What is your approach to design?
Design is an exciting way to create new solutions. It shouldn’t just be about creating beautiful and functional objects, it should take into account the environmental impact of the product (materials, production and recycling). My approach is to create by experimenting with materials. I really like using recycled material as a starting point. Its constraints and properties give me design ideas and opportunities.
Does it start with the material?
I work with challenging materials, especially waste glass, which is not pure enough for industry. At first I don’t have a specific object in mind. I have a hypothesis to direct my research and I try different ways of molding it, grinding, mixing, heating… Then I analyze the different samples and draw conclusions. For example, when experimenting with the foaming of “dirty” glass powder from a recycling plant, I was surprised to find that its cells were closed, making the foam waterproof. Normally, foam glass absorbs water like a sponge. This naturally led me to the idea of making vases.
Is research work essential?
When I display my work, I like to show the research and failed tests, rather than just showing the final objects. Notes, drawings and videos of the process are important parts of the project.
Material of choice: glass?
Obviously, I love working with foam glass. It’s such a rich material, it has so many visual and functional possibilities, that it’s perfect for a designer. Overall, glass is a fascinating material.
Which of your products is your “best hit”?
The lampshade with recycled blue glass and ceramic base is – until now – the best seller. But the creations that people like the most and get the most comments on Instagram are the foam glass coffee cups and pendant lamps.
What changed in the current design landscape?
Perhaps designers should have a more important role in today’s society. A designer’s holistic vision can help to conceive better objects, taking into account the birth, life and death of any product. Designers can act as a bridge between the user and complex areas such as science and engineering. A transdisciplinary approach can improve everyday life and also give rise to new styles and new materials in the design scene.
Upcoming projects. What’s next?
In addition to foam glass research, I am exploring medical waste glass recycling. No industry wants to run the risk of finding a solution to recycle this glass, which is considered hazardous waste, although 99% of it is completely harmless waste. Hospitals have tons of this glass, especially with the rise in Covid-19 vaccines, and it’s all burned and reduced to gravel for road construction. It may be interesting to find a solution to clean this glass, recycle it and transform it into everyday objects or even products that benefit the medical sector.
PHOTOS: Hands Studio (portrait of Steven Akoun)