Andrea de Chirico’s SuperLocal Hairdryer is made entirely within a 2.8 mile stretch of road in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. From the electric heater elements to the hand-blown glass nozzle to the cork handle, everything was created or assembled within a day, at a total cost of €100 ($110).
Hairdryer 1.0 is part of the SuperLocal project, also based in Eindhoven. SuperLocal exists to prove that everyday goods can be produced locally and still include good design. Phase 1.0 includes de Chirico’s hairdryer, along with a table and stool, a mirror and a lantern, all made within the same small area.
The team’s products are made from a mix of newly-fabricated and recycled material. The hairdryer, for example, has a barrel made from glass blown at local glassblower Kees Berende, cork handles built at the DAE wood workshop, with some electrical parts salvaged from a city junkyard. This mixture is key to the project. “I think that both are important, and it is actually the mix of them that makes a project SuperLocal,” de Chirico told Co.Exist. “Looking at the table 1.0 for instance, you get a laser cut wooden structure as a base, and the top is up to the user. I used marble coming from a local grave stone maker.”
Another SuperLocal product, Lamp 1.0 is entirely made from objects repurposed by local maker Johan de Roy. “He needed a lamp for his workshop,” says de Chirico, “and he decided to use objects he could find in there: a coffee jar and a silicone gun.”
Most of the work has more design to it, and marries the old and the new. Alongside artisanal glass, de Chirico uses 3-D printed parts. “In my opinion [future production] will be a combination between digital and traditional crafts,” he says. “Kees, the glass blower, really likes the project.”
Good design is central to the success of sustainable products. To reach a mass market, an environmentally clean conscience isn’t enough to compensate for ugly products. “It can’t be anymore either fancy designs or sustainable ones,” says de Chirico. “The challenge for us is to show to the people that is it possible to have beautiful products that are made in a sustainable way and even affordable. This kind of projects have to speak to the majority, and beauty is definitely a strong way to pull new people into the topic.”
Low-tech tools and chairs are, more or less, the kind of thing local artisans have been making for centuries. But is it practical to build more high-tech products locally? “Well, it is definitely not practical yet,” says de Chirico.
He gives cellphones as an example. They’re assembled in one small part of China, but the materials, including some precious metals, are sourced from all over the globe, then sent off on their way again, only to be dumped a few years later.
“The point I think is that the buyer needs to know where and how his phone has been made,” says de Chirico. “We need to be conscious consumers. A good example of that is the FairPhone project.” The FairPhone is an easy-to-repair, conflict-free cellphone that can be constantly upgraded, or recycled.
To deal with e-waste, while at the same time providing raw electronic materials for SuperLocal production, “You definitely need an infrastructure to reuse old electronics,” he says.
Educating the consumer about local production is also important. We’re already trained to seek out locally grown vegetables or buy honey made in our own city but for anything non-edible we still turn straight to Amazon. To this end, the HyperLocal project is launching production tours, in collaboration with the BrandStore (Eindhoven’s tourist-info-office-slash-coffee-shop).
Participants can climb on a bike, then tour the factories and workshops throughout the day. “Then in the evening you would leave the town with a self-made, fully functioning hair dryer 1.0 as a souvenir,” says de Chirico.
The first tours will be in January 2016.