Sole-Searching - Shoes and Stories of Waste and Want / Valorisation Framework

Research output: Non-textual outputExhibition


This exhibition presents pairs of shoes that through their making research how (as makers) we generate material meanings that can elevate the value of waste. This is achieved through re-making as the revealing and exploitation of the inherent material language and stories embodied within waste materials.

Each pair of shoes and associated story is structured around four key characters and elements as a making-research methodology - the shoes as objects, the notion of a subject or user, the waste material and the process of making. Different configurations enable the scripting of material narratives as a method of meaning-making, which in-turn creates social, cultural and / or material value.

The project is not about shoe design per say and indeed some of them are not functional – the shoe form provides a ‘control’ and consistent object through which we construct, contrive and present the material narrative.

The materials range from everyday waste streams like marine and single use plastics to more unorthodox waste such as dog hair, designer spectacles and even human breast milk.

As arbiters, the shoes make accessible (what are) aspects of wasteful contemporary culture, material ethics, sustainability, science and / or innovation. But moreover they reveal the complex and nuanced ways in which we can communicate through waste materials as a language and how we can exploit this lexicon for craft campaigning, product propaganda and re-designing desire.

The research has been generated through a sustained process of creation and iterative reflection via numerous workshops with global retail brands and industrial, public and academic audiences since 2012. Some of the meaning-making-methods and values established are predetermined and others are emergent and are often revealed through the process of critical-crafting. Each has been tested and rated by gathering substantial qualitative data and feedback from the public and design and fashion industry representatives.

The Valorisation Framework:

This research has helped in the formation of a critical ‘Valorisation Framework’ that explicates how we can systematically add value to waste through narratology and re-making-meaning to counteract wasteful and polluting consumer cultures and reveal more ‘virtuous circular economies’. This framework is a set of tools and strategies that we deploy through industry and NGO consultancy, University teaching and applied to the creation of new products and services. Strategies of the framework are presented alongside the shoes as research.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sept 2019


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