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Filter Factory

Intrigued by a bird house made entirely from used cigarette butts in what seemed to be a waffle iron, caught up with recent Willem de Kooning academy graduate Isaac Monté.

By Cassandra Pizzey /asdf 05-09-2013

Eco design and sustainable products seem to be at the forefront of young designer Isaac Monté’s mind. Filter Factory is his graduation project and is all about waste from cigarette butts. 

These filters are thrown in the street and eaten by birds, which die as a result. However, they also use the filters to build nests thanks to the synthetic fibres which keep the eggs warm. The nicotine even keeps leeches out of the nest. By created a bird house from used cigarette ends, Monté aims to reward smokers for good behaviour. Smokers can throw their cigarettes in a special machine and every hundredth butt is turned into a bird house. A big waffle iron melts the shredded cigarette filters and shapes them into a bird house. 

Tell us about your graduation project Filter Factory.

“I was fascinated by all the cigarette butts you see lying around. In the past years it has become a problem due to the smoking ban in cafes and at work. Smokers toss their used cigarette in the street and don’t think it does any damage, it’s only a tiny piece of waste and surely it will disintegrate. Well it doesn’t. The fibers break up into tiny strands that are eaten by fish and eventually end up on our own plates.”

What do you like about product design?

“Before this I studied interior architectre in Belgium which was also very interesting. What I like about product design is that you are in control of your own designs. You can make prototypes regardless of the scale your working in. In interior architecture and especially architecture you are working on sketches but someone else will eventually bring your design to life. I’m often fascinated by a certain material and its possibilities. Researching materials and experimenting with them will often be the starting point for a new project or product.”

Your brand Atelier Monté features a lot of eco design, where does your fascination come from?

“I’m often intruiged by what other people see as waste. A previous project called Les Sauvages is a series of fetish masks made from the fur of roadkill. I have a fascination for ‘wicked problems’,  social and ecological problems that I want to make visible through product design or an installation. Once I wrapped a tram completely in mirror  foil, inside and out. It wasn’t anything technological but more a reaction to the cocoon society in which we live and the lack of communication.” 

What message do you want your work to convey?

“I mainly want to convey a sense of awareness through my work. One of the judges of my work, Chris Kabel, called me a design activist. It came be perceived as a harsh term but I think it suits me.”

Can you tell us why you chose the Willem de Kooning Academie?

“After a very theoretical interior architecture course in Belgium I was looking for an academy that was very hands on. More specifically, an academy with good workshops. I also did an exchange year in Oslo. This was a school with loads of workshops so I got a taste of working with my hands and was inspired to continue.”

How do you look back on your time at the academy?

“I’m very happy to have finished this course. After my last course I didn’t feel ready for the professional life. Now I really have that feeling of ‘being ready’, which is in part thanks to my internship at mischer’traxler in Austria. There, I really got a taste of what it’s like to have your own studio and work for clients. When I neared the end of my time at the academy I couldn’t wait to spread my wings and leave the safe academy nest.”

What are your future plans?

“A year ago I started Sweatshop Deluxe together with a partner (Bert de Hoop). It’s a Rotterdam-based design label and offers young designers the chance to have their designs taken into production. The label is all about Design with a capital D, made socially. All Sweatshop Deluxe products are unique: they are handmade. limited edition and designed by young, talented designers. The products are made by people who for whatever reason cannot participate on the normal job market. The label also uses as many sustainable or recycled materials as possible. 

Besides that I’m building Atelier Monté for which I produce personal and client-based work.”

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