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Fernando Laposse, photography by Kat Green.
3rd August 2017

Water: An interview with Fernando Laposse

“There has been a great debate about the impact of plastic in our products polluting our rivers and oceans but what about metals and the enormous quantities of water that are needed to extract them?” We caught up with designer Fernando Laposse to talk about the ecological impact of our lust for metals and the Mining Lamp he has created for upcoming group show Water, which combines 19th Century technology with a vital commentary on modern day consumerism.
Mining Lamp, work in progress by Fernando Laposse
You’ve no doubt read about the perilous conditions that children as young as seven risk to mine the cobalt that ends up in our smartphones, cars and computers. But perhaps less well known is the impact that our voracious consumption of metals has on nearby water sources, especially where the most mineral-rich areas on earth intersect with its poorest. “Mining often pierces through the underground reservoirs that feed the wells that many people rely on for drinking and agriculture,” explains industrial designer Fernando Laposse. “The future of water and the future of mining are completely interconnected.”

It was this context that was at the forefront of Fernando’s mind when developing concepts for Water, a innovative show of aqua-inspired projects by 13 designers opening at Peckham’s Copeland Gallery during London Design Festival. For the exhibition Fernando has developed a lamp powered by the gas created when calcium carbide comes into contact with water, a spot of chemical wizardry used by early miners. Although the technology underpinning his alchemic invention dates from the 19th Century, Fernando wants his design to inspire reflection on contemporary global politics and ecology. Just as with the extraction of minerals, the Mining Lamp cannot exist without the presence of one of the earth’s most precious resources – water.
Jungle Vase for Daum launched as part of their 2014 spring-summer collection by Fernando Laposse.
“Mining requires water at almost every stage of the process and the bulk of the assets of major mining companies are in water-stressed regions, mostly in the southern hemisphere,” Fernando explains. It’s a problem he feels can only increase as the climate warms. “With the world population growing and consuming products at a pace never seen before, the demand for water is quickly becoming one of the most pressing issues of our time.”
Saponaceous by Fernando Laposse.
Born in Mexico but based in London, Fernando’s practice often uses explorations into materials to question whole system thinking, over-consumption and the politics of food. He’s made soap from waste from North London chip shops, luxury marbled cocktail glasses from cheaply available sugar and even a furniture veneer created from native Mexican corn husks. The latter was an ode to the 62 multihued corn varieties cultivated over the country’s 9000-year history, currently under threat from globalised industrial farming. An alumni of Central St Martins, Fernando’s clients include Bentley, Tom Dixon, Selfridges and Unilever, and his work has been shown by the Modern Art Museum of Trento, Gallery Libby Sellers, the South London Gallery and at the St-Etienne Biennale. Unsurprisingly given his boundary-pushing output, Fernando was named one of the 70 UK young designers to watch by the British Design Council in the material world category.
Totomoxtle is a project by Fernando Laposse which uses corn husks as veneer to make tiling and marquetry.
Yet another rigorous material investigation, initial tests for Mining Lamp included squirting calcium carbide with water inside a mason jar and then, once that proved successful, ingeniously hacking a stove-top coffee maker to work out how to regulate the flame intensity. The final iteration of Mining Lamp has been made from machined brass, blown glass and even some hand-smelted elements. Not only does it use the chemistry and mechanism of carbide lamps, but it also features aesthetic elements that allude to the process of extracting ore. Fernando has combined metal tubes and rods that have been finished to industrial standards with some pieces left deliberately rough and rock-like. Although fully functional, the lamp is intended to provoke thought rather than for everyday use.“My aim is to create an object that presents an interesting chemical phenomenon to spark the interest of the viewer and to deliver the message, the concept and the story behind it,” he adds. “Through the Mining Lamp I’m trying to make a commentary on the ecological and social consequences our lust for metal has.”

Visit Water at Copeland Gallery from 18 – 24 September. For more info visit www.waterexhibition.co.uk 

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