Plastic Infinity: Eco-Friendly Design
Modern design is beauty filled with meanings. An artist or decorator can create a form that not only catches the eye but also makes you think. This is partly Galina Larina’s mission. For several years, the designer created a brand of alternative clothes made of plastic bags. Her name was voiced at many exhibitions and shows. Today, Ms. Larina’s new projects are aimed at the solution of ecological problems through the prism of art and creativity.
graphic designer and founder of the Plasticdoom brand of clothes made of recycled polyethene
Today, Galina Larina fulfils herself in different areas of applied art, teaches creative disciplines at school, and develops her own workshop. For many years, the designer has paid special attention to ecology. As emphasized by Ms. Larina, her interests are very diverse but are all united by love for the beautiful and caring attitude to the surrounding world, the future of the planet, and humanity.
– Why is your work based on the topic of ecology? How and when did you understand tour desire to focus on solving these problems?
– I believe that our worldview and attitude towards life depend largely on our family. When I was a little girl, we often enjoyed our time in nature and travelled to different cities. And I am grateful to my parents for that. In my childhood, they brought up my ability to behold the beauty in the world around me.
Of course, my conscious interest in environmental issues emerged much later. It all started when I was finishing my studies at the British School of Design. I had to come up with an idea for my graduation thesis. I knew that I wasn’t interested in creating advertising projects or flashy packaging. I wanted to find a deeper and more interesting topic.
I remembered the phrase that “design is not just the creation of form but also the solution to a specific problem”. That’s why, when thinking through the idea of the project, I thought a lot about what problems concern me most and how I could be useful in solving them.
The idea came to me when I noticed how much garbage is around us on the streets. I wanted to go deeper into the topic of pollution, to understand why people buy and throw away so many unnecessary things, and, most importantly, do not even think about how it affects the world around us.
When I immersed myself in research, I came across such a concept as overconsumption.
Modern society is mired in buying and selling. In fact, my profession is also focused primarily on attracting customers and creating products. How act in such a case? Can design be a tool for solving the problem of excessive and thoughtless consumption?
When studying the literature on the subject, I learned about different options on how to make the design more eco-friendly. I learned about the rational use of materials, how to dispose obsolete products, and how to create things that have a long life cycle. The option of using recycled materials in the design seemed the most interesting to me.
I thought it would be great to use in our work those things that would otherwise be thrown away in the trash can or pollute our streets.
I was passionate about that idea and couldn’t wait to start creating. Initially, the plan was to use paper as the raw material but it seemed too simple and boring. I understood that the modern world is drowning in huge amounts of plastic. It is difficult to dispose it without harming the environment. It became the basis for my creative experiments. Over time, the circle of plastic raw materials was narrowed to plastic bags. They were easier to process and, most importantly, there were simply an innumerable number of them around me.
This is how my first design object made of plastic bags was born: that was a raincoat. Later I created an entire brand of alternative clothing called Plasticdoom. This is a play on words, giving birth to the concept of ‘plastic infinity’. Over time, I was invited to various exhibitions, shows, and conferences. I was happy that the topic of recycling became really popular and people wanted to learn more about it.
– Can we say that modern design should be not so much pragmatic but rather meaningful?
– Yes, I believe, the time for that has come. Design used to serve the form and was aimed at providing the customer with a wide range of goods. However, the profession is undergoing some changes today. Many things are moving from reality to digital space, thus becoming intangible. That’s why meaningfulness begins to prevail over form.
Design has become more socially-oriented. It is aimed not so much at the market and sales but rather at people’s values and needs.
For a graphic designer, it is extremely important how he or she presents his or her idea. Today, packaging and logos are not that important. The story and the meanings behind the creation of the product are much more significant.
Design is in absolutely everything that surrounds us. That is why it must be conscious and meaningful. Otherwise, there will be no value in it.
– Does that mean that design can affect people’s thinking?
– I think, it does. Turning to the topic of ecology in design really influenced my thinking. At first, I wasn’t a keen fighter for the preservation of the planet. When I first began to delve into the subject, I literally terrorized everyone around me: I forced them to reduce the amount of mindless shopping and properly sort their garbage. That’s how sad and offended by the situation in the world I was. Over time, with my thoughts sorted out a bit, I became more tolerant.
When talking about ecology and eco-friendly habits, it’s important to understand that everyone is different. Some people were brought up remembering how bags were washed because there were not enough of them at that time. Others grew up in a world where everything is made of ‘disposable’ plastic. Ecological thinking must be fostered in all people but the approach must be different.
I almost do not make new collections made of polyethene now. When I created the project I considered it more important to work on content, not the form. Now things made of recycled plastic are so popular that many customers buy them. They are guided not by values but by the simple desire to buy fashionable goods.
Today, the focus of my activities has shifted from production to education. I am interested in working with people’s thinking and with their worldviews. I created a special workshop, in which I regularly hold meetings and talk about the recycling cycle. I share my methods and techniques of working with this raw material with my listeners. I would like to see this new project develop not only because I believe in it but also because it is interesting to other people. Using my experience, they can implement their own ideas, thus making their thoughts and important topics heard worldwide.
