Studio Rope Turns Dust From Stone Processing Into Pottery Glazes

09.01.20 | By
Studio Rope Turns Dust From Stone Processing Into Pottery Glazes

Hiroyuki Morita established Studio Rope in 2017, while studying for his Master’s Degree at ECAL Switzerland. “Design connects many relationships in our own life, in the same way as rope makes a knot,” he says, explaining the studio’s core philosophy. He believes that design is as much about forming strong bonds and flexible partnerships with clients, craftsmen, makers and users as it is about creating objects. His Stone Pottery collection is just one example of this. By working in close collaboration with stone factories, he was able to turn their waste dust into a unique glaze that provides thermo-insulating and tactile properties to a porcelain coffee set.

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 was born in Shizuoka, Japan. My hometown was rich in nature and I spent a lot of time in the forest. When I was nine years old, I made a wooden chair for my father, which was my first design experience. Because of this childhood, I am naturally interested in creativity, design and sustainability and those interests have a strong influence on my own current works. I hold Master’s Degree in product design from ECAL and work in a design studio in Germany at this moment.

How would you describe your Stone Pottery project?

“Any waste can be special,” The Stone pottery project started with this phrase. In general, stone factories have a huge quantity of stone powder, which is made by the machining of cutting, grinding, drilling and milling process for stones. Usually, it would have been turned into urban road material. However, I felt there was a lot of potential with this material, in other uses. Through the material investigation, I figured out that this waste undergoes a special reaction after the baking process – a foaming phenomenon. And then I decided to use the reaction as a special glaze on the surface of pottery which provides a satisfying grip and heat insulation. In the end, I designed a family of coffee cup and a carafe, as examples, to visualize these material characteristics.

What inspired this project?

A traditionally-made glaze from raw material.

What waste (and other) materials are you using, how did you select those particular materials and how do you source them?

I sourced waste stone powder from a stone processing factory based in Lausanne, Switzerland.

When did you first become interested in using waste as raw material and what motivated this decision?

I had noticed this waste when I visited the factory coincidentally. At that time, I knew that many minerals are used in traditional glazes, so I felt the same potential with stone powder of marble or natural stones.

What processes do the materials have to undergo to become the finished product?

First, we had to build a good partnership between a particular pottery manufacturer and stone factories. And it was also necessary to put in place a mechanism that enables stable production as a new type of glaze.

What happens to your products at the end of their life – can they go back into the circular economy?

In this project, the final product is the glaze made out of stone powder waste. The project extends the lifespan of the waste before it becomes urban road material, which is not really part of the circular economy but it is valuable. The circular economy argues for keeping materials in use indefinitely – this project extends the period of time for which this is possible.

How did you feel the first time you saw the transformation from waste material to product/prototype?

I felt that my prediction of potential went in the right direction. However, I also felt there were many barriers to realize it. In fact, this project is still a prototype and has not yet been realized in society.

How have people reacted to this project?

I have received some collaboration inquiries from porcelain manufacturers but to build a good partnership between stone factories can be a big barrier for this project, in terms of investment.

How do you feel opinions towards waste as a raw material are changing?

To be used as a raw material, waste often needs a lot of processing, which adds to the production costs in general. That means that in order to use waste, we have to present a special value beyond the processing cost. Actually this realistic opinion hasn’t changed a lot. The use of waste can only be moved forward by accumulating special value creation cases.

What do you think the future holds for waste as a raw material?

I feel there is a huge opportunity. In fact, many designers are realizing great designs with waste raw materials.

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Katie Treggiden is a purpose-driven journalist, author and, podcaster championing a circular approach to design – because Planet Earth needs better stories. She is also the founder and director of Making Design Circular, a program and membership community for designer-makers who want to join the circular economy. With 20 years' experience in the creative industries, she regularly contributes to publications such as The Guardian, Crafts Magazine and Monocle24 – as well as being Editor at Large for Design Milk. She is currently exploring the question ‘can craft save the world?’ through an emerging body of work that includes her fifth book, Wasted: When Trash Becomes Treasure (Ludion, 2020), and a podcast, Circular with Katie Treggiden.