Carol Sinclair and Lorna Fraser of the Smart Plastics Group

Craft makers in Edinburgh working with ceramic and natural fibre have formed a group to develop new products from biodegradable and recyclable plastics through an academic collaboration with the Green Materials Laboratory at the University of Edinburgh. Motivated to minimise their carbon footprint,  reduce the energy used in the ceramic making process, and to use recyclable or biodegradable materials, these artists are breaking new ground in developing the use of polymers, plastics and new materials in their practice.

The group is led by Carol Sinclair, ceramicist, with Lorna Fraser, ceramicist, and Anna King, fibre artist. Carol said:

“Materials are at the core of every craft making practice and the opportunity to explore new, environmentally conscious plastics is already inspiring our group to push the boundaries of our ideas and skills. In addition to the creative applications, we are also very interested to explore the broader benefits these new materials can bring to other industries and environments.”

The Green Materials Laboratory, led by Professor Michael Shaver at the School of Chemistry in the University of Edinburgh, was inspired by the aims of the artists with regard to their work, and saw the potential for cross fertilisation and application of the craft makers’ techniques and discoveries to other industries such as where porcelain is used in medical devices. Michael said:

“It is exciting to translate our industrial research into the world of creative arts, and is great to see the important topics of sustainable plastics and energy use reaching the public sector in such an intriguing and collaborative way.”

The ‘Smart Plastics’ project is the first multi-party collaboration to emerge from the new Sector Engagement initiative at Interface that was supported through the Scottish Government’s Scotland Can Do programme, by stimulating innovation to tackle sectoral challenges or market opportunities with groups of companies from creative industries, tourism and food & drink sectors with academia. It is also the first ever project to have pooled Scottish Funding Council Standard Innovation Vouchers to support a multi-party collaboration.

Suzanne Dawson, Head of Sector Relationships at Interface, noted:

“Innovation can lead to transformation within an industry sector and we are adept at spotting opportunities – where the same challenge arises in a number of businesses in a sector. We can work with clusters of businesses or organisations, defining the issue and introducing them to potential academic expertise to help resolve the challenge.”

There could also be applications in other sectors such as aquaculture or construction arising out of the collaboration.

Businesses in the creative industries interested in working with academic expertise as part of a group can find out more by contacting Caroline Parkinson at


Photo features Carol Sinclair and Lorna Fraser of the Smart Plastics Group, courtesy of Caroline Parkinson.