– What equipment do you have in your workshop? Can it be used, for example, in educational institutions? This is a very interesting and useful project and it would be great to replicate it.
– I find it really important and useful to integrate such topics as ecological design into the educational process at creative educational institutions.
Some of the machines in the workshop were created by me from drawings that are publicly available in professional communities. for example, the Precious Plastic platform. Purchased uncomplicated machines make up another part of my equipment. For example, those include a thermal press used in the textile industry to transfer designs to fabric.
I would say that equipping yourself with the machinery and resources to work with recycled materials is not that difficult. It’s much more important to be aware of the responsibility of working with such materials.
One should understand that, when recycling any type of plastic, the temperature rises and microns of material burn, thus releasing harmful substances into the air. That is why the workshop must be equipped with a ventilation system and special filters. Specialists working there must have protective equipment and respirators.
If an educational institution can provide a safe work process, I don’t see any obstacles to experimentation. In my opinion, this is a good way to instil the right values in future designers. Even if they don’t focus their professional activities on such topics, it will contribute positively to their thinking.
– Do you teach not only in a workshop but also at a school?
– Yes. That’s a true gift of fate. I was really happy when I was invited to teach at the school where I graduated. It’s a secondary school but it has a musical and dramatic focus. The children at the school are very creative and it’s interesting and definitely pleasant to work with them.
I did not hesitate to accept the offer to teach there. That opportunity seemed very interesting and valuable. I have been teaching art and creativity courses at the school for a year. I deliver both theory and practice for my school students.
I like the fact that I have to find an individual approach to each class. Somewhere I need to focus on self-expression and somewhere I need to put an emphasis on the development of creative thinking. This helps me to look at art from different perspectives.
– You are also a member of the Precious Plastic community. Why is it important for you?
– Precious Plastic is a large community of creative and caring people from all over the world. They are united by the idea of contributing to saving the planet from plastic pollution. It consists of designers, engineers, and eco-activists who come together to create technologies for modifying raw materials, implement joint projects, discuss and find ways to solve current environmental problems, and exchange ideas and knowledge. This platform can help you find information not only about working with plastic waste but also about different biomaterials or textiles.
The project was created in 2016 by Dave Hakkens, a Dutchman. However, I wouldn’t associate just his name with this community today. Nowadays, the community involves millions of amazing people. It’s great that Dave brought them together and gave them an opportunity to be heard.
Environmental problems must be addressed by joining efforts. The collaboration of creative people only enhances the effectiveness of such work.
Being part of that community is important to me because it’s incredibly supportive, inspiring, and motivating. When talking with people from all over the world concerned about the same topics and issues that I do, I understand how similar we all are. Yes, we are in different countries and different time zones but we live on one planet and preserving it is our common cause.
– Ecology is both a very concrete word and a very abstract one. What is your personal understanding of it?
– The understanding of the word ‘ecology’ has been changing in my mind in the course of my growing up. When I was a child, I associated it primarily with animals, movement, warmth, and the sounds of nature. As I grew older, I began to observe the world around me in a more detailed way. I understood that ecology is also about plants, water, sky, air, and the cycles of life. Gradually I came to an understanding that ecology is the harmonious coexistence of different elements.
Our world is a complex relationship, in which every element matters. For example, if you remove a species of flora or fauna from a forest ecosystem, the usual natural interrelationships will be disrupted. If nature doesn’t adapt to that change, the whole system will die. Even if one of the elements is artificially added and starts ‘opposing the system’ and destroying the habitual rhythms, it will lead to ecological death. The Boxwood Groves in Krasnodar Krai and Adygea are a good illustration of how that works. Butterflies were accidentally brought there and became a negative element in that ecosystem. They led to the plight of nature in the region.
I think that ecology is a phenomenon, in which the mechanism works harmoniously and smoothly, without something that disrupts the system.
It seems to me that such a vision of the situation is very important. It does not separate people from the system and at the same time emphasizes their responsibility for every trace they leave. In this sense, as a designer and creative person, I think that people need to learn to notice such interconnections and beauty around them. After all, we always want to preserve the beautiful, not destroy it.
– Taking into account your life position and artistic activities work, what would you wish the younger generation, Generation Z?
– Don’t think that you are ‘lone warriors’. Do not be afraid to share the things that you are concerned about with the older generation. Many ethical and moral foundations in me were laid exactly in the process of communicating with older people. They helped me put my thoughts in order and come to certain conclusions based on a fuller and more diverse vision of the problem. However, it is important not just to mindlessly ‘absorb’ their advice and information but to engage in discussions, not to be afraid of debate, to be honest and open. This is the only possible way of communication to achieve progress. I believe that this gives a useful experience in everything, including creative fulfilment.
Sergey Panfilov @serejaris
Vlada Krasilnikova @krasilnikova.vlada
Galina Larina @galyalarina
Viktoria Yezhova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov