Column of a material maker (26)
Published 27 November 2017 by Caroline Grellier
Resuming her studies, changing her plans facing African political hazards… Our bio-sourced material agency project leader is learning to juggle.
My favorite sport should be juggling, or the art of being a student during the day, entrepreneur in the evening and maker at weekends (no shame in enjoying oneself, even if only for 1h of sewing or modelling). I am managing several pots that are boiling at the same time; the first material by Termatière, vine shoot composite about to find its market; the Termatière consulting activity, my agency generating revenue (yippee!) and… the university expecting me everyday.
Back to university
So hard going back to school. Schedules, assignments to hand in… The master’s degree in design innovation society at Nîmes University (south of France) allows me however to put things into perspective regarding my designer activities and what I undertook with Termatière. The two social design projects we are working on in groups of students are about the care pathway in health centers for one group, and support for vulnerable people facing the dematerialization of administrative procedures for the other. At first sight, nothing to do with local materials and agricultural residue… Yet, I feel inspired by these projects that broaden my vision regarding the local development of territories, subject at the heart of the why and how of Termatière.
Material or not, the human being is at the center of my preoccupations, the objective being to give him the floor as much as possible, take into consideration his difficulties and aspirations. Termatière wants to contribute to a sustainable local development of the territory, via locally bio-sourced materials, with the aim of generating before anything else social benefit through the creation of economic activities by optimizing waste management.
Nearly three years since I mixed with designers, in favor of farmers, agronomists, engineers and scientists of all kinds. I nearly forgot my trade! Nearly. Returning to university enabled me to realize the road covered so far as a designer in a world with little investment from designers. I am finding it pleasurable to discover methodologies in social design applied to health, education, aiming to better include the beneficiaries in the design of solutions intended for them, because I am projecting myself in the fields of Termatière projects. Going back to studies after being an entrepreneur is formidably effective in terms of operational learning. I can’t wait to test these tools, methods, and measure their impact in the social dimension of Termatière.
Anticipating and bouncing back
Thanks to the French student-entrepreneur status, I am able to use the master’s compulsory internship period to see through my company project. I had thus considered testing the latest economic model of Termatière in Togo with two “classic” service offers (consulting, training) and implementing field R&D projects, funded by a sponsorship campaign. Facing the relatively unstable Togolese political context, I preferred to pause my pilot project in a town in the interior of the country (particularly affected). And I opted for plan B, in Benin.
Plan B as Benin
I offered the Potemat laboratory (technological hub for the promotion of local materials), answerable to the engineering school of the Abomey-Calavi university, in Cotonou, that I visited in August 2016 and with which I had a good feeling, to support them in their project of cotton stalk upcycling. The team, composed of expert scientists in the field of local materials, has a mainly technical approach. My role will consist in contextualizing, rooting the project in a territory, identifying partners in advance to make its implementation easier and approve the socio-economic pertinence of the material hypotheses.
I am thus going to take a close interest in the equipment of Potemat, that demonstrates a remarkable maker spirit: they already made a vibration table to test earth bricks, designed from a sewing machine motor. The laboratory told me about their machine requirements: we will therefore produce together an inventory of these requirements and equip the lab with what we have at hand, like true material makers!
Departure scheduled for February. Before then, I have assignments to finish…