Sand packaging © Alien & Monkey
When Sigmund Freud wrote, “when objects are lost, subjects are found,” he was describing the essence of melancholia, comparing it directly to the emotion of mourning. It was this concept that first sparked the idea of products made of sand in Marc Nicolau and Daishu Ma, from design firm Alien & Monkey.“The concept we have been working on relies upon the objects maturation, based on its physical disintegration in line with the concept of entropy – from an ordered state to one of disorder,” Marc explains. “Through the owner’s mishaps and spills, and of course the general wear it receives from the elements, the object starts to evolve. Like all of us, it matures and eventually dies.”
Their idea is that the loss of the object awakens the feeling of mourning in the owner as they have witnessed its decline. It makes the owner want to rediscover the object, as it is in their memory and has, in some way, become a part of them. To explore this theory in greater detail they started using sand as a material to create ephemeral, finite objects.
The Material and how it is made
‘Sand made’ is a material developed with one of earth’s most abundant natural resources and is made of a combination of sand & sawdust. Employing a traditional process and a touch of alchemy, particles of sand and dust are shaped and formed into objects.
“The idea behind this material is to make products that can last for a long period of time, and slowly crumble back to dust at the end of their lives, leaving behind just grains of sand and other minerals harmless to the environment”, Marc explains.
The resulting material is a solid product that can be manipulated. By varying the specifics of the process, differing properties of longevity and strength can be developed so as to modify the material to suit different applications. There are 3 main elements which can be altered in the process to deliver different results:
- The production process involves handmade casting. By altering the pressure applied, the strength of the object can be altered, with increased pressure leading to an object which is inherently stronger.
– A wide range of temperatures can deliver vastly different results. By drying the sand mixture in the sun, it will retain its shape but is also heavily affected by the environment, such as being unresisting to water and leading it to quickly disintegrate. If the mixture is cooked in a kiln, the material is much harder and significantly resistant to the effects of the environment, eroding over a much longer period of time.
- By increasing the percentage of added minerals and other compounds to the mixture, a more solid and stronger material can be created – suitable for such objects as garden furniture.
Sand packaging © Alien & Monkey
Finite Sustainable Packaging
As an answer to the increase of waste in modern society, the material can be used to create packaging for luxurious or precious gifts. Packaging made from sand allows one to ‘discover’ the gift. Destroying the packaging during its opening provides a unique sensory experience and creates a long-lasting memory for the person who receives the gift. Once the packaging has fulfilled its purpose, it can be broken down to sand by hand, and disposed directly back to the environment.
Treating the sand mixture using traditional ceramics techniques, a stronger material can also be created suitable for outdoor furniture such as small benches and indoor accessories such as lamps.
What does the future hold for the material?
Marc explains… “We are looking at where we can substitute certain other materials that are currently used to make long lasting structures that in reality have a short life cycle.” The possibilities are endless, Marc continues “We can obtain finer or coarser sand, darker or lighter coloured sand, sand with crystal or volcanic textures – leading to a wide array of different materials with specific properties.”
Marc and Daishu are currently working on small objects, refining the process and exploring further applications for the material. “We have recently completed 300 packages for a high profile event in China where the invitations were delivered in our finite sustainable sand packaging.” But the ultimate aim is to go bigger. “What would be really interesting is to use it as a building block to construct bigger structures. In a way it’s a bit like going back to our origins, mankind has always used sand, mud and rocks to build structures. We want to further research and improve this material with that as an ultimate aim.”
Find more information about the sand packaging here.
Credits: Keir Pratt
Thanks to Emma P. Borgstrøm.
About Maria Hørmann
Maria is creator and editor of ‘Hello Materials Blog’, creator of “My Darling Materials” and one of the ‘Change Makers’ at the Design & Innovation team at the Danish Design Centre. She follows closely the development within the environmental- , technological- and material area, and with a background as a trained cabinet maker Maria also has a broad, professional knowledge of materials.
> More about Maria Hørmann