Reclaimed Boat Sails Upcycled as Portable Planters

December 14, 2014 by


In the hands of Parsons School of Design grads, Miriam Josi and Stella Lee Prowse, a local sail maker’s post-production sailcloth waste and scrap boat covers have been reborn as planters. Not just planters, but portable flat-folding, space-saving babes that can even travel on a bicycle’s handlebars. 


Josi and Prowse share a passion for both design and food. When the two students became roommates in a small Brooklyn garden apartment, they began sharing childhood stories. Each recalled cooking with the herbs and vegetables collected from their family’s urban garden, always aware of where their food came from.


“Moving into the garden apartment sparked ideas of raising chickens, growing a vegetable garden and starting a compost heap,” said Prowse. “In reality our busy schedules didn’t allow for this self sufficient lifestyle that we envisioned and we got as far as the compost heap, sort of.”


They continued to observe that city life and their own busy lifestyles, along with easy access to take-out, created a disconnect between one’s food and its origins. Inspiration for their company, The Garden Apartment, was born of their common desire to reconnect with that history of growing and cooking at home.


Nomad’s creation led the designers through an fast-paced and intense prototyping phase. During this process, they created hundreds of paper models until they arrived at Nomad’s final form. After all of Nomad’s various iterations, the two ended up returning to an early sketch model, drawn to the beauty of the form and the way in which it allowed them to create two pots out of one piece of cloth.


By way of folding and some simple manipulations, they explored creating a container out of a single piece of material. Using a design reduced to its basic and essential structural elements, the duo created Nomad from one fabric rectangle folded into a double-sided pot and stamped with an eyelet.


Josi and Prowse wanted to make the planter of a soft, flexible, lightweight yet durable and UV resistant material. Nomad needed to be easy to clean, low cost, and flat-packable. As the designers also felt strongly that Nomad be made of a sustainable material, they turned to post-production waste for the fabric. Boat sails fit their material criteria and became the idea solution.


The result: a contemporary and sustainable design whose material is locally sourced from Doyle Sails in City Island, New York and made by hand in Josi and Prowse’s New York studio. Using hand held tools like grommeting die cutter sets and heat knives, the fabric scrap pieces get laser cut, stitched in place, and stamped with a grommet. Nomad’s simple design lends itself to this very efficient manufacturing process, after which the planter is shipped flat-packed in a 12” x 15” envelope.


Drainage is a concern with many of the fabric planters on the market. With Nomad, a gap between the planter’s two permeable fabric layers allows the soil to breathe, while excess water releases through the planter’s drainage holes.


What I love: Nomad’s design is adaptable and therefore great for space-deprived environments. The planter can hang from a rope, sit on a table, be moved to the window to chase the sunlight, or cruise the city on the handlebars of a bike. Planted on just one side, Nomad (or several of them) can hang on the wall creating a simple vertical garden, indoors or out.


Nomad received the James Dyson Award through Parsons, launching The Garden Apartment and enabling the designers to produce their first prototypesNomad has also traveled as far as Paris where it was exhibited at Now! le OFF, an event showcasing emerging and avant-garde designers at la Cité de la Mode et du Design during Paris Design Week. (For more on Paris and Paris Design Week check out our Paris archives.)


While Prowse remains in New York after graduation and Josi has moved to Paris, the two continue to further develop Nomad. Their current lot of scraps has provided them with an orange and white color palette which I happen to love. As with any found materials, Nomad’s future color combinations will depend on what is available at any given time. But Josi and Prowse are confident they will produce more planters in colors which are harmonious with Nomad’s simple design. And I look forward to it. Looks like it’s full sail ahead for Nomad.

Want one? You can purchase a Nomad directly for $32 at The Garden Apartment.

Photos courtesy of the designers.

1 Comment »

  1. Perfect Planters From Reclaimed Materials - Retractableawnings Pingback said:

    […] Read the full article here: Reclaimed Boat Sails Upcycled as Portable Planters […]

    — December 22, 2014 @ 05:05

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