Newspaper Wood
NewspaperWood is a VERY elegant and clever supercycled material and we are super-happy to have the opportunity to talk to the designers behind it. You can see from the pics that the grain exposed when the layers of pressed newspaper and glue are sliced through - is so reminiscent of wood grain that it makes the perfect reference to it's arboreal roots (pardon the pun!!); Trees to wood to paper - paper to wood to useful objects. Neat.​

NewspaperWood is the unique collaboration between Dutch supercyclers Mieke Meijer who concieved the idea and DesignLabel ViJ5 - Arjan van Raadshooven & Anieke Branderhorst, who put together the first NewspaperWood collection. 
The collection was presented in the AutoOfficina courtyard across the way from us in Ventura Lambrate during Milan Design Week 2011.
(Lucky number) 8 designers were asked by ViJ5 to make products using NewspaperWood - you can see most illustrated here and learn more about their NewspaperWood designs here.

What inspires you?

Mieke Meijer: My work is the result of an ongoing investigation into the unperceived aesthetics of everyday life. No matter the starting point - from products we daily use like newspapers to industrial machinery, I try to filter the essence and transform ideas into designs that appeal to the imagination for the long term.

Supercyclers: Was it a happy accident or by design that you developed the NewspaperWood?

Mieke Meijer: 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.

When I started making a ‘paper tree’ I didn’t know what it would look like. The result was beyond expectation. Beside the fact that the material seemed to act like wood, it was just beautiful!

What qualities does the product have that makes it nice to use when building furniture and objects?

Anieke Branderhorst: When a NewspaperWood log is cut, the layers of paper appear like lines of a wood grain or the rings of a tree and therefore resembles the aesthetic of real wood. The material can be cut, milled and sanded and generally treated like any other type of wood. Personally I prefer the NewspaperWood to be sanded and remain uncoated. In this way, the material feels very soft (almost like velour) since the sandpaper roughens up the fibers of the newspapers.

Mieke Meijer: In my opinion the material has mainly aesthetic qualities. It doesn’t really have a recycled feel and because of this it can compete and combine with other materials.

Do you need to have wood working skills to use NewspaperWood?

Yes and a little bit more of inside information on how to work with the NewspaperWood. You have to be extra careful and use the right tools!

Is it structural - or best used decoratively?

Anieke Branderhorst: It depends on what kind of construction.. We did use it partly in the construction of the ‘Display Cabinet’ by rENs, and as a massive construction in the stool ‘United’ by Tessa Kuyvenhoven. It is still a bit difficult though.. That is why we also combined it with different materials. But the decorative beauty of the material of course is obvious.

All the products we have seen so far that use newspaper wood are unpainted. Is it possible to finish in other colours - paint?

Anieke Branderhorst: The NewspaperWood desk by Greetje van Tiem (‘From A to Z’) uses a bees wax finish, the ‘Paper Frames’ by Ontwerpduo uses a lacquer finish. It is possible to treat the NewspaperWood with different coatings, painting it would hide the beautiful ‘wood-like’ structure though..

Have you got some new projects in the wings after Milan?

Anieke Branderhorst: The first NewpaperWood prototype collection is a tribute to the new material NewspaperWood, and at the same time it promises a broad range of possibilities for the future. We as designlabel Vij5 and Mieke Meijer deliberately chose to work with a team of designers instead of designing one or two products by ourselves, to make sure the research and experiments with the NewspaperWood done within this project creates a very wide view on this new material. This makes it possible to keep an open attitude to future possibilities. No doubt new designs will appear in the future!

Mieke Meijer: During the development of the materials we discovered that the material can be applied as veneer. This is an interesting opportunity because producing the material is still an expensive process. Applying it as veneer is efficient and makes it easier to work with. We are planning to develop this further.

Can we buy any products made of Newspaper wood yet - and if so where?

Anieke Branderhorst: The first prototypes of the NewspaperWood objects are for sale!! We are planning to take some of the projects into production as soon as possible (for example the ‘Sample Series’ designed by rENs) and others will only be produced on order. Please contact Designlabel Vij5for the current possibilities!

What is there not to like about this simple, clever product. If we can keep giving life to the stuff we discard in such an imaginative and desirable way, it really makes us feel very hopeful for the future. Hopefully, it won't be too long before we can have a go ourselves at creating something from the beautiful NewspaperWood...