Milk Lab - Designers Reinvent Milk


3 June 2015

“For a lot of people in France, design is always about furniture,” says Claire Fayolle, curator of Milk Lab – Designers Reinvent Milk. “It is interesting to look at the future of milk in a design capacity because milk is very common.”

Fayolle’s remark is pertinent: dairy farmers in the UK alone produce more than 13bn litres of milk each year, yet the ways in which milk is consumed and produced is not without controversy. UK farmers are paid around 27p for a litre of milk, but the average cost of production is just over 30p. Milk, and the design potential around it, is the focus of a new exhibition curated by French design journalist and lecturer Fayolle. Hosted at Milk Factory, a creative dairy laboratory and exhibition space in Paris, Milk Lab - Designers Reinvent Milk presents 20 original pieces of work, 10 by established designers and 10 by design students, which each consider a potential future for milk.

For the exhibition, British industrial designer Sebastian Bergne created Hot Milk Lab, a tabletop milk laboratory that allows users to experiment with different flavours of milk by infusing warmed milk with spices. The collection consists of a series of borosilicate glass objects: a jug with an integrated thermometer positioned over a candle, glasses, stirring spoons and containers to hold ingredients used to infuse the milk. The glass collection sits on top of a beech wood platter. “Sebastian thought about the tradition of hot drinking chocolate, the tradition is from the mid-18th century and he was inspired by the fact that milk has a very special capacity of absorbing flavours,” says Fayolle. “It is a very delicate project with very delicate pieces.”

Whereas Bergne’s project presents a new way of consuming milk, Ecce Leche, a project designed by French design studio Nodesign, creates a new use for the material. Ecce Leche is a compact printer that uses milk for ink. The ink only becomes visible after the paper is heated by the machine. Other pieces featured in the exhibition include Vache à Lait by 5.5 designstudio, a round glass container with synthetic udders above a traditional milk pail aimed at reconnecting people to the process of milking, and Little Milky Angel by Sismo, an open source app that provides users with sustainable ways to reuse stale milk.

The 10 pieces by design students are the result of two week-long workshop held at French art schools L’École Nationale Supérierure D’ Art et Design de Nancy (“because I teach there,” says Fayolle) and L’École Supérierure D’ Art et Design de Reims (“because they have a course dedicated to food design so for me it was quite logical to ask them”).

Like the rest of the exhibits created for Milk Lab, the student’s designs are varied. Milk Clay by Sijya Gupta comprises an edible, biodegradable dough which is designed for children. Similar to Play-Doh, Milk Clay is made from milk and produced using traditional Indian cooking techniques. Bouteille 2 Laits, designed by Colin Baumeister, is a milk bottle that can be broken down after use into square units that contain milk powder and which, when mixed with warm water, create milk.

As an exhibition that centres upon an everyday product, Milk Lab, Fayolle hopes, will offer a new perspective on design for mass audiences. “For me this exhibition is a way to show the public, and especially companies, that design as a practice is very helpful for thinking about the future,” says Fayolle. “Many companies only think about using marketing to go further but I think they should listen more to designers. As a journalist, as a teacher and as a curator, I see that design is quite unknown and not properly understood. That is why I try to curate exhibitions.”