – Kunin 100% Recycled Felt, 914mm Wide x 18280mm

£43.98/ 10 chairs =


Bamboo Plywood:

£123.88 – Bamboo Panel in Natural Vertical 19mm-3 Ply Cross Laminated (FSC) approved

One panel per desk + one panel per chair = 2 panels per unit.

£123.88  x  2=


Wool cushion:

Closest estimate for production = Treffriw Woolen Mill, Large Tapestry Cushion Cover. 460mm x 460mm + Feather filler.



Material Cost (excluding machining) = £291.16 per unit.

Felt source.

Wool cushion source.

Bamboo source.

Orangebox Office Furniture Project: Touchdown Seating, Final Rendered Boards…

Bamboo Sustainability and Material Research…

In The Guardian’s; Pandering to the green consumer’ article, these positive points are made with regards to the growing of bamboo:

Bamboo is frequently proclaimed as the world’s most renewable material: it’s naturally pest-resistant, grows incredibly fast and can actually help rebuild eroded soil. It takes just three or four years to go from seed to harvest and because the root network is so big, you don’t even need to replant – it just shoots right back up again. Bamboo, therefore, can be grown without any chemical fertilisers or pesticides.

However, there are a number of negatives too:

China is still the only country that grows bamboo on a commercial scale, and as it becomes an increasingly lucrative cash crop, farmers are starting to grow it as a mono-crop. That in itself reduces biodiversity and can lead to an increase in pests. This in turn means pesticide use becomes necessary. There’s also some evidence that farmers are using chemical fertilisers to increase their yields. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t: there are no set standards or environmental guidelines in China for the growing of bamboo and clearly their concern is to get as large a crop as possible for their money. Unfortunately, though, this has an environmental cost.

For bamboo to be a completely sustainable and green material, we must globally consider how we support the correct bamboo producers, who are producing bamboo in the most ethical and sustainable ways. In an ideal world it would be beneficial for there to be legislation in place, to prevent over farming, damage to natural woodland, and make a truly sustainable sources. More positives are highlighted on

Bamboos Versatility In Building Material – The tensile strength of bamboo is one of mother nature’s most intriguing phenomenon’s. Tensile strength of steel is 24,000 PSI. Tensile strength of bamboo … 28,000 PSI (yes, you are reading that correct!). Bamboo is intrinsically strong in its molecular structure and has been used as a standard building material for the majority of the world for thousands of years. Bamboo can replace the use of wood for any application from hardwood floors, furniture, utensils, bike frames, phone cases to almost anything imaginable. Bamboo Is Anti-Bacterial – Bamboo contains a natural bio-agent known as Bamboo Kun. Bamboo Kun is naturally anti-bacterial. It is so effective that it eliminates and prevents over 70% of bacteria that attempt to grow on it, whether this be in its natural or fabric form. Bamboo does not require any pesticides or chemical fertilizers for healthy growth. It is seldom eaten by pests or infected with pathogens as a result of the Bamboo Kun.

Plyboo‘ provides Bamboo Plywood panels which are eco friendly and can be machined in the same way as other plywoods. I believe this material would be suitable for the manufacture of my design:

Soybond manufactured without added formaldehyde, Plyboo flat grain bamboo products are FSC® 100% Certified. All Plyboo bamboo veneers and bamboo plywood are unfinished. The colour options include Amber and Natural. LEED credits are applicable.

PET Felt Material Research, Case Studies…

I found this information about using recycled PET felt for furniture manufacture, it sums up the benefits of using the material for the design of a chair called ‘Nobody’, a reference to the lack of a frame in the design:

Using a technique borrowed from the car industry Nobody is manufactured from two layers of thermo pressed PET felt – a 100 % recyclable material made from used water- and soda bottles. The production process neither demands an internal frame, plastic, screws, glue or other reinforcements.

NOBODY is produced in one single process by thermo pressing the polymer fibre – PET felt mat (without any kind of the frame).
The production process neither demands any additives like glues or resins, nor any additional materials like screws or reinforcements. PET felt is 100% recyclable material produced mainly of used soda/water bottles.

‘Komplflot’, who produce the ‘Nobody’ also mention that:

Light and stackable, NOBODY can be used in both public and residential interiors. Good air circulation, perfect acoustic properties of the PET felt and easiness of cleaning give additional qualities to the chair.

Another chair which inspired my design development using PET felt is the ‘Pod’ by Benjamin Hubert. A detailed series of images highlighting the design process can be found here.

