Lifestyle Journalist

M. Astella Saw writes about travel, food, retail, design and trends in the lifestyle sectors. Contact me at m.astella.saw (at) gmail.com

Kieren Jones, designer

Personal micro farms and micro factories could dot the backyards and community allotments of our future, as consumers increasingly adopt the self-sufficient ideals of Rurban living. With its sleek, dark grey units and retro modern charm, ‘Community Commerce’, a project by Royal College of Art graduate Kieren Jones, points the way forward.

The future-facing hen house is in fact a micro factory that includes separate units for beak-to-tail production. One unit houses a chicken; another processes its skin, once the fowl has been slaughtered and eaten, into leather for making clothes; a third is a kiln that allows for turning the bird’s ground-up, powdered bones into china.

Jones’s first products are a flight jacket made with chicken-skin leather – ‘I thought it was quite a nice idea since chickens are flightless birds,’ he says – and a china eggcup. Tongue-in-cheek results, they nonetheless hint at a future beyond knitting and letter-pressed greeting cards, in which people increasingly produce essential tools and everyday objects for trade.

‘There’s loads of people who are 5-to-9ers – they come back from work and have their own hobbies and interests,’ Jones tells LS:N Global. These ‘professional amateurs’, he believes, will help consumers in mature economies such as the US, the UK and much of western Europe navigate the post-recession landscape of the Turbulent Teens. ‘There’s a real possibility there for a true exchange of skill and trade,’ he says.

Among Jones’s upcoming projects is an urban fruit factory to which members of local communities may bring their individual harvests, from backyards and window boxes, to make community jam. ‘The urban food factory would be a slightly modified allotment so that you could go there and process your fruit with other people’s fruit,’ he says. ‘It should be very community based.’

Despite the nostalgic take on future community trade, Jones is adamant that we not remain tied to a rosy-hued pastoral past. ‘I quite like the idea of using the same skills but using contemporary materials,’ he says, ‘of using new palettes and new methods of doing quite traditional things.’

Our top five take-outs

1: DIY culture and a new generation of 5-to-9ers are set to change models of production and consumption in the dawning Rurban future.

2: In fact, Rurban-era DIY hobbyists could essentially reinvigorate our post-industrial nations. ‘China’s really, really, really cheap at producing things, but if we use hobbyists, it’s free – it’s even cheaper than cheap,’ Jones says. ‘The only way we can compete with China and the new emerging markets is to play on this.’ Smart brands will consider how to help the activities taking place in sheds and backyards become activities for common trade.

3: Community consciousness is the new civic consciousness. ‘People are more open than they ever used to be about sharing,’ Jones says. ‘Slowly but surely, [people realise that] it doesn’t make sense to have a garden, then build a high wall around it and separate yourself from the rest of the community.’

4: Bartering and trade are gaining ever greater currency in the Rurban era. Even ‘Community Commerce’ has its roots in barter – Jones built a chicken coop for a woman in exchange for six eggs a week and a chicken a year. His micro factory project came out of his wondering what to do with this bounty.

5: The socially networked internet will add to the richness of future Rurban communities. ‘So much of [the movement] is happening via the web,’ Jones says, pointing out how websites such as Etsy and Freecycle are already changing the 5-to-9er landscape by linking individual Betapreneurs, creators and traders with the wider world.

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16 August 2010