Making Futures 2021

Life Cycles of Material Worlds

The seventh edition of our Making Futures biennial international research conference will be held on 16th September 2021.

Alexa Mottram

Senior Lecturer, Product Design, University of Lincoln| CEO Motties|

A mini documentary exploring the human relationships around a small-scale enterprise that utilises pre-consumer waste.

Wide-angle thinking of material cycles within a more sustainable or circular economy produce diagrams with curved arrows to illustrate the flow of materials coming back in, not being wasted. What is difficult to know from these on-paper flows is how people fit around and between those arrows. Alexa has spent over ten years making footwear from reclaimed leather, wool and other textiles; mostly offcuts from the upholstery industry. Her material suppliers are individuals that she has formed close relationships with and who save textiles mainly out of a desire to help, to not waste and to respect those materials that they themselves work closely with.

Through this short film, Alexa will explore the richness of these relationships in terms of knowledge transfer, human connection and the pleasure of working together to change established practices. One supplier is Lisa, an upholsterer based in London. Lisa has shared with Alexa her knowledge of working with leather and thick fabrics and inspired her to find other outlets for her waste. Lisa's respect for the fabrics and Alexa's desire to reduce waste has pushed both of them to go further in their efforts to work in a more sustainable way. This film will explore the flow of knowledge and spirit that runs alongside the materials.

There are challenges to working with such variable materials but this presentation will show that there are also many benefits to this practice. In contrast to buying rolls of fabric from large producers, connecting to other makers and sourcing small batches of pre-consumer waste has brought value that reaches far beyond the act of reclaiming.


Alexa Mottram is a designer-maker and senior lecturer in product design at the University of Lincoln. For over ten years she has been running Motties, a small-scale enterprise producing footwear from reclaimed materials. Through this practice she explores material cycles, repair processes and customer experience. Alexa has presented work at Making Futures 2015 and exhibited at The British Library.