Matt Copeland

  • 2019
  • Design
  • Product Design - BA (Hons)

Matt Copeland, Product Design - BA (Hons): Repurposing discarded electrical wire

Matt Copeland is on the lookout for a name for the new physical material that’s the outcome of his final year project. Through hands-on research, Matt has created an intriguing new substance, made from discarded electrical wire.

Formed into beams and cut in section, it looks like a piece of marble or a seam of quartz, shot through with metallic pools of copper. It has strength and retains a degree of conductivity. Matt imagines it being used as a construction material or perhaps as a surface finish, but he doesn’t want to limit its use.

“I’m just in the early stages of making this material, so I’m really looking forward to going to New Designers in London in June to see people’s reaction to it and to hear their ideas on how it could be used,” he explains.

Matt has created his new material by melting and squeezing electrical wire, complete with its PVC coating and central copper core, in a handmade heat moulding machine. The PVC acts as an adhesive, and the combination of the reformed plastic and copper gives the material its strength.

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Matt has always been interested in using materials. “My dad is a joiner and I’ve been helping him in his workshop since I was small. I’m a bit of a magpie and I would collect all the scrap I could find in there and make stuff from it,” he says.

Finding a use for this construction detritus was a logical progression for Matt; he believes that the scrap value of copper isn’t commensurate with its intrinsic value. “Turning discarded electrical wire into a useful product seems like a good idea.”

Matt is studying Product Design but he says he’s not interested in designing objects at the moment. “I think of myself as a process-driven designer, and I’m inspired by places like Swine Studio and Formafantasma. Ideally I’d like to work somewhere like Thomas Heatherwick’s studio, where their work is about finding new materials for new applications.”

Matt feels like he’s just at the start of his exploration of these themes. “My dissertation was about material-driven design. Combining research in this area with my own studio practice has given me a space for reflection. It’s helped me think about finding a place within the art and design spectrum and to examine what it means to be a craftsman today.”

He’s hopeful for what the future brings. “At this stage, researching feels like fun and not work. I’m curious to see what happens with my new material and I’m looking forward to exploring what I and others can do with it.”

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