This video shows the thermo pressing of the felt to produce the unique shape of the ‘Pod’.


Why Does China Love British Design?..

To gain further insight into the potential of targeting British designed and manufactured products to the Chinese markets, I’ve done some further reading. On one Chinese newspaper website, I discovered an article which suggested that the Range Rover Evoque is selling for up to three times the price than in Western countries, due to its association with British luxury and popular culture:

Heavy exposure of the brand in a popular TV drama that aired in China four years ago also contributed to its popularity with lines such as: “This is no ordinary jeep. It is called Range Rover. A vehicle specially designed for the British royal family … any courageous man would want a Range Rover.”

The company, run in India by Tata Motors since 2008, clearly still has solid roots to its British heritage, and it seems that this association is leading to increased sales in the East. In china sales increased 30%, while Mercedes and BMW posted increases of just 20% and 10.6%, respectively.

In a 2010 article in ‘The Telegraph’, titled ‘Made in Britain Loved in China’, I found the following statistics:

  • £7.2bn of British goods exported to China in 2010.
  • Burberry launched a 21,500 sq-ft flagship store in Beijing with much to-do last month, as part of its goal to take a significant share of the expected £15bn spend on designer goods in China by 2015.
  • There are now more than 85,000 Chinese students at British universities, and the country is the second-largest source of international students at Oxford (above).
  • China bought 24% more Scotch whisky in 2010, taking the total value of exports there to £55m.

It seems that the Chinese are particularly keen on British Brands. This Brand identity and it’s identity as firmly British is key to the product being successfully marketed in China. According to an article on the ‘brand-e’ website:

Researchers (at Warwick University) believe that Britain’s cultural capital represents a number of unique qualities that make it difficult for competitors in France, Italy or the US to imitate.

“Luxury goods are defined as those satisfying hedonic rather than functional needs and our research has found this is an area that Britain enjoys a distinct advantage in,” says Professor Qing Wang of Warwick Business School. “A very important factor that makes Britain standout is that it incorporates tradition and innovation seamlessly.

Put differently, Britain’s advantage lies in so-called soft power, which is defined as the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than through coercion and cultural heritage is a key part of that. The extent of its impact is hard to measure and even harder to replicate. As China promotes its own soft power, it has increasingly turned to Britain for inspiration.

The lure of luxury also spreads into other consumer segments. “There is a trickle-down effect from the tailor-made luxury product segment with high price tags and exclusivity benefits to other consumer segments where more affordable and mainstream luxury goods are offered,” says Navdeep Athwal, a doctoral researcher in Warwick Business School’s marketing group. “Members of luxury goods consumer-led virtual communities seek to emulate the behaviour of their elite counterparts and to gain the same levels of status and recognition.”

With regards to the potential for a Welsh tapestry to become popular and desirable to the Chinese market, there are many positives to take from the sale of Scottish Tweed. HM Revenue figures suggested that textile exports to China from Scotland had reached a high of £9.5 million for 2013. This market has increased more than double over the last ten years. The Chairman of ‘Harris Tweed’ suggested that this growth was crucially related to ‘heritage’ and ‘provenance’. Harris Tweed is already a supplier of upholstery for Chinese Markets, producing upholstery for furniture manufacturer; Tetrad. The full article can be read here.

The challenge for young British companies, with lesser known brand identities, is to develop brand identity and earn association with the provenance that can make the culturally British products so attractive. This, while also competing against copycat brands based in China, who are able to produce products at a far lower cost as their British counterparts, and attempt to imitate the heritage and provenance of true British goods.


Orangebox Design Development Stages…

During my design process for the Orangebox furniture project, I developed the design in several directions, with emphasis on different issues. These developments came about through consideration of appearance, ecological factors and ease and cost of manufacture. This series of images show the different stages of development of my design.

My design developed most radically between stage two and three, this coincided with the Field module term. I believe that my design approach developed in a number of ways during this period of time. During the play and Creativity module I undertook a recycling project, I believe this opened me up to the potential of recycled materials. I believe that over this time I have become more perceptive to the issues of sustainability and the need for a global shift in use of resources. If it is possible to use recycled materials, or to design in a way which makes the product recyclable, then this is of paramount importance. My ‘Surprise Me’ module opened me up to these considerations. As I reduced the number of components used to create an asthma inhaler, fourfold. Over the period of this year I believe my passions in design have developed in the direction of better understanding in utilising eco-friendly materials, simple manufacturing processes and the minimum number of components.