In the Details
We first covered Jamie Wolfond's work when he was still a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, stuffing plastic pellets into fireproof molds and slumping them over other objects to create his Frumpy Chair series. Now, just a few months after graduating, Wolfond has launched Good Thing, a Brooklyn-based company that takes a new approach to manufacturing by building production into the ideation phase, collaborating with designers, artists and vendors to create a seamless process for realizing new products.
Experimentation with manufacturing is a motif throughout the Toronto-bred designer's work, as he utilizes techniques usually reserved for the mass production of industrial products to create small runs of household goods. At the onset of a new project, Wolfond often begins by working with an outside vendor—even before he knows what exactly it is he's designing. "By allowing the strengths and limitations of a producer to influence the product from a very early phase, I am able to design an object that does not need to be compromised for production," explains Wolfond. "Not only does this idea yield considered objects, but it also lends itself to efficient and inexpensive production."
Good Thing was born from that concept, applying the idea to a much larger scale with more products and larger production runs. Its debut collection features a series of collaborations with local NYC designers, artists and vendors, with household objects ranging from hand-spun copper vessels to sand-cast aluminum trivets. One standout piece is the Plastic Craft Pot, a collaboration between Wolfond and Benjamin Kicic that drew inspiration from ceramic coil pots, but reimagined in biodegradable plastic.
Kicic, also an alumnus of RISD, had been playing with the archetype of the coil pot since before he and Wolfond graduated last May, making several rapid-prototyped porcelain vessels over the past year. Given that they are both interested in the parallels between 3D printing and clay coiling, Wolfond and Kicic decided to collaborate on a piece for Good Thing, but quickly realized that rapid-prototyping coil pots was not a very efficient method of producing in volume. "It is one of the few processes that does not become less expensive with quantity," Wolfond says.
Fortunately, Wolfond always keeps polycaprolactone, a hand-moldable biodegradable polyester plastic made by InstaMorph, around his studio ("It can be very handy," he says), and thought it might be a good fit for Kicic's coil pot. After discussing the idea, the two designers devised a simple system of manufacturing. As Wolfond puts it, "the Plastic Craft Pot is rapid prototyped by hand."
The secret ingredients
The InstaMorph polycaprolactone comes in the form of tiny white pellets, which Wolfond and Kicic melt in hot water (around 60°C/140°F), adding concentrated pigment and kneading the material until the color is consistent. The colored plastic is then rolled by hand into several slender filaments and wrapped around a mold from the bottom up. On contact, the plastic fuses with itself to form a vessel that solidifies after 15 minutes. The process is somewhat labor-intensive, with the kneading making up the most rigorous part ("a real workout for the back muscles," says Wolfond). The final texture is a tough nylon-like plastic that can eventually biodegrade via firmicutes and proteobacteria.
For the Plastic Craft Pot, hands-on exploration was easy, as Wolfond and Kicic were able to work with an existing material. Other Good Thing products have posed more of a challenge. The Both World Vase, for instance, is made from spun copper painted with automotive primer, which first required finding willing co-conspirators on the production side. "It is very important to me that we collaborate with vendors who are willing to experiment a little, so the process of finding the right company for a particular job can be a slow one," says Wolfond. "Many of the businesses we correspond with have been operating in the same way for years, and are not particularly interested in trying new things. We are lucky enough to have found some very open-minded and inventive partners to work with on the Good Thing collection."
Wolfond will be presenting Good Thing's debut collection at NY Now's Accent on Design, open August 16–20 at the Javits Center in New York. Following the trade show, Wolfond will be looking to host some less formal events, including a "pop-up factory" he and Kicic hope to organize this fall.