The Scrap Stool.

Design as a Solution..

The Scrap Stool by Nikolas Gregory Studio.

The New York based ‘Critique‘ design studio has a devised a method to create products out of Paper Waste.

The Scrap Stool which is produced using nothing but Waste Paper & Glue is more of a “Tangible” presentation of an Idea than it is a Product, which by the way is as Usable as any other stool in your home.

Now one of the most fascinating things about the Scrap Stool is its structure & how it is able to stand, let alone withstand the weight of an adult sitting on it ’cause well, it doesn’t have the usual “Legs” or even a Rigid Structure for that matter.

Well, the secret lies in the ‘Paper Strips’ only. The stool is made up of 6000 to 8000 paper strips & the overall weight is divided among every single strip, and the designers claim that the Scrap Stool can withstand a weight of 190-25- pounds (86-113 Kilograms)!

Quite an Achievement! & what makes it more awesome is that the Cost of both Labour & Production is nearly Zero as the paper is, well, Scrap & the “Labour is already paid for”.

Know all about the Scrap Stool as we talk to design director Nikolas Gregory about his inspiring creation.

What was the inspiration behind the Scrap Stool ?

My grandfather worked for a paper distributor as a paper cutter. He would take large sheets of paper and cut them to the sizes required by the customers. There was a great deal of scrap which he would cut to a common size and then create a glue binding much like the bindings on notepads. We called them “scrap pads” instead of their more familiar name of “scratch pads”. We had hundreds of these pads. We still do. They are a testament to my grandfather’s inability to let the waste produce of his work go unused. You could say this was my first encounter with this type of waste material and recycling.

As a designer working in the graphic arts among other areas, I spend a great deal of time in printing houses. I have seen enormous waste – most of which ends up in trash or, if we are lucky, is repurposed and recycled. Witnessing this phenomenon, I was inspired to develop the Scrap Stool.

Why a stool, why not any other product?

A Stool is an easily digestible product for a general audience. Furniture is used daily by everyone. By using a functional product, the user can quickly be convinced of the effectiveness of this “out of the box” idea.

What came first, the Stool or the Method it is created with?

Well, the method was foretold in my grandfather’s hobby. It is a technology used in the printing arts, binding with pliable glue. I knew I wanted to create something with industrial waste. Paper is the first of these efforts. Once I determined that the density of the bound paper would make it strong in compression, chairs, stools and tables became viable products. So, you could say the idea evolved out of the synthesis of what I knew and what I aspired to do.

An important part of the design, however, is the idea that the collection of the material and its transformation into a product would be more or less a simple and easy step in the industrial process. That is why I imagined a technique that did NOT make the paper cutter’s work more complex. I knew the excess paper waste would need to be fixed at one end. I did not want to disrupt the labor of the shop guys or add to their workload. I needed to develop a system that fit within their predetermined routine, that is why the thought of using the trashcan as the mold for the chair was so important. I add the glue, they discard the paper as they normally would. The result is a useable product.

How did you discover this new way & method of production?

It took the studio a few good weeks to try many different methods to the solve problem. Much of the paper waste already has adhesive on it and was being tossed because of it. We decided to embrace the very flaws that it was being thrown out for.

(click on the images to enlarge)

Can you please walk us through the whole design & production process & the steps ?

The employees of the factory go about their work routines. Everything is the same, except we replaced the waste bins with ones filled with a slow drying adhesive. We asked the cutters to place the paper in the cans in a relatively organized way – parallel and vertical. This is not so difficult since the scraps tend to come off in parallel strips since they are cut from large pads of oversized stock. At the end of the day, the waste bin is emptied which results in a newly formed stool.

The paper dimensions depend on the work the factory is doing at that time. The long strips are from large quantities of paper being dimensioned to a specific size. However many of the stools turn out to be quite abstract since the paper can vary in size and thickness. The workers do their best to dump the paper scraps long ways. The inconsistency is in fact good. We tend to see beautiful results occur when there is variance in material.

You have used the phrase “killed two birds with one stone.”, can you please tell us what it exactly means.

My personal goal is not only to make projects that are useful – which become a part of daily life – but which also bring attention to a larger issue. In this case, the first bird is the reuse of waste – which is both a practical goal and an iconic one given the problems we face collectively with waste. The second bird is the creation of an evocative and useful object.

“Every design reflects the values of it’s designer in itself..” So, how does this apply to you, your team & the Scrap Stool ?

I would say this design is in tune with my values. My goal is not only to make projects that are critiques but also projects that can actively participate in our surroundings. I design systems that not only critique our world’s problems but also aim to fix them.

The Scrap Stool embodies this. It is practical, fun, a bit absurd, the result of a transformation of a common routine, a response to collective human preoccupations and worries.

                                                                       Nikolas, can it be a DIY Project ?

I am sure people can make this at home. However the beauty of the Scrap Stool is that it was made in order to solve the problem of industrial waste. If someone makes this at home they are potentially wasting paper and have undermined the whole principle of the design. The best take-away for DIY would be to think of the concept. Look around. What exists in abundance that would otherwise just get tossed? Plastic bags, aluminum cans, old clothes, car tires, construction material (non-toxic) – how could those materials be transformed simply into something useable like a piece of furniture or a shelter of some sort.

This is not a new concept. Most generations that preceded our own found it difficult to throw anything away if it had even the slightest value in reuse. We are blessed and cursed with an overabundance of stuff. We are so affluent that scrap has little value. For the Do-it-yourselfer, try transforming something that would otherwise be thrown in the dustbin.

What affect do you think, the Scrap Stool & the Method of Production will have on the product industry, design & society as a whole?

Creating usable everyday objects is a good way to disseminate an idea. In this case,the process suggests that turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse is easier than one might think. This is not a universal solution. It is one small part of a larger mindset that we can tackle problems such as the overwhelming presence of junk without changing dramatically the way we do things.

What are you trying to achieve here (with the design, scrap stool, the method of production) & have you been successful in doing so?

We are using the stool as a medium to get across an idea. My personal goal is not only to make projects that are critiques but also projects that can actively participate in our surroundings. I design systems that not only critique our world’s problems but also aim to fix them.

Yes, we definitely feel successful.



Know all about & see all of the projects & designs by the Nikolas Gregory Studio on their official website: nikolasgregorystudio.com

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