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Art & Culture

Out of sight, but not out of mind: Reusing ‘unusable’ golf balls

By September 3, 2020No Comments
©Jake Rollins – WovenSolid (GolfWeave)

Australian Designer creates a weaving method prototype to craft objects with upcycled golf balls as homogeneous building blocks, simulating carbon atoms found in nature.

 Designer and maker Jake Rollins has a message at the heart of his practice: to rethink how we design and make things. In the current climate of waste and energy misuse, it is evident that we can no longer afford to design and produce using finite resources. Jake imagines alternative worlds where circular cycles of making, replace linear cycles of waste.

“The reality is, we need to completely eliminate the life and death cycles we perpetuate and mimic mother nature in her infinite dance of life and rebirth. This proposed method intends to do exactly that.” 

Jake Rollins

Since 2017, his project WovenSolid (GolfWeave) has become the focus of his practice. Using discarded and ‘unusable’ golf balls as beads arranged in a manner similar to carbon atoms and held by polyester yachting cord, Jake crafts his objects into various shapes. The curves in his designs mimic ones we see in isolation in all carbon allotropes simulated, re-presented and enlarged to a human scale. And just as in nature, his technique presents an amalgamation of atoms with semi-permanent bonds. Nature uses the same general principle to make and unmake all the different compounds that surround us. Similarly, and without any material loss, Jake’s designs can be unbound and returned to their base components, golf balls and cord, where these materials can be rewoven into new geometries and become entirely new objects.

Whilst the earliest golf balls were primarily made from wood, leather or rubber, modern day variations are mass produced and use cheaper materials (often 10% plastic). Some of the most luxurious golf courses are directly on the coast or other pristine areas which means that many golf balls are hit out of sight, and into the natural environment never to be found again. Once a ball rolls into the water, it immediately sinks to the bottom and rests there for hundreds of years, slowly degrading and leaching micro plastics. Although the second-hand golf ball market is thriving, an estimated 1.2 billion balls are manufactured every year and an estimated 300 million are lost in the US alone

The issue of golf ball marine pollution hit the headlines last year, when a young Californian diver linked up with a Stanford University researcher and published a scientific paper on the issue. Across five courses, they removed 39,602 balls from the environment and estimated that almost 28kg of synthetic material had been eroded away. Finding alternative uses for old golf balls and keeping them out of the environment is thus needed.

As for Jake and his designs, he will continue to spark the imagination, aiming to change the perception of all upcycled materials. For him, the golf ball and his methods are prototypes which could be scaled up to architectural size, although a more suitable material for such large constructions would be needed.