Exploring Circular Opportunities For Designer-Makers

We know that the world is facing unprecedented challenges in relation to climate change, population growth, urbanisation and globalisation and that the current linear economic model (make, use, dispose) is not sustainable. The Circular Crafting has been positioned as a means of alleviating this pressure and maintaining and replenishing the world’s resources. It also helps us to radically rethink how, where and why we make things, and what we consume.

This collaborative research project aims to build greater understanding of the work of individuals and organisations engaging with the circular economy. We are particularly interested in those developing and working on environmentally sustainable, ethical and local manufacturing systems that are/could be applied to designer-maker enterprises as a way of rethinking creative-production.

We aim to identify potential service gaps or missing connections in order to support further collaboration and knowledge sharing.

From making from waste materials and developing new biodegradable ones, to repairing, refurbishing, reusing and recycling products, to developing service models, designer-makers are already integrating circular design practices into their businesses and ways of working. However, being circular as a small enterprise in a product-based industry is challenging. This initial research will support the development of a research framework and methodology to explore further opportunities and barriers for designer-makers in adopting circular design systems, practices and business models.

This research is being conducted by Dr Lauren England, Lecturer in Culture, Media & Creative Industries at King’s College London, and designer/maker Julian Leedham. The project was funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Institute at King’s College London and an ESRC Impact Acceleration Grant through King’s College London.

If you are interested in learning more or being involved with this project, you can download our project reports below or send us an email at hello@varioustudios.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

Project Team

Dr Lauren England is a Baxter Fellow in Creative Economies at the Duncan Jordanstone College of Art & Design (DJCAD), University of Dundee. Her research explores creative ecologies in both Global North and Global South contexts, with a focus on the craft sector. Lauren conducted her PhD at King’s College London as a collaborative doctorate with Crafts Council UK (2016-2020). She joined DJCAD in the summer of 2020.

Lauren’s research is interdisciplinary and her recent projects include investigating the work of fashion designers in Africa; addressing the impact of Covid-19 on creative higher education and cultural and creative industries; exploring sustainable business models for designer-makers. She has published research on professional development in craft higher education and early-career entrepreneurship, creative economies in Africa, craft skills evolution in post-industrial regions, creative social enterprises and precarious work in the creative economy.

For Julian Leedham good design is based on research and exploration of an idea, it creates a narrative around core concepts which in turn should reflect the nature of the designer. For Julian Leedham this reflection is based around sustainability, craftsmanship, environmental impact and enjoyment.

Julian’s work ranges from producing pieces for private commissions that utilise sustainable materials, to large scale fabrications for other design studios and renown designers such as Max Lamb, Tomás Alonso, Glithero, Peter Marigold, Sebastian Cox, Study O Portable and Tim Norris. His own work has been exhibited widely in London, including at Aram gallery and Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers. In 2016 he established Various Studios which acts as studio/workshop for creative practitioners. During 2020, working in collaboration with Kings College London, VS became an online platform to promote sustainable practices within the craft sector.


We would like to thank the following funders and individuals for their support. The Arts & Humanities Research Institute and King’s College London for the initial funding and use of the REACH space. In particular we are grateful for the support of Ed Stevens and Anna Khlusova. We also thank the Arts & Humanities Faculty at King’s College London for their support through the Innovation Fund. Finally, we are grateful for the funding received through the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account and especially for the support of Niall Sreenan from the Policy Institute at King’s College London. We also wish to thank our partners in this project for their contributions and support, Zoe Powell and Pilar Bolumburu from Materiom, Julia Bennett from Crafts Council UK and David Crump from Cockpit Arts. Last but by no means least, we thank Joanna Czerwinska for her work in developing this website.