Design Engineering
Showcase 2021

Petit Miracles

Tags
Upcycling
Furniture
Charitable Organisation
Design Project

Project Details

Student
Kanya Thavanesan
Team
Upcycling Department
Supervisor
Dr Connor Myant
Role
Furniture Designer
Sector
Retail and Consumer Goods
Links
Company Website

Petit Miracles is a charitable organisation and a social enterprise who want to boost employability, support creative businesses and want to protect the planet.

During my placement I was able to implement my knowledge that I had learnt from my course into practical use. I understood what it was like to be in a workshop everyday, and what it felt like to have tight deadlines, as well as material and cost constraints.

I was able to learn what it would be like to have a start-up company while also trying to help the local community by helping out valuable adults, such as those with disability. Moreover, I mastered the need of being able to juggle multiple projects at the same time.

petit miracles

Demonstration of Design Engineering Thinking and Skills

Being in the upcycling sector of the company meant there were a lot of damages to fix. Even though Vicky was a newly manufactured piece, she still had splits in the drawers, which had to be filled. Cristiano and Becks were older pieces, so disassembling them was a challenge, and removing some of the screws led to damages, which were easily fixed. The final finishes would consist of painting with their colour palette and restoring by oiling, varnishing, and staining. I would also attach fixtures with both an electric and a manual screwdriver.

Oiling Cristiano Door

For my individual project I produced a portfolio which contained market and production research, concept development and making. In this portfolio I showed my finding when trying out different construction methods, such as corner clamps, joins, hinges, etc.

Sometimes I was given design plans from my Workshop Manager, such as Vicky, the benches, murals, and many more. Other times I would come up with the design for the products myself, such as for Cristiano and Becks. Before starting the practical process I see what the outcome would look like by using software such as Adobe Illustrator and SolidWorks, to get a 2D and 3D representation. Moreover for my individual project I also used SolidWorks for dimensions, and used Illustrator to create the wood sheets. I also created a design plan for my project to make sure that I wasn’t wasting material and time. Moreover, I researched and tested different construction techniques: making and using corner jigs, different types of hinges, different joining methods, etc. In terms of safety, I also had to prototype my projects to make sure that they wouldn’t topple over and hurt the consumer.

CAD Model of Cristiano and Becks,

Petit Miracles promotes sustainability, so I made sure there was no wastage in materials. I never poured out too much paint, oil, stain or varnish to make sure that it didn’t go to waste, and any excess, if it could, be put back into the containers.

Petit Miracles must sell products which have a commercial grade finish in terms of smoothness and application methods. Therefore I also had to meet this standard for all my projects, otherwise it would not be sold.

Role and Contributions

My primary role consisted of upcycling furniture pieces that were donated or were bespoke orders from clients and also to design, develop and make a piece of furniture that could be sold by the company as their own piece. I have worked on different furniture pieces and worked on the cataloguing of the products as well, and help out the company in other ways, such as help with the volunteers and disadvantaged adults, and also help with decorating their photo studio.

Vicky:

My first project was Vicky, a Victorian chest of drawers, a donated piece from a furniture manufacturer. Vicky was made out of solid pine wood. The frame and drawers were black, while the legs were gold. The final coat of paint had to be applied smoothly without seeing brush strokes, which is where I was taught to paint N’s. As this piece didn’t come with handles, I looked online to find gold handles. In the end I chose gold ring pull handles, and used a jig to see where the holes would be drilled into the drawers to attach the handles.

Vicky's halfway point
Vicky

Cristiano & Becks:

Cristiano, a wardrobe, was donated alongside with Becks, a sideboard. I was given the task of choosing the design, with design conditions: they had to complement each other so they could be sold as a set, but also could be sold individually. Another design constraint was that one of the primary colours had to be restored wood, and there had to be another primary colour and a secondary colour. Looking at what Petit Miracles had sold in the past, there was one piece which had an ombre effect, which inspired me. I decided the drawers would have the ombre effect of black and the door for Cristiano and the legs for Becks would have the restored wood effect. The secondary colour, pink, was on the handles, so it could pop out.

Cristiano and Becks

Benches:

The first set of benches were made out of wood and had to be restored. I had to disassemble the bench, sand each piece with the sanding machine, and stain each piece. I reassembled the benches to apply 3 layers of Yacht varnish, the first layer was mixed with white spirit, to thin out the varnish. The next set of benches just had wood on the legs, and the table tops.

Sanding bespoke order of benches
Varnishing bespoke order of benches

Murals:

The first mural project, I painted the shell of the chest of drawers, and drew out templates of the drawers and spacings for the wallpaper. The next one was a similar process, but I also found handles and created a template for the handle placing and drilled out the holes. The final one was the most interesting, as it was a sideboard, and the mural was only going on the doors of the sideboard. I used Illustrator to see which part of the wallpaper we would use for the mural.

Gracjia Mural Chest of Drawers

Individual Project:

My brief was to design and produce a sustainable piece of furniture to solve storage issues. My market and production research showed what was already available for storage solutions, what Petit Miracles offers, who their competitors are, how to produce sustainable furniture pieces, and more. My concept stage started off with me creating a list of design requirements, such as colour scheme, furniture piece and others. After researching I chose a wardrobe and chest of drawers, as they are the most common storage pieces. I came up with a couple of designs for each, and decided to allow the customer to choose the colour scheme, the design, the handles, and the legs. This way we can tailor closer to the customer’s needs and preferences. I came up with a structural design for the pieces, and produced dimensions, to know how much material would need to be purchased. Moreover, I produced a customer brochure, so the customer could design their piece. Due to time and material constraints I was only able to produce a prototype of the wardrobe. Moreover I produced an animation of both the wardrobe and chest of drawers, which made me enhance my animation skills.

Cutting prototype pieces for wardrobe
Stapling back to wardrobe
Latest of Individual Project

Summary

I have always wanted to start-up my own furniture company, and by doing a placement at Petit Miracles, I have understood what it takes to achieve that. I always have been a student who likes to get their hands dirty and would rather be in a workshop than on a computer, which is why I looked for a practical placement. This all led me to choosing to do my placement at Petit Miracles.

Petit Miracles has been an amazing establishment to work at, as it has allowed me to enhance my practical skills. Upcycling furniture has made me realise how much is being wasted in the world, and all the different way we can be. I have very much enjoyed working with the team, and helping out the volunteers and disadvantaged adults. I have loved it so much that I have decided that I would like to continue volunteering with them, and possibly in the future become a permanent member.