Building on 15 years of plastics (malleable) material and composite experimentation, Dean’s research (with Gant
) examines the agency, values and narratives embodied in materials and artefacts, and their capacity to influence new ways of thinking and champion new paradigms. In 2011 Dean with Gant designed and developed a ‘flip-flop plastic’ product from waste plastics, the adaptation of a t-shirt press to create heat-formed soles, and a woven plastic fabric from which to create flip-flop straps. They drew together expertise in design and material science, sustainable, and employed processes of up-cycling of ‘waste’ and ‘surplus’ materials. To further raise ecological awareness, the flip-flops were designed as a wearable memento for volunteers who cleaned up plastics from beaches with the Marine Conservation Society. Each pair had a unique ‘local’ aesthetic and was embossed with a map signalling the provenance of the materials through a ‘performative production process’ that celebrated local collective action and conservation.
Flip-flopsam is part of a body of work titled Sole Searching that employs shoes to raise public awareness of the role of design and materials in shaping social policy, approaches to sustainability and conceptions of waste. Each pair of shoes targets practical, social and sustainable challenges, and aims to stimulate affective and effective change through dialogue, exhibitions and media campaigns.
Selected as part of the Marine Conservation Society's Summer Clean-up campaign in 2011, the flip-flops were presented at the Meaning Making
exhibition at the PUMA HQ (PPR Group) in London, and were evaluated by 100 professional designers for their embodied meaning, value, and applicability to their respective industries. Results were disseminated at the Poetics and Praxis (Baltic, 2013) and Making Futures (Plymouth, 2013) conferences, and featured in the On Our Doorsteps: Local Design Activism
exhibition at 100% Design, London.