Introducing The Leonia Project

A new year is traditionally a time for reflections and new beginnings and today I want to share a new project that has been in the active making for the last part of 2021 but that has been active in my mind for a lot longer.

The Leonia Project is my response to an intensifying unease with the amount of waste generated by modern living and a concern about the capacity of our shared planet to cope with both the extraction of resources require to make all that we seemingly require, and dispose of what we then discard.

To aim of the project is to take discarded items, textiles, vintage materials and ephemera, and re-craft them into something with a contemporary purpose; something modern, functional or decorative. In doing so I aim to retain a the original character and quality of objects but find an additional use or purpose that diverts them from traditional waste cycles.

The items produced aim to:

  • Preserve the longevity that these found materials have already achieved, whilst designing in a new lease of  life.
  • Create connections and reflections between past and present crafters and makers.
  • Generate a space for thinking about how we use resources in the present, the lifecycle of these resources and the link between life cycle and various elements of the waste cycle. 
  • Consider how particular materials have shaped our domestic and industrial past and landscapes.

The Leonia Project works with material objects.

Here I will share posts and images of the objects created and transformed and information on events where the Leonia Project will be featured. Hopefully by doing so I’ll inspire others to look differently at everyday items, the things we overlook and throw away, and think about how we can all transform these items giving them a new lease of life and reduce our use of ‘virgin’ and finite resources.

This project is named for Italo Calvino’s fictional city of Leonia in Invisible Cities. A book which this year celebrates 50 years since publication, the imagined Leonia seems as pertinent to today and perhaps an even more urgent place for reflection that it did when Calvino first conceived of it.

The selected excerpts below give a taste of Calvino’s vision of Leonia

The city of Leonia refashions itself every day: every morning the people wake between fresh sheets, wash with just-unwrapped cakes of soap, wear brand-new clothing, take from the latest model refrigerator still unopened tins, listening to the last-minute jingles from the most up-to-date radio. 

On the sidewalks, encased in spotless plastic bags, the remains of yesterday's Leonia await the garbage truck. Not only squeezed tubes of toothpaste, blown-out light bulbs, newspapers, containers, wrappings, but also boilers, encyclopedias, pianos, porcelain dinner services. It is not so much by the things that each day are manufactured, sold, bought that you can measure Leonia's opulence, but rather by the things that each day are thrown out to make room for the new. So you begin to wonder if Leonia's true passion is really, as they say, the enjoyment of new and different things, and not, instead, the joy of expelling, discarding, cleansing itself of a recurrent impurity. The fact is that street cleaners are welcomed like angels, and their task of removing the residue of yesterday's existence is surrounded by a respectful silence, like a ritual that inspires devotion, perhaps only because once things have been cast off nobody wants to have to think about them further. 

Nobody wonders where, each day, they carry their load of refuse. Outside the city, surely; but each year the city expands, and the street cleaners have to fall farther back. The bulk of the outflow increases and the piles rise higher, become stratified, extend over a wider perimeter. Besides, the more Leonia's talent for making new materials excels, the more the rubbish improves in quality, resists time, the elements, fermentations, combustions. A fortress of indestructible leftovers surrounds Leonia, dominating it on every side, like a chain of mountains. 

This is the result: the more Leonia expels goods, the more it accumulates them; the scales of its past are soldered into a cuirass that cannot be removed. As the city is renewed each day, it preserves all of itself in its only definitive form: yesterday's sweepings piled up on the sweepings of the day before yesterday and of all its days and years and decades. 

Leonia's rubbish little by little would invade the world, if, from beyond the final crest of its boundless rubbish heap, the street cleaners of other cities were not pressing, also pushing mountains of refuse in front of themselves. Perhaps the whole world, beyond Leonia's boundaries, is covered by craters of rubbish, each surrounding a metropolis in constant eruption. The boundaries between the alien, hostile cities are infected ramparts where the detritus of both support each other, overlap, mingle. 

The greater its height grows, the more the danger of a landslide looms: a tin can, an old tire, an unravelled wine flask, if it rolls toward Leonia, is enough to bring with it an avalanche of unmated shoes, calendars of bygone years, withered Bowers, submerging the city in its own past, which it had tried in vain to reject, mingling with the past of the neighboring cities, finally clean. A cataclysm will flatten the sordid mountain range, cancelling every trace of the metropolis always dressed in new clothes. In the nearby cities they are all ready, waiting with bull- dozers to flatten the terrain, to push into the new territory, expand, and drive the new street cleaners still farther out. 

The full PDF is available to download here or if you’d prefer to purchase the book for yourself or as a gift, the affiliate link ot my UK store is below.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey and enjoy some of the ideas I share with you here. If it inspires you to take your creativity into a new arena, or develop your practice, I’d love to hear about it.

So far I’ve been working with paper crafts and old books and really enjoying working with new to me material and processes.

Until next time when I share some of my projects, I wish you all the very best for the coming year and wish you well for all your creative endeavours.

Take care

Tess xxx

Leonia as Illustrated by Gerard Trignac

2 thoughts on “Introducing The Leonia Project

  1. This is fascinating & such a creative project; thank you for sharing. I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about craftivism today and this is such a lovely example

    1. Thank you for such a lovely comment. It’s been something that’s been percolating for a while and as I started to apply these approaches to my making I found it really liberating and that it re-ignited my creativity. It came to life just at a time when I really needed it, so I’m really looking forward to sharing more.

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