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Design As Catalyst

Andu Masebo


31 years





Based in London, I’m a designer and creative producer with a background in ceramics, carpentry and metalwork fabrication. Over the past decade I’ve worked for a number of different clients and established organisations in developing and facilitating creative projects. I have a keen interest in the processes with which objects are made and the wider systems within which they sit.

The production of goods is inextricably linked to the consumption of natural resources. The processing of these resources into commodities that can be bought or sold results in the consumption of energy and water and directly impacts the stability of our environment, contributing further to globalised and networked problems that cannot be tackled in isolation. As a product designer engaged in the business of designing and making things, it is a moral obligation to reckon with the current state of things and attempt to do something to change it for the better. Or at the very least, not make it worse. 

Objects - The world arrives at our door through the objects we adopt and consume. These objects are coded with the conditions of the society that produces them and just like the buildings we live in or the clothes we wear, we can build new narrative structures around the mundane and everyday.

Systems - Everything sits within wider systems. Cultural, logistical and functional proximity. To change one thing is not enough, but to change each thing must be changed one thing at a time. 

Change - State powers, corporate entities and individuals are pitted against each other in a war of words, marketing spin and opacity, each party pointing the finger at the other when it comes to tackling issues of communal interest. While the individual cannot change the system alone, it's by understanding the power dynamic and leverage points within it that change can be made.

A journey atop the number twelve bus. Following its route in order to map out the cultural histories it snakes through, while simultaneously charting the various manufacturers and suppliers along its way. ‘All around the number twelve’ is a project that seeks to find new ways of manufacturing goods by connecting localised resources with stories of the people that use them. By employing the current availability of production in South London in order to produce objects that are informed directly by the context of the space in which they are made. The intention for this project is to use London’s transport network as a means of producing souvenir type objects that are both from and of their immediate locality. 

Locating the work in the many connected yet individually distinct historical contexts of South East London, whilst also taking in some of the present day lived experience of its inhabitants. Seeking out opportunities to collaborate with and employ local business, various production facilities and skilled individuals in order to make objects that speak of alternative or untold histories of the spaces in which they are made. 

— Iterative design process testing out variations of different ergonomic forms in relation to their mechanical mechanisms as well as the strength of spring.
— Developed alongside 'The Ceramicists' a ceramic fabrication workshop based at the east entrance to Burgess park.
— The clock of St. Giles Church carrying the colours of the Camberwell Beauty.
— One of the many murals of the beauty in Camberwell

The Camberwell Beauty is a butterfly that was first sighted in South London in 1748. Its name suggestive of its origin. Believed to have died out some time around the middle of the 20th Century due to mass urbanisation and a loss of its natural habitat, it has since gone on to symbolise an idea of Camberwell past. Through various murals and memorials, there are now more depictions of the butterfly in Camberwell than there have ever been reported sightings of the Beauty within its borders. And while this winged creature has become synonymous with Camberwell’s contemporary identity, in truth, the butterfly was never native to Camberwell at all. It transpires that it was imported from Scandinavia and the baltic regions during the height of industrial production. Carried on the back of timber along the Grand Surrey Canal and adopted as one of South London’s very own.


Bone china spring loaded hair clip
The Elephant: Hand painted in enamel

Cast in pewter at Ferrous Wheel metalwork fabrication and Blacksmithing company based in Burgess park then carried to different beauty salons along the route in order to be painted in by skilled nail technicians.

Formed under the arches of Peckham Rye train station and coated in car body paint on Camberwell station road. A candle holder based on the concept of an early prototype of the dual light heater. The Dualit toaster was invented and originally produced on Picton street in Camberwell by a German immigrant engineer fleeing the aftermath of the Second World War. While the identity of the toaster has never been too closely associated with the local area, it is the very specific combination of social conditions and pre existing industrial infrastructure of South London that allowed it to be.

A letter opener carved in a woodcarving workshop at the Thomas Calton Centre on Choumert Road in Peckham.

[1/2] A series of chairs designed to be as resourceful as possible with the materials with which they are made

[2/2] A contract of agreement between the object and its owner as to the length of time of their relationship.

To live in material union is to respect an object beyond simply its monetary value or personal usefulness to us at any given moment in time. It is to fully consider the impact of the materials with which the object was made, the processes and transportation that brought it to be and the impact of these choices on both human and animal populations as well as the natural life cycles that provided us with the materials in the first place. If we were forced to fully consider even one of these variables at the point of purchasing an object, might it change our patterns of consumption and reduce the amount of waste we produce?

For the purposes of this project I’ve chosen to focus on the impact of carbon emissions in the task of tackling climate change. 

Timber is often spoken about in terms of its capacity for carbon storage, however using it as a material with which to manufacture objects of consumption can only do so successfully when these objects are in use for a reasonable length of time. Once they are broken down, repurposed or turned into waste, their carbon impact on the planet changes considerably.

The extent and way in which carbon sequestration during growth may be “credited” varies under different carbon footprint standards. The UK PAS2050 standard credits a proportion of sequestered carbon dependent on the lifetime of a product. For example, 0.19% of the sequestered carbon may be credited for a product in use for 25 years, rising to 50% for a product in use 50 years.

Any union considered for this length of time would require a legal framework as well as a contract in place that could uphold the rights and responsibilities of all of the parties involved.


Its overall form and relative dimensions have been optimised for the most efficient use of machining methods and the least amount of resulting material wastage. Individual components are cut from a single eight inch plank of wood with a rotating cutter. Each positive cut creates the negative of another, and the thickness and width of each component are determined by standardised commercial timber dimensions.




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