jo cooper chair

Craft MA student’s award-winning chairs combine sustainability with tradition

University of Brighton student Jo Cooper has won an award for her innovative chairs combining traditional wood craft skills and recycled plastic.


Craft MA student Jo’s work has been recognised by the Polymer Award from the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3) at the recent Global Research & Innovation in Plastics Sustainability (GRIPS) conference.

Jo also recently won University of Brighton’s 2022 Environmental Award, which rewards students who have completed a project that addresses and seeks to solve an environmental issue, showcasing the university’s commitment to putting sustainability at the heart of its practice.

Though breaking new ground by blending traditional wood working techniques with modern plastic recycling technology, Jo took inspiration for her latest chairs from traditional Yealmpton Windsor seating in her home region of South Devon. She also drew on bold patterns and colours from her own personal collection of 1950s china.

Jo’s IOM3 Award provides both a cash prize, and membership of a UK institution which encompasses the whole materials cycle from extraction to product design and recycling. Her work was praised for showcasing disruptive innovations in material combinations that IOM3 saw having a positive impact on design sustainability for plastics generally.

Speaking about chair making, Jo said: “It has a great history – it’s functional, it involves the mastering of many different tools and techniques, and it’s sculptural and elegant. Most importantly it is a tradition that allows scope for expression. Sustainability and craft heritage are at the heart of my ideology. I want to create heirlooms of the future while protecting the natural world that surrounds us.

“I would also like to thank my university supervisors Patrick Letschka and Philippa Lyon for all their support, kindness and knowledge, as well as pay tribute to the brilliant technicians who give their time and dedication to the MA Craft and BA Design and Craft courses at The University of Brighton.”

Dr Philippa Lyon, Senior Lecturer in the University of Brighton’s School of Art and Media, said:

“The MA Craft course aims to encourage the application of advanced manual making skills and an enquiring, creative and analytical mindset to some of the big contemporary issues we face: this can be seen in Jo’s approach and commitment, which has produced a set of exemplary chairs.”

Jo plans to use her prize money and new IOM3 industry connections to advance her research into materials and craft techniques, as well as adding further environmentally friendly equipment to her furniture making workshop.

David Hughes, Chair of IOM3 Polymer Group, said: “IOM3 and its Polymer Group is committed to promoting and profiling innovation around plastics sustainability. The competition displays

some of the best cross-disciplinary research and innovation in the field, and Jo Cooper showed how the creative sectors can embed sustainable design principles to create ‘emotionally durable design.’”

You can see more of Jo Cooper’s work on Instagram: @jocooperfurniture

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