Heath Nash

Posted: January 30, 2012 in Design - Green Designers
Tags: , , , ,

All the work I now engage in is informed by all the work I have made in the past. Every ‘mistake’ I have made in the past was not a mistake at all, but rather a way to understand the making of things better. Through this understanding of creativity, I acknowledge the importance of my work-process as being almost more important than the end product itself in many ways. – Heath Nash

Heath Nash studied sculpture at the University of Cape Town, but began making lampshades and other life style products after graduating. Exploring the question what South Africa could look like or what design language could express a contemporary aesthetic of his country, he experiments with ‘craft techniques’ as a high end design tool. Named as the 2006 Elle Decoration South Africa Designer of the Year for his treasures from trash, Heath has also just been appointed the SA creative entrepreneur of the year – a British council initiative. (Ref)

Materials and Work Process

As a designer and artist, he has always been inspired by whichever specific material he works with on any given project.

As a boy he used to make things out of card and paper. He played with origami and made models from books in which a flat sheet became a three-dimensional object. Then in high school, as a painting and printmaking student, he broadened his understanding of materials by experimenting with papier mache, wirework, different paints, inks and printing processes, as well as learning how to use clay.

Heath giving a workshop of paper folding in Zimbabwe

In art school, at the University of Cape Town he was confronted with a whole array of new materials such as oil paint, mould making, bronze casting, welding, forgery.

All the work I now engage in is informed by all the work I have made in the past. Every ‘mistake’ I have made in the past was not a mistake at all, but rather a way to understand the making of things better. Through this understanding of creativity, I acknowledge the importance of my work-process as being almost more important than the end product itself in many ways.

Through his experimentation with card and tape, he realized that of utmost importance to him is the process that came to light in the course of making “countless” models which gave himself the chance to play freely.

“I use this work process every time I’m challenged with a new project or problem – I try to play with it. Then I try again. Invariably there are more red herrings than there are good solutions, but by practicing this way of working over time, my speed and agility in this arena has improved.”

He also imposed very strict and simple ‘rules’ on himself – to only use card, staples, and tape. Within this tight framework or limitation, he was totally free to explore the bounds of space and structure. This process showed him how a thought experiment can become a real experiment and then a product.

“In art school when I experimented with many and various fold systems, I designed and made a piece of paper that was intended to crumple ‘perfectly’. I pre-creased a regular triangular grid onto a piece of card, trying to ensure that it would not crumple ‘normally’ – in a chaotic way – but rather in an ordered, pre-determined and predictable way.This failed horribly, but it was a nice thought.

And, it ended up behaving differently to the way I was expecting it to behave – it squashed into a perfect ‘tunnel’. I had stumbled onto a structural system that at the time had very little function to me, but after art school, in my earliest product development phase (using purely paper), this very experiment became a paper armband – paper jewellery. Then, later (when I began to experiment with different plastics as a more hardwearing substrate from which to make lights) a slightly further development of the design became a multi-faceted folded lampshade (the curl), which is made using a process called die-cutting. “

Die cut plastic (because you can’t glue plastic)

Die cutting is part of the commercial printmaking process. Once a flat piece of card is printed with your breakfast cereal’s name (for example), it is cut using a die.

A die is a thin sheet of plywood, with custom shaped blades sticking out of one side. Some of these blades are very sharp, and some are blunt.

So, once the die is mounted in a press, and the printed board is fed in; tonnes of pressure slam against the die and the board, making creases where there are blunt blades and cuts where the sharp ones are. The printed card is now easily folded into your favourite cereal packaging. And the packaging for your washing powder, and your Rooibos tea, and your latest internet purchase.

In other words, die-cutting is a cost effective way to cut out lots of identical paper, card or thin plastic units. Into any desired shape – including shapes that are difficult to cut by hand. Like clips and slots and tabs for attaching pieces together.without glue.

He used this simple process to produce his earliest lights. He initially made one pleated lampshade for an exhibition called Aisle 5, which was organised by a friend from art school. This light was based on experiments he had done during his art school days.

Early Development

He used this simple process to produce his earliest lights. He initially made one pleated lampshade for an exhibition called Aisle 5, which was organised by a friend from art school. This light was based on experiments he had done during his art school days.

Post graduation he continued to play with paper; moving from using free off cut card, into beautiful coloured art papers. He laminated two colours together to create paper with two differently coloured sides, and cut and creased many items. He developed  cute toys and models trying to find a commercial avenue for the skills he developed during 1999.

