Designer James Shaw’s method of producing plastic is unique. The extrusion process itself isn’t unusual in the making of plastic objects, but the machines that do it are usually room-sized; far larger than Shaw’s own-designed “extrusion guns”, which sit comfortably on the small work table in his shared studio in South London.
It’s a method he developed during his time at the Royal College of Art, and has been fine-tuning since. Shaw’s machines, like many workshop machines, are noisy ones – an ambient squeal that means ear defenders are an important tool of the trade. And thus, one of the more common experiences of makers is born: the focus that can come from an inescapable white noise.
In 2018, he co-curated an exhibition during the London Design Festival called Plasticscene, showing the works of 14 designers – including Shaw – challenging the perceptions of waste plastic. Using plastic fired from his self-built extrusion gun, Shaw presented the “Plastic Baroque Dining Table”, breathing a new lease of life into plastic waste sourced from east London recycling centres.
It’s an exciting time to work with plastic, says Shaw, as – just as with oak in the Middle Ages – today there is undoubtedly an abundance with it. To find ways to reuse the material is crucial.