Interview with Mieke Meijer for the official launch of the first NewspaperWood collection in Milan, April 2011.
How it all started
"In the spring of 2003 I started my third module in the department ‘Atelier’ at the Design Academy Eindhoven. This department (which no longer exists) was different from all others: the classes took place in the middle of the workshop. Students who chose this direction were ‘makers’. Experimenting with materials was the basis for each assignment. The assignment with the theme “wood” set me thinking. Wood is, in its smallest form, the basis of paper. Once turned into paper it does not come out of the paper recycling cycle anymore: it stays paper. I thought it would be nice to turn the process around and turn paper into wood again.
I had a stack of newspapers and started with the oldest newspaper. With a roller I glued the paper and rolled it as tightly as possible. Every day I spent two hours gluing the newspaper until the first paper “tree log” originated. The people in the workplace were not so amused, ‘If I could quickly saw the tree log on the band saw?’ I think it had cost the academy a sawing blade but the result was beyond expectations: the material looked strong and was very nice to see! The few days remaining for the assignment I spent experimenting with the new material. It proved to have some surprising similarities with wood: it deformed, could be sandpapered, etc. I passed the assignment ... and the project ended up in a box in the closet."
"Only in 2007 I met Arjan and Anieke of designlabel Vij5. When we were browsing through my portfolio, they noticed the NewspaperWood project. They already knew of the existence of the material, but did not know it was my design, and wanted to dive into it immediately!
In 2008 we re-presented the material to the public during the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven (NL). The response was overwhelming and in 2009 it was even nominated for the ‘Doen Materiaal Prijs’ a Dutch award for the sustainable and innovative use of materials."
"Meanwhile, behind the scenes, we steadily continued with the development of the material. To make the NewspaperWood into a producible material did not turned out to be so easy. From a manual process we had to improve to a less time consuming and cost-efficient product. Step by step we got a little further along with the project, but with every solution we came across new problems.
Sometimes this was very frustrating and I am still impressed about the way Arjan and Anieke have persevered. I think that is their strength: to dust off and pick up a project and make it into a success, whatever it takes. If it had been up to me, I had given up a long time ago..."
"At some point it was time to start thinking about making actual designs for the project! We had enough ideas already ourselves, but we thought it would be interesting to ask other designers to work with the material as well. In this way the possibilities and experiments with NewspaperWood would be examined in a wider range. Vij5 sent out an invitation with a lot of responses as result. From here we selected a group of talented young designers for a first collection.
We met regularly, had exciting brainstorms, exchanged ideas and discussed the designs of which the first prototypes were presented in Milan."
Due to the growing success of NewspaperWood, Vij5 and Studio Mieke Meijer nowadays join forces in a new separate company called NewspaperWood bv. This company is dedicated to the production and development of the NewspaperWood material in order to find new intermediate products and innovative applications.
You can have a look at our website for further information: www.NewspaperWood.com
About Studio Mieke Meijer
Studio Mieke Meijer is a collaboration between Mieke Meijer and Roy Letterlé. From their workshop in Eindhoven (NL) they work on self-initiated and commissioned projects. Meijer and Letterlé both lecture and give workshops at various educational and cultural Institutions. Currently they teach at Design Academy Eindhoven and HKU University of the Arts Utrecht. Next to this they are co-founders of NewspaperWood BV.