100 Mile Design Challenge
Over the course of 5 months, students at the University of Washington and Maryland Institute College of Art tackled this same challenge: produce a functional product solely using resources available within 100 miles of your home city. This challenge inspired each team of students to innovate and explore with materials and manufacturing processes. Through their research, prototyping, and final construction, the students grappled with the social, environmental, and design issues surrounding local manufacturing, as well as manufacturing in a larger sense.To culminate the 100 Mile Design Challenge, both universities presented their work together at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in May, 2011.
Canoeing in search of cattail, filling my kitchen with the smell of beeswax, and long nights of sewing led to this wax cloth hat.By coating hemp cloth in beeswax, I created a stiff, waterproof textile hearkening back to the oil cloth once used in tents, work wear, and hunting gear. The hat's quilted hemp cloth lining, insulated with cattail down, arose from the memory of cattail-stuffed life perservers used by the US military during World War II. The warm, waterproof hat uses materials that could be cultivated within 100 miles of Seattle, and also protects the wearer from rainy Seattle winters.
Making this hat taught me about history, both the history of the region in which I live and the history of a manufactured object. In search of know-how from generations past, the folk knowledge of family and friends, forums and blogs, and books that preserved what was once common knowledge were the starting points of my research. From there, experimentation was my daily routine. My weekends were filled with muddy feet, boiling liquids, and trying to get cattail down off of my clothes.This process of exploration and discovery led me to better understand the Pacific Northwest, both what it has been and what it is, as well as to think critically about how manufacturing shapes earth, plants, energy, and human effort into the objects in our lives. The objects that my colleagues and I created have stories—gritty, genuine, tellable stories. The stories of most manufactured objects are not as apparent, and rarely had it occurred to me to seek those stories that every object has.
Read more about the 100 Mile Design Challenge at Inhabitat