Project Objectives

The project goal was to discover alternative ways to use bovine bone, which is currently being incinerated at great cost to the rural economy and the environment.  I hoped to demonstrate that bone could have product based applications.

The research was split between three different areas: perception, properties and fabrication.

This section explored how bone was perceived by the public, as well as ways to remove its associated stigma.  The goal was to find a way to make bone as acceptable as leather.

Research uncovered that bone in its raw form was perceived in a negative way, due to its association with death.  However, if worked into a new shape or etched, it took on an ivory-like aesthetic.

Extensive research into the properties of bone was conducted in a bid to find a niche application.  The goal was to find something that made bone unique.

The research uncovered that it possessed chemical properties which potentially made it useful for reducing environmental damage caused by toxic products.  This potential application had yet to be explored.

This section documented the existing supply and disposal chain for bovine bone.  It then looked at ways to exploit this unused bulk material for high volume applications.

Bone in its raw state is unpredictable and non-uniform in shape.  Attempts were made to fuse ground bone, but no successful conclusions were reached and the outcomes remained purely conceptual.  However, it was discovered that bone could be successfully machined, and laminated into flat panels.

Three scenarios were created, with each reflecting the three different ways to use bone:

BoneIvory:  This section presents bone as a desirable, ethical material, which is intended for the craft market.

BoneLAB:  This section showcases the unique chemical properties of bone, through a symbolic product.

BoneEngineer:  This section demonstrates how bone could be used on a mass scale.


  Scenarios vs. product  

The decision was made to present the project as a series of scenarios, rather than a single bone product.  I felt it was better to showcase the range of possibilities offered by bone, in a bid to inspire more widespread use of the material across different disciplines. 

However, opting for a scenario with multiple show-products, meant that individually, the products themselves are fairly weak, and conceptual.  For example, the battery capsules would struggle commercially, and it is still unclear as to how the bone tiles could actually be produced.  Despite being individually weak, together, I feel they tell the story well.



Personal Development
The unorthodox nature of the project forced me to utilize the skills of many different disciplines, and engage with experts from other fields.  This particular area is where I have developed most over the project duration. 

This is the first project where I have thoroughly engaged with people.  I missed much of the people based research techniques whilst on exchange.  As a result, I found this area daunting, especially given the nature of the project.  However, I was pleasantly surprised at how willing people were to provide assistance, and now feel very confident working in such a way.  Working alongside chemists, environmentalists, engineers, forensics, taxidermists, biologists and jewelers also provided a great insight into how people within these fields ‘think’, what they value, as well as providing clues on how they would tackle a similar problem.

Online Hoaxes
The delay in receiving real bones was worked around by creating digital images, in order to gain user feedback.  Using online forums provided a great way to quickly gain feedback from many different types of people.  Additionally, the anonymity provided by the internet kept the feedback more objective and honest than face to face discussions. 

I feel I kept a good work pace throughout the project, which was rigorous, yet flexible.  I felt I juggled the different aspects of the project well, and this created a well rounded investigation and development.  I tried to maintain an analytical approach to the research, and then apply a strategic approach to identify and develop products.

Jumping to Conclusions
At the end of the investigation phase, I didn’t feel ready to develop an idea, as further research was required.  Had an end result not been required for the course, I would probably have carried on researching until an elegant, bullet-proof solution was found.  However, through forcing myself to create a final idea, I found that solutions were possible, even based on the relatively limited research I had performed.  This taught me the importance of converging on practical solutions, and working to a timescale.



Green Guilt
The original brief I set myself at the very beginning of the project was very broad.  As a result I found it difficult to develop a well structured approach.  I think more focused brief would have served me better, and prevented me from re-defining my project midway through the investigation phase. Additionally, visiting the abattoir earlier would have given me more time to investigate bone further.

3D Scanning
I made the assumption that creating 3D scans of the bone would be quick.  However, compatibility issues with other software, and scanning errors, resulted in a lot of time wasted creating models which were little used.  I perhaps should have waited until there was a definite need for a bone model before proceeding to scan them.

Online Hoaxes
The product images created for the online hoaxes were highly provocative, creating a lot of negative comments.  Perhaps a better approach would have been to create a range of images, showing subtle to extreme uses of bone.

