Toilet paper is a product we interact with on a daily basis without necessarily contemplating such a banal object's impact on the planet. For example, not only does it take 37 gallons of water and one gallon of chemicals on average to produce one roll of toilet paper, but these chemicals used to make comfortable toilet paper in turn release toxins into our waterways. PlantPaper, a company with a more sustainable, bamboo-based alternative to regular toilet paper, is trying to bring more awareness to the issue in an attempt to reverse this environmental damage. One unconventional way they are spreading the word? Getting involved in New York Design Week.
The Under/Over East toilet paper holder design collection on display at 106 Eldridge St. in Manhattan
Carrying over from their first successful event in LA in 2020, PlantPaper has partnered with Marta Gallery to produce "Under/Over East," a show that opened November 13th with a reception at 106 Eldridge St in Manhattan. This design exhibition showcases artists' interpretations of a humble bathroom workhouse: the toilet paper holder.
Lee Reitelman, one of the co-founders of PlantPaper, said when it came to thinking of how to organize an interesting creative event, "we became interested in the toilet paper roll holder, which like toilet paper has long been an afterthought for most people. It's something people don't really look at or take a lot of pride in choosing. So we thought, what better way to get people to look at their bathrooms and think a little bit differently about their choices than for artists to approach that particular design problem."
The toilet paper holder design by artist Emily Schubert is currently installed at Lil Deb's Oasis in Hudson, NY
Jaye Kim's design on display at Salter Room / Picture House in Brooklyn
To fill out the show with interesting up and coming artists, Under/Over teamed up with new PIN-UP editor and furniture designer Emmanuel Olunkwa, who recruited over 25 artists to contribute their own designs to the show. The roster is a mix of established designers, architects, and artists, including names like Minjae Kim, Simone Bodmer-Turner, Dong-Ping Wong, Ellen Van Dusen, and more.
Atypical to your run-of-the-mill design week shows, "Under/Over East" operates more like a walking tour than a gallery show. Artists and designers were asked to create two editions of their toilet paper holders, and while one is mounted and viewable 24/7 in a window display on Eldridge Street in Manhattan, their other piece will be installed in a location in New York for people to experience up-close. Reitelman says the PlantPaper team "loved the idea of pointing to a community of businesses, restaurants, clothing, stores, that we feel a connection to in terms of ethos and values. And we wanted to sort of point our audience in the direction of those places, just in the spirit of the city's reopening, people getting back out into public life—that seemed important and fun to be able to do that."
John Sohn's "Pillow for Toilet Paper," on display at Sky Ting Yoga
Sam Stewart's spool-inspired design at MATTER
If you're interested in checking out the pieces yourself and enjoying a creative walking tour of the city, you can find all the locations on the Marta Gallery website. Each work was produced in an edition of 2 and are available for price inquiry via Marta Gallery.
Under/Over East will be on display in multiple locations around New York through December 31, 2021.