Caroline Grellier is keeping for Makery the creation journal of Termatière, her vine shoot upcycling project. Our maker produced her first samples, found inspiration at the Fablab Festival and continues to juggle between economic models.
Here we go, it’s all beginning!
I quickly set up my ultra-low-tech material fabrication workshop in my office at the incubator. A strainer to sieve my mashes, molds, Scotch tape, clamps, spatulas, glue, kraft paper, and ready to go. My mission entails carrying out several initial tests in order to have a clearer vision on esthetic choices and save time. Following this tinkering, off to the lab to do all this properly with state-of-the-art machines.
The research team from Inra and Montpellier Sup’Agro that is supporting me in this R&D program has never made composite materials. This is a major first for everyone. Following a consultation on the hypothetic quantity of resin, we went for a first recipe. We chose to use commercial resin in order to allow us time to find the right ratio to avoid wasting the team’s 100% bio-sourced glue.
First attempt. White coat and gloves, spatula in hand, I am mixing skillfully weighed vine shoot mash with skillfully dosed resin and I remain skeptical in front of my small pot: I am telling myself it will never bond. We agree to double the dose. Result: with a pressure of barely 50 bar, the resin starts to leak outside the mold, and with the heat, threatens to harden and stay stuck to the press! To avoid disaster, we stop everything and quickly remove the mold overflowing with resin, we clean the tray and get back to the calculator to re-assess and lower our doses. Halved. At least that.
Second attempt: better, but with a super resin effect when removed from the mold… The fiber is too soaked. As a result, the color darkens and it gives out a “nasty plastic” effect, not very satisfying.
We reduce the proportions even more for the third attempt and we are taken by surprise. Preparing the mixture, we all say to each other that the small drop of resin at the bottom of the bowl will never be enough to bind the whole beaker of vine shoot mash. After 20 minutes in the heat seal press we are still amazed with the result.
And since the more you have, the more you want, ideas come from all sides while doing. For each unmolding of a sample, we discuss and each one of us says “and what if we tried…?” The first samples produced give me plenty of other ideas to extend my material library. Currently, small bits of vine shoots are dabbling in strange swirling color baths.
Exchanging views with the team of researchers is constructive: I am learning to devise a rational research plan, define parameters (and especially restraining from changing them all at each test!); I am sharing my creativity with them and challenging them on technical issues. In short, we’re having a ball.
Designer-maker-entrepreneur, a question of cursor
Beyond tinkering and sampling, the company project also has to move forward. My main challenge is to succeed in sharing my time between the lab (where I carry out experiments and do my designer job) and the overall progress of the project (taking part in contests, managing ongoing budgets, meetings of all kinds, commercial canvassing, preparing events and trade shows, watch, product design).
In Toulouse for the Fablab Festival, I experienced this maker meeting as a breath of fresh air. Momentum to remind myself of the process initiated right at the beginning of the Termatière adventure. I met interesting people and had inspiring conversations, especially with the founders of Formmakers, on the difficulty of finding an economic model coherent with the maker spirit and ensuring viability. They offer tailor made soles (for flip-flops, sandals, orthopedic shoes…) and decided to go for an association.
It is this cursor between designer, maker and entrepreneur that I am constantly moving at the moment, having in mind to make a hybrid of Termatière. Not simple, but ideas are in the air, with the creation of a mobile service of agro-material fabrication. A workshop within the premises of the people working the land? Watch this space…