He got his first few jobs with these models – to make interesting invitations and fliers and became known as the ‘paper guy’ in Cape Town. His business card of the time read: paper engineer. After Aisle 5, he saw the huge potential in lampshades as good products, and how all the work he’d done till then could be used for making them. The only transition he needed to make then was from paper to something else as paper was too delicate and too difficult to clean as a lampshade material. So he found and tested samples of different commercially available plastics, eventually stumbling upon polypropylene as the ideal, easily die-cut material.

In the beginning all his work was based on sheets of paper and plastic folded to objects: lampshades, greeting cards. According to Heath, it had a bit of an origami meets Swedish feel to it, but nothing that really showed that it was made in Africa. Consciously, he kept looking for some way to express what Africa is until he met Richard Mondongwe at a crafts market making these plastic flowers. That was when he thought that by using the right materials and knowledge – wire and plastic combined with skills of traditional crafters and a contemporary design – a new aesthetic could be created which really suits the country.

In Africa, re-use is very common and often necessary – as seen in much local craft, where waste (by other standards) has always been used as a material. So using plastic post-consumer waste as a raw material was ideal for his  purposes in 2004 when he was looking for a new voice for himself in the contemporary South African design arena. Not only is it historically relevant as a material, but the time was right to spread the word about recycling to the SA public.

‘I started using old bottles before it became cool, and not just because it’s green to do so.’

Production

Lots of bottles are found, sorted and collected.

They are washed very thoroughly (with bio-degradable detergent) and dried.

Then you cut the handle and the bottom off, so they transform to a plastic sheet. We punch leaves out with a hammer and a blade attached to a piece of wood.and each bottle is splayed open into a semi-flat ‘sheet’.

As many flowers as possible are cut from each bottle (we cut them using a die, but because they aren’t perfectly flat sheets, this is done by hand with a hammer – not in a mechanised press).

Now each flower has to be formed from a ‘flattish’ shape into a more 3-dimenional form – each petal is folded in half, and individual lines are creased into each (also by hand). This forms the flower, and makes it more translucent where the lines are… adding to the detail and finish of the finished piece. (So if a flower has 6 petals, and there are 9 lines on each one, someone has creased 54 lines! For ONE flower).

Finally, One flower is done!

The excess plastic off cuts are returned to the recyclers.

It Is a very time intensive process, and for the simplest light they produce, they need 240 flowers.

Heath Nash

Initially he only used white bottles – milk bottles, of which there is a plentiful supply. Once he branched into colour, however, he found that certain colours were plentiful but that some colours were not readily available at all. It was a difficult factor to include in any calculations – price and production volumes.

He attempted different methods of collection but eventually a new company was formed which collects, washes, cuts and creases any shapes he needs. They have to sort out the colour problem, and the whole problem of storage and cleaning, which leaves Heath free to work creatively. It also gives him solid cost to work with for each unit. So, even though the flowers are expensive, they are a known cost and extra people are employed who he does not have to manage.

Bottleformball, 2009

Bottleformball, 2009

Example of an answer on local green design

Heath Nash’s eye-catching latest creation called ‘Bottleformball’ is named for the fact that it uses old plastic household bottles as a point of departure. The use of recycled/found materials (plastic bottles) significantly reduces environmental damage. The shapes inherent in the bottles themselves are simply cut and used to create an interesting circular sculptural form. The protruding shapes at the edge of the circular form results in interesting silhouettes being created when illuminated. This is a departure  from previous designs that involved the cutting of elaborate flowers from the bottles and making something from them. Nash utilises the beautiful bottles in their original state to create lighting that is unique. The translucency of the bottles is striking, especially when illuminated.  Additionally, Nash has utilised CFL bulbs which act significantly to minimise harm to the environment.

Target Market

His products are aimed at virtually anyone. He has different products at different price ranges for different markets.

Marketing Strategy

His marketing strategy has been more of an organic process than the result of strategy.He took every available opportunity and used it to best advantage. One job can does lead to another. He created a simple visual identity early on by using almost entirely plain white paper and plastic with careful cuts and creases together with the simple use of gold foil for his branding.

References: 

Heath Nash Website

Waste Needed be Wasted – Ping Mag

“People are generally quite shocked that those things are made from rubbish, which I find really pleasing. That shows that I’m obviously doing it right and that’s exactly the point I am trying to make! It is possible to re-use this kind of plastic straight away and take it to a sophisticated level.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s