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The Side Hustle: Dust London

The Side Hustle -Dust London

Hi Matthew, what's your day job?

Dust London is a collaboration between Michael McManus and Matthew Grant. Michael is training to be an occupational therapist. Prior to this, he undertook a degree in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins and subsequently worked in studio environments developing his creative knowledge and techniques. I studied architecture and now work with architects to advise on daylight design.

And what's your side hustle?

We are concrete origamists.

Through our hand-crafted process, we create delicate, homogeneous objects from single sheets of paper. These fragile forms take on a timeless quality when cast in concrete. Each mix is composed from carefully selected stone and sand, specifically designed to arrive at a balance between materials.

How did Dust London come about?

We met over 10 years ago whilst training and competing for South London Harriers at Crystal Palace athletics track. Whilst studying art and architecture, we developed similar interests and had talked about collaborating on a project for some time. We then began living together in Camberwell and started our search for local studio space that could accommodate our needs. We came across Hotel Elephant, located on Spare Street in Elephant & Castle. We are based in Arch 4, one of five arches on a street dedicated to creative enterprise.

There was no real idea at the outset of our collaboration. We knew we wanted to span between the sculptural and the decorative to design both bespoke sculpture and objects that people would like in their homes. With Dust London, we were keen to step away from the computerised and the mechanistic. The design and form of our objects was to evolve from working with our hands — the folding of paper became our approach.

How do you balance time between your job and your side hustle?

We don’t have a balance. The nature of the process and the materials that we work with do not lend themselves to quick results and our designs are output from many late nights in the studio. It is the collaboration that drives Dust London, so we work both for each other as much as we do for our design aspirations.

What is the process of making your pieces?

The folding of the paper is fundamental to the evolution of each object. Dust London have explored design techniques through the established origami language of ‘mountain’ and ‘valley’ folds. The paper selection, treatment and reinforcement required for each object presents its own unique challenges for mould-making. This process is key to the casting of the concrete mix and to retaining the lines of the paper in the finished objects. A video communicating parts of the process can be viewed here.

If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?

Anyone who shares our vision for concrete. Admittedly, it can sometimes be a task convincing people that concrete can be beautiful. However, there are a growing number of designers, and more importantly their clients, who are recognising concrete as a beautiful and functional design material. 

What does the future hold for Dust London?

On Friday 9th June 2017, we launched our first collection at Hotel Elephant’s exhibition space, listed as part of the London Festival of Architecture. ‘Concrete origamists’ created a buzz amongst festival goers and we were delighted to introduce our processes and designs to the wider public.

Over the next couple of weeks, we will be busy folding, mixing and pouring the orders taken at our launch event. Following this, we will be re-examining the mould-making process and experimenting with materials to refine the finish of our concrete objects.

We will be busy preparing for the summer art fairs and markets, and are in talks with a gallery who would like to hold an exhibition of our work. We cannot reveal details on this just yet, but follow us on Instagram and keep an eye on our website where we will post the details.

What are you listening to right now?

We go through a range of genres in the studio, but if we need a power hour, we usually reach for Kraftwerk’s album ‘Tour de France Soundtracks’ to see us through.

Nice one, thanks Matthew!

If Dust London’s work has sparked your interest and you’d like to know more, visit them in the studio at:

Studio 7, Hotel elephant, 1-5 Spare Street, SE17 3EP