When making biscuits, after having cut out the required shapes you invariably have a lot of dough left over, dough you clump together, roll out again and use to make more biscuits. A process which can be repeated ad nauseam until all your dough is used.
With leather you can’t.
Having cut the required shapes from your chosen piece of leather you are left with a lot of holes surrounded by a lot of waste leather.
It is therefore little surprise that the furniture, fashion, automotive, luxury goods and associated industries generate an awful lot of leather waste; leather waste which all too often well meaning if erring “upcyclers” transform into mobile phone cases, purses and other contemporary sows ears.
They are however at least using the leather, a resource far too valuable, and far too slow decaying, to be simply binned.
Istituto Europeo di Design Madrid graduate Jorge Penadés’ Structural Skin process is much more gratifying.
Having shredded the waste leather he mixes it with “bone glue”, collagen derived from cooking animal bones, presses the mix together and thus forms a new material. The finished pieces are then smoothed and treated with shellac.
Not the most vegan friendly process in contemporary design we’ll grant you, but one which is many ways reminiscent of how Dirk Vander Kooij forms his Melting Pot Tables or Mieke Meijer her NewspaperWood, just the waste plastic/newspaper being replaced by waste leather, and more importantly a process which results in a new material with new properties, new applications and new possibilities.
Visually very reminiscent of marbled paper, or, and at the risk of taking the animal theme a little too far, the cellular structure of muscle, LeatherWood as Jorge Penadés doesn’t call it but we might, is very reminiscent of wood, can be handled as wood and can be used as wood. Jorge hasn’t yet tested its full durability, so load bearing capacity at different rod thicknesses etc, however it can hold a screw, and by way of completion of his graduation project Jorge has created a number of objects from his new material, and is displaying two side tables at DMY 2015
We’re not going to claim the objects he has created from the new material were or are to our liking; for us they are little too baroque, a little too rich Parisian window with her yappy dog, cigarettes and stories of lunch with Karl Lagerfeld; but the project is about the material not the objects, and as a material Structural Skin is a genuinely delightful project, obviously one still at a very early development stage, but one for which we hope Jorge can find a commercial partner to help him develop it further and thus not only find a worthy use for a noble material, but save us from the upcyclers.
More information can be found at www.jorgepenades.com