Felix Böck has been busy since winning GRAY’s inaugural Pitch Tank competition (now Hot New Next) at IDS Vancouver in 2016. The founder of Vancouver’s ChopValue Manufacturing, a product engineering and design firm that transforms recycled chopsticks into diversely patterned products (think shelves, wall tiles, and tabletops), has taken his concept a step further and developed a furniture line. “Districts,” launched at INspiration Furniture this past May, features sustainable tables, a stool, and a credenza created from more than 100,000 recycled bamboo chopsticks—all obtained via ChopValue’s free weekly collection program that partners with local hotels, restaurants, and businesses. We sat down to talk ‘Chop’ with Felix and to learn more about his next furniture collection (slated to launch online this summer)…
You participated in GRAY’S first ever Pitch Tank (now Hot New Next) and won! How did that experience help you as a designer?
Winning the competition got our team media coverage, professional exposure through the right channels, and industry validation. ChopValue was featured in important international publications such as Al Jazeera and Huffington Post, which helped us reach new audiences and evaluate our potential for growth.
Why recycled chopsticks? And how did you first realize this was a material you could actually use to create beautiful things?
While doing research for my Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia, I was working with Metro Vancouver on its Recycled Wood Strategy Research to utilize wood from demolished construction sites. I learned that in the metropolitan region each year, as much as 600,000 tons of wood that could be reused for construction ends up in the landfill. That’s when I knew I had to do something. The a-ha moment came one night over sushi with my girlfriend, who told me to start small. She said, “We had these chopsticks in our hands, and that’s when it clicked.”
Tell us about the collaboration with INspiration Furniture. What can we expect?
We partnered with the team at INspiration Furniture [https://www.inspirationinteriors.com/] to launch a local, sustainable, and beautiful furniture line, exclusive to its store. We named it “Districts” as each of the pieces we designed represent one of the areas where our recycling program is established. The line was made with more than 100,000 recycled bamboo chopsticks, which is the amount that is thrown away every day in Vancouver alone.
What inspires you as a designer?
I personally get excited about design made possible through solutions in engineering and the development of new technologies. These challenges, on top of the motivation from my team as well as the many, many ideas we receive from our clients are all a great and exciting mix that inspires me.
What do you find most challenging about working with recycled chopsticks?
After sifting through hundreds of thousands of chopsticks every day, I’m getting slightly sick of sushi…