Interview with David Trujillo-Farley

In terms of getting things done, I see a lot of possibilities

Feature by Marie Lindstrom | 17 Mar 2006

David Trujillo-Farley is not trying to save the world; he is just trying to make it a bit easier and more sustainable through the means of design. Having just finished his post degree in furniture and product design at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) he has taken some time before deciding where to go next.

In the ECA degree show before Christmas, he exhibited some of his best work - The Bowmore chair, the Dustbunny coffee table and a guitar - all made of biodegradable or recycled material. Before coming to Edinburgh, Trujillo-Farley worked for 15 years as a graphic designer in his native California. Gradually he became aware of the amount of waste he created through his work.

"To a degree, I probably felt a little guilt, we would send out 30,000 flyers and three per cent response would be great", he said. He became interested in furniture-making and had a look into sustainability.

"I guess I got a little confused. I saw Philippe Starck's plastic chairs and wondered; how can they be green? They are recyclable, but they are still made of plastic."

He spent four months researching and came to the conclusion that the whole production cycle needs to be sustainable. The material, such as wheat, flax and potato, can be organically grown in Scotland; the manufacturing is kept simple and when it has served is purpose it can easily be thrown out without creating waste.

"The idea for the Dustbunny came from living in a small flat. I love to hold dinner parties but don't have much space to store extra furniture so I measured the back of my sofa and worked from those proportions. Using hard-pressed paper and soya resin I created a coffee table, serving table, coat rack and a side table that also works as a seat. They have replaceable parts, are foldable and fit perfectly under the sofa."

Trujillo-Farley embraces the idea of consumerism, saying "a lot of people buy and throw away furniture rather than buying pieces for lifelong use. Why not take that whole idea of consumerism and go: hey why not? Why not use biodegradable material and get rid of the waste problem?"

This is also the idea behind the whisky barrel chair. After a venture at the Bowmore distillery he discovered that there is a law against burning, burying and selling disposed barrels. This is of course a growing problem, and a lot of the barrels are shipped to a massive yard just outside Glasgow.
Quite some time went into the design of the chair, David explains: "I wanted to clean it up and make it look like a new piece, although using as little energy as possible. I had long arguments with my tutors and finally I caved in", he laughs. "It's got to be recognisable, if it's not it loses all potential interest. It's nice because it's got history, it has been around for forty years and that gives the oak character. Even though it's cleaned up you can still see the dowels in the bottom legs as well as nail holes and stains."
Potentially, this would be a business for the Isle of Islay. The distillery could train people in furniture making and the chairs could be a supplement in their shop, therefore creating more jobs. Bowmore has shown interest but no deal has been made yet. Trujillo-Farley also has ideas about how to make environmentally-friendly design more accessible:

"There is this myth, if you sit down on a biodegradable chair it will disappear underneath you. A chair would last for at least three or four years", he says. At the moment few manufacturers are willing to produce sustainable design because of the cost. David comments: "Food comes with nutrition labels. That kind of label should apply to other items as well; this is how it was made, this is how much pesticide was used, this is how many toxins were let into this river."

He considers legislation to be an area where things can be improved. Instead of punishing businesses for not following standards, there could be a tax break for those who do, as an encouragement. So will Trujillo-Farley set up a business in Scotland?

"I'd like to stay here, I can make more of an impact, there is more access to governing bodies, you can talk to your MSP and they are a direct link to the seat of government, whereas in USA there are so many levels. He says: "I've met the most conscientious people, it's wonderful. In terms of getting things done, I see a lot of possibilities."

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