Daniel Freitag : Recycling, and small gadgets.

I am the world #1 fan of everything recycled. I even built my university thesis around this subject. So, when Boisbuchet sent me the list of workshops for this season, Freitag was at the top of the list.

Daniel Freitag and his brother Markus have now been transforming used truck tarp into bags for 20 years. They were still students when they got the idea of the recycled messenger bag. Today, their last name became a world-renowned brand.

The brief for this workshop was quite simple. Take the waste produced with the cut off of the Freitag Bags and invent a small object that could be useful, original and customisable. For our first day, Daniel had prepared a beautiful scenography displaying several colours of tarp in the barn, fallowed by the tools available to shape this strong material. One of these tools was a sonic welder taken from one of Freitag’s traveling installations. The machine uses high frequency sound to heat section of the material, leaving a trace in the form of the Freitag logo. The original installation, called Road Killed, worked that way: You chose an animal from a board (like a rat or a bird), fold it in half, “roll” over it with the machine and you just made yourself an artificial dead animal to hang from your bag…

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The machine is pure magic and the installation is very graphic, but still… there are a few things I disapprove about this concept.

–       It is violent, in a weird way

–       The process doesn’t improve the object

–       It is only decorative… honestly not even beautiful

I made it a goal to think of a substitute for this project, which would be more creative, customizable and useful.

Daniel’s first exercise for us was meant to make us understand the material and the tools. The idea was to create a toy boat that would float, using only the equivalent of an A4 sheet of tarp. The exercise was much more difficult than expected. (for me at least) I did many models, that didn’t seem to get any better than the first one. I ended up with a quite complete shape, using weights and external materials. It even floated a little bit on its side. In the end, even if the boat was far from perfect, the goal was reached. I now knew how to fold, cut, weld and glue the tarp.

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The second exercise he gave us was to create an object that would interact with the nature found in Boisbuchet. We had less than an afternoon to think and realise the idea. I went big scale with a cone shaped cocoon suspended from a tree.

The idea was to have a privacy booth where you could be outside, protected from the wind and the rain, but remain hidden from the visitors and the other participants. An important detail was that the chosen location for the installation was one of the rare spots where I could have a phone signal in Boisbuchet. It soon became my private communication capsule.

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My final project for this workshop was to try to recreate the Eames’s elephant from small sheets of tarp. In the process, I realised that my own design could actually hold objects such has pencils and cards. From the elephant, I went to the crocodile and from the crocodile to an entire zoo.

All animals are made from two parts of tarp (one for the head and one for the body). The flat object needs only one rivet on the eye and one drop of glue on the tail to become a cute little desktop accessory.

Compared to the original concept, the desktop zoo uses a similar amount of material (less than an A4 for each animal). Also, it reverses the process. Instead of taking a “living” animal pattern and killing it in the process, you take a “dead” abstract shape and bring it to “life” with personal care. The concept is also more creative, since a visitor could also decide to customize his animal, choosing for example to put the lion’s head on the giraffe’s body, etc.

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I have to say that this week was my favourite one of this summer spent in Boisbuchet. Not only because Daniel Freitag as an amazing personality and great teaching skills, but also because of the context. This same week Maarten Baas was also giving his workshop “point of view”. Our two groups had very fun and interesting personalities, which transformed our evenings in hilarious nights. I also have to thanks Hayes (from Texas), Rodrigo (DesignBoom editor from Vancouver), Min Ji (from Corea) and Tristan (Maarten’s assistant from Ireland) for making me laugh so much during this week. And thanks Maarten for trying to convince me that I look like a mix of Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt, even if it isn’t true.

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