Bone Abstraction - Telling a Story
Tobie Kerridge, of the Biojewellery project, raised a valid point regarding the methods I had used to present the feedback from the bone abstraction trials:
“it’s not rigorous enough to be statistically meaningful and not personal enough to offer a story.”

I agree with this feedback, and I think it would be much better in future projects to make better use of film when both gathering research and presenting my work.

High Volume Applications
Given the quantities of bone which are to be disposed of, I feel I should have spent more time researching the BoneEngineering section of the project.  I allocated a disproportionate amount of time dealing with the other two scenarios.  As a result, the high volume applications remained slightly conceptual.

Bone Watch
Additionally, when creating the final pieces, a large amount of time was required to create the watch.  This detracted from the time available to spend on the other sections.  Substituting the watch with a clock would have been easier and more practical.  However, I felt a watch was more personal than a clock, and is better aligned with the bone jewellery.

Scenario Peer Review
Attempts were made to link the scenario sections, within the degree show space, to form a timeline.  However, presenting them in such way was found to be confusing.  Peer reviews earlier would have helped identify this problem sooner.

Rigorous Costing
The costing involved for the bone project was extensive, and as a result a number of approximations were made.  Allocating extra time to this task would have resulted in greater accuracy.



At first ‘The Bone Project’ seemed risky and daunting, but overall I found it a highly enjoyable and challenging experience.  I had desired to create a project which was abstract, yet grounded in solid reasoning, and I feel I have achieved this.  The project really tested my abilities, and allowed me to combine the scenario planning I picked up at OCAD, with the people based research techniques and core design skills that I have learnt here in Dundee.  I feel I have strengthened my design skills throughout, and developed my capability to collaborate. 



My sincere thanks are due to the following people:

Teaching Staff (alphabetical order)
Fraser Bruce – For his in depth discussions, patience and excellent advice
Polly Duplock – for guidance and support
Sean Kingsley – For his excellent advice and assistance with the sintering experiments
Andy Law – for his advice and support, particularly with the sintering experiment
Dr. Jon Rogers – for his enthusiasm and thoughts
Peter Thomas – for his strong critiques and design advice.
Dr. Gareth Thompson – For the great assistance and advice for the structural testing and engineering aspects of the project

Dr. Sandra Wilson – For her help arranging and managing ‘The Bone Workshop’
Eileen Gatt, Christine Hurst - For their expert assistance creating the backplate for the bone watch
Fiona Coull, Lindsay Kilpatrick - For their photo etching and soldering assistance. Plus, for the toasted marshmallows J
Donna Mackay - For her soldering assistance.

Simon Stickle (Scotch Premier Meat) – For supplying bones and sharing his knowledge of the meat industry
Bob Grey (Perth Abattoir)  – For supply bones
Jonathan Dow – for his taxidermy skills and yaks head.
Drew Bain – for cleaning the bones and for the books

David C Jardine, (Forest District Manager, Inverness) – For his advice on forestry industry

Dr. Mark Hodson: (University of Reading), Dr Eva Valsami-Jones: (Natural History Museum) – for their advice on the remediation properties of bone.

Debbie Murray – For her huge help in arranging, setting up the experiments and teachings.

Dr. Linda Morris – for her help creating and calculating the results from the remediation experiments.

Caroline Needham – For her instruction and use of the 3D scanner.

Tobie Kerridge – for sharing his experiences and advice

Prof. Mike Press – For his wisdom and advice.

Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mechatronics:
Dr. Robert Keatch, Dr. Huirong Le, Dr. Mark Pridham, Dr. Kenny Donnelly – for their advice on the properties of bone. Willie Henderson – for turning the battery capsules

The Westport Gallery, The Windsor Gallery – for their involvement in the perception tests

Dr. John Raven – for his advice on the properties of seaweed and organic materials

Anton Schubert – for sharing his experiences prototyping with bone.

Tayside Recyclers – Thanks to all the staff who assisted in the project.

Pail Containers

Jo Daily - for her graphic design advice

John Anderson, Margaret Kirkpatrick, Peter – Thanks for taking the time to participate in the cultural probe.

Abbeyhorn (www.abbeyhorn.co.uk) – Many thanks for supplying the strips of bone which were used for the tiles.

Rankin Brothers (www.rankincork.co.uk) – Thanks for supplying the corks for the capsules

Doug Ross, Catherine Ross – Finally, thanks to my parents for their ongoing help and support.

Copyright Andrew Ross 2008