Spared Turns Waste Coat Hangers + Sugar Cane Into the XOU Light
Spared is a start-up from the team behind design studio and creative agency Volume Creative – it’s a creative service that works with businesses to turn their waste into beautiful objects and they’ve just launched their first product which is available to consumers – the XOU Light. We spoke to co-founder Callie Tedder-Hares (below, second from right) to find out more…
Tell me a little bit about your childhood, education, and background in terms of how you first became interested in creativity, design, and sustainability.
I grew up surrounded by trees on a lake in rural New Jersey in a small two-bedroom bungalow built by my grandfather. I shared a tiny bedroom with my two sisters, complete with a triple bunk bed, designed and built by my dad. My parents grew all our vegetables and I spent my childhood planting, weeding, and harvesting our food. They instilled in me a deep respect for nature from an early age and this has influenced my approach to responsible design and, in particular, biophilic design.
Our family home is laced from floor to ceiling with eclectic objects, all carefully curated by my mother. I have fond memories of dipping my hands into jars of antique buttons, inspecting them one at a time – their patterns, their shapes – and then organizing them into color-coded piles. I am captivated by objects; I love how each one holds wonder, history, and stories… both real and make-believe.
I was part of the first generation in my family to go to university, so my parents encouraged me to study a subject that had longevity and would excite me throughout life. Intrigued by the role that art has on wellbeing and mental health, I began a course in therapeutic art, which then led me to an interest in spatial design and a final degree in interior design.
How would you describe your project/product?
Spared® is a start-up by me and my partners at Volume Creative. We set it up to support brands and individuals who want to take responsibility for their own waste or by-products. We celebrate our first anniversary this month. We have had some really exciting commissions, but the XOU light, our collaboration with Houseof, is really special to us as it’s our first product that is available to purchase.
It’s been a truly collaborative project with manufacturing partners all based in the UK. The light is made from two intersecting materials, the first a 3D-printed bioplastic printed by Batchworks, and the second a unique waste terrazzo composite developed by us. We love that the XOU is accessible and affordable, making it an important and urgent project for us. Together with Houseof, we are driven by making great, responsible designs that doesn’t cost the earth, which is easier said than done. The XOU took two years to develop and to find the right UK manufacturing partners for, but it was worth the wait.
What inspired this project/product?
We designed the XOU during the Covid 19 lockdown of 2020. Like most people, we were missing the small interactions between people in real life, so we translated this feeling through graphic forms into the design: the X-shaped base of two interlocked ‘U’ shapes, one inverted, has a spherical ‘O’ bulb nestled in one quadrant. The ‘X’ ‘O’ and ‘U’ shapes are the ‘hug and a kiss’ (XO) for you (U).
What waste (and other) materials are you using, how did you select those particular materials, and how do you source them?
The XOU is a composite made from waste plastic coat hangers, solvent-free gypsum, and 3D-printed plastic made from sugar cane.
Outside of the XOU light project, we’ve explored a plethora of waste from masonry, eggshells, coffee grinds, shells from seafood, and plastics. We are also kicking off an R&D project in textile waste later this year. Plastics, however, still tend to be the most common waste product we receive from clients to develop into products and surfaces.
When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision?
We started experimenting with waste materials in 2018, and in 2019 we launched a series of vases made from broken plastic coat hangers. We called the project Achromatic. Achromatic was a self-funded project that was in response to our impact on landfill and climate change. It started as a small R&D project and ended up becoming the catalyst that changed how I viewed waste and its possibilities in the built environment. Two years later, in partnership with Emma, Kate, and Francesca, Spared® was born.
What processes do the materials have to undergo to become the finished product?
The XOU went through a series of testing with different types of plastic, as some plastic floats and gets lost in the composite, making it invisible in the final product. We also tested sealants for durability, and are thrilled to have ended up with natural beeswax.
What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy?
Houseof offers customers the option of offsetting all the usage emissions from the light source at the checkout. The carbon credits are invested in projects in partnership with South Pole, which leads in this industry. Customers can return the lamp at the end of its life, and receive a 20% discount on their next purchase, up to 10 years from now.
How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype?
It is hard to describe in words…it was so satisfyingly beautiful and unexpected that it changed my thinking entirely. I realize that’s quite a big statement, but it truly altered my perspective and approach to interiors and product design. It also made me bolder and more able to approach our clients with conviction (and proof!) of the value, beauty, and importance of waste in design.
How have people reacted to this project?
The response to the XOU light has been wonderful and we have recently been long-listed for a Dezeen award, which we are all thrilled about.
How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing?
I like to think that by re-imagining waste, we have created an opportunity to define a new luxury – a luxury that has deep-rooted purpose and evokes curiosity and conversation. If the sheer amount of enquires we are currently receiving for R&D projects is a reflection of how opinions are changing, then I feel really hopeful. I think designers and brands are beginning to embrace waste’s importance in building and raw materials.
What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material?
Waste material is undoubtedly the future and I hope that innovation in this field continues to grow and develop. Our expanding landfills are a problem for us all. We have an abundance of waste at our fingertips and its possibilities are endless. But first and foremost, we must make strides in reducing waste at the outset. We have enough waste to work with, without creating anymore!