July 24, 2009

Chew On This (Then Recycle, Please)!

An Interview with Designer Anna Bullus

Click on any picture to enlarge it to original size
Part 2 of 2 (link to Part 1)

Anna, I’m sure that Gumdrop is taking up a lot of your time now. In such a situation, do you feel a little torn between the time you’re investing in an EXISTING piece vs. the time you’d like to spend making new things?
It is true that I currently spend about 80% of my time on GUMDROP. But I don’t feel torn at all. I just feel that I have to invest nearly all my time in order to give this product a chance.

On one hand, my other products have been relatively quick to do. However, GUMDROP just happens to need more attention, possibly because it is a product that could hopefully make a significant difference to our environment. So definitely with that in mind, I want to give it all I got!

I like to call the moment of discovery the ‘Wow Moment’. It can be that one moment in time where you get the perfect idea (‘Eureka!’) or that a piece your working on comes together oh-so-right. Can you then describe your 'Wow Moments’ in terms of not only knowing that you wanted to be a designer (and that you could be successful at it) and also specifically your GUMDROP idea?
I don’t think I have experienced the ‘wow feeling' for design as I am still at the very beginning of my career. If I ever do get that feeling, though, I hope it will come at the end of my career when I can look back and reflect on what I have achieved.

I think the same mentality applies to the GUMDROP project. I tend to really focus on the 'now' and because I am in the midst of GUMDROP, that's where I'm investing most of my energy.

I would add that I don’t think there is such a thing as ‘the perfect idea’. I believe something can always be improved no matter what it is. For me, that is really the beauty of design and technology.

Perhaps when I get GUMDROP off the ground and running the way I want it to, I hope to have the feeling that things are coming together!

While the financial implications are amazing just in terms of clean-up costs, I am still curious if you’ve had a ‘carbon footprint’ measurement made, that is, looking at the energy and costs needed to recycle and reform the waste gum vs. just, for example, putting a convenient new plastic bin out for people to at least not dump their finished ‘chewies’ on the street?
You're right to bring this up and it is something I am looking at the moment. Currently, what I can say is that it has the same environmental effect as making a standard bin using a recycled polymer. But I definitely hope to improve on this.

I was also quite fascinated by your work with the Hulger ‘Pluemen Project’. How did you get involved in this?
I did an internship with them and this is one of the projects we did whilst I was there.

How do you see such aesthetics playing a role in the acceptance of energy-saving light-bulbs?
If the cost of making a good-looking energy saving light bulb is cheaper or the same as existing ESL’s, then I hope it would attract a lot more people. I think Hulger are trying to get to this point, as you can see at
http://www.plumenproject.com/ .

I do think though this approach is important to explore, especially in this area because no one has designed anything that appeals practically and aesthetically to the household consumer. But when the household consumer starts buying, you know someone has found the secret to success!

Looking ahead a little bit, where do you see yourself in the next years? Are you able at all to get a grasp on the ‘situation’ in terms of a design career at this time what with the economy?
I see me working for myself forever and ever! For me to be happy and to succeed it is very important to be in control of my own time.

And despite all the global gloom and doom about the economy, I believe that this is the perfect time to be starting up a new sustainable venture. I just that that by the time such a new business does get off the ground - say within 2 - 4 years - the economy will be slowly getting back up on its feet. I also see more and more people then looking to invest in ‘green schemes, ideas or ventures’.

From your picture, it seems you have at very least (a) very nice, strong and clean teeth and (b) healthy mandibular (sp?) muscles. Are you in fact a secret gum-chewer yourself that may have some skeletons (or globs of gum) hanging in or sitting on the floor of her closet?

I will confess that I am a serious gum chewer now I have started this project! However, I didn't chew gum very often - and I have to be boring and say that I always threw it properly away in the bin or put it in paper and into my bag.

But the GUMDROP project came about because I can’t stand how we have come to accept these little splodges that pave our environment!

I also saw that you’ve travelled to both Australia and the United States to ‘research’ the issue of gum disposal. What did you learn from those trips?
That gum litter really is a global problem that no one is tackling head on and there is a definite market for GUMDROP.

What would be your dream in terms of fulfilling the ‘ultimate sustainable design’ approach or even object (money being no issue in this case)?
A project or product (I hope it is GUMDROP) that significantly makes a difference to our environment globally.

Agreeing whole-heartedly with your appreciation of the Sussex countryside, have you nevertheless (is that a word?) had at any time in your education or even career right now a kind of ‘wanderlust’ that is, to go out and try different settings such as New York, Tokyo, Paris or even Ramsbottom (just outside of Manchester)?
I grew up in Portugal, moved to London and then moved to West Sussex when I was 13. I have enjoyed all of these places.

However, combining the fact that I was 13 years old and thus was in my most adventurous phase, Sussex remains my favourite. I am back in London now. But I am someone that likes travelling a lot. But again, home to me is England, so I wouldn’t want to live and work anywhere else.

Looking ahead: What can we expect to see in the Gum Drop Shop?
Weird and wonderful limited edition products made from recycled chewing gum!

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Anna Bullus was born in London, England in 1984. She left Bedales School in 2003 to go to Camberwell College of Art (2004 – 2005) to do a foundation course where she specialised in 3D Design and left with a distinction. Anna then went on to the University of Brighton where she graduated in Three Dimensional Design with a first class honours (2005 – 2007).

After leaving University Anna gained experience as a product Designer with Hulger where she was given the task of redesigning the energy saving light bulb, again for more please check out her ‘
namesake site’ under the Plumen Project. She also worked at Case Furniture as a junior product developer and press liaison in London. She then left this group in June 2008 to set up her own company GUMDROP Ltd to tackle the global problem of gum litter.

Some of the places where Anna has showcased her designs include Cologne, Singapore, Shanghai, Milan and London. Most importantly, she points out clearly that she is completely passionate about design. Anna is a strong believer in the mantra that materials and processes should be understood thoroughly in order to push properties to achieve innovation without loss of quality. Problems are only there to be overcome by simple, clever and comfortable design that recognises daily social and environmental trends and needs – striving every time to be more creative than the last design.

Among the awards she has been, well, awarded include the following:
2009: Hidden Art Polymers Award for overall performance
2008: Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship Travel Fund
2007: Nagoya University of Art: Outstanding achievement in Design
2007: Burt Brill and Cardens: Outstanding achievement in Design
2007: British Council Top Ten

Although at the start of what will no doubt be a long and illustrious career in design, Anna has had several key hits and expects big things to come in the months and years ahead. We wish her continued good luck but nevertheless raise again the need to get our darn kids to stop chewing so much bloody gum!

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All pictures used with the express written consent of Anna Bullus. Many images were taken from her websites including
www.annabullusdesign.com as well as www.gumdropbin.com . Some images used from previous articles referenced by Anna with her kind permission.

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