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  • The Paperboat Project by Mr. & Mrs. Gray

    One of my favorite things about producing You're Being Ridiculous the submission process for the show. You never know what you're going to get. Maybe it's an amazing story...OR...maybe it's a kooky advertisement for boats made out of recycled cardboard and old magazines. That's exactly what you're about to read about below. A few days before our last submission deadline I received a message from Mr. & Mrs. Gray explaining that they are completely ridiculous. I think you'll agree. Check out their story below. Producing a show can be weird y'all...

    Don't forget we have a new show coming up in two weeks.  Click the tickets tab above to reserve your spot and come get ridiculous with us. 


    - Garbage does not exist -

    Our current obsession is constructing paper boats from old magazines and cardboard boxes which can actually float.

    It all started on a cold and rainy January day in a remote part of France. It had been raining for days and the whole area was flooded. Confined indoors with nothing but a stack of old magazines, we decided to fold an armada of paper boats and set them asail in the drowned land. But with the first boat we released, we longed to sail away ourselves. So while we watched our little armada float away, the idea formed to build a life-sized paper boat.

    Fig.1 Mr.&Mrs.Gray - Launch of the Paperboat Armada, Bouron, France, January 6th 2013

    It’s not a coincidence that we used old magazines as material. Recycling is an essential part of our work. We shake our heads in disbelieve over the the amount of stuff we people create. And at the same absurd pace, we throw it all away again. There are mountains of trash everywhere, made of discarded and rejected stuff. We like to give these objects a second chance, not by covering up the landfill with earth and to turn it into a nice hilly park, but though upcycling and by making yesterday’s newspaper hot topic again.

    At this moment we’re researching the possibilities our waste has to offer in response to our changing
    environment. Our latest project in this era of economical and environmental crisis is the build of paper boats. Due to the many different materials fused together in an average boat it’s very difficult, and therefor expensive to recycle them. Even wooden boats have thick coatings of polyester. And even then the only thing that can be made out of old polyester boats is asphalt. If you own a boat and you want to get rid of it, it’s easier to just abandon the boat, then to go to the troubles and the costs to bring it to the nearest recycling center. The result are waterways in cities and harbours cluttered with half-sunken boats, littering the view and polluting the water.

    Fig. 2Sunken boat, courtesy http://gezonken.wordpress.com

    In a time when resources are running low, combined with an undeniable environmental crisis, it could be useful to look at the possibilities of recycling. We were inspired by Hendrik Bulthuis (1892–1948), a barber from the Netherlands who came up with the luminous idea of building a boat for people who were less fortunate financially. Boats in those days were very expensive due to materials used, like long and straight wooden planks without any gnarls and knots. In his spare time Bulthuis constructed a boat in a totally unconventional way, and with shorter and cheaper pieces of wood. Although the upper class laughed at his attempts to make a boat out of ‘firewood’, he continued anyway and in 1928 he launched his first boat, the BM. In the end the joke was on them, because nowadays you can’t imagine the Dutch waters without a BM.

    Fig.3 BM or Zestienkwadraat, courtesy http://4151.jouwweb.nl/upload/3/a/7/4151/05-188.large.jpg

    His unconventional method to make a boat with limited means and cheap materials strengthened our believe that we could make a boat of paper. And since paper could be considered as a sort of wood, there’s a lot of cheap material for us to recycle. So we boldly set out to construct paper boats and try them out in the canal behind our studio.

    Fig.4 Mr.&Mrs.Gray - Paperboat 1, The Hage, the Netherlands, June 12th 2013

    The first attempts were made entirely out of cardboard held together with tape, but unfortunately went to Davey Jones Locker.

    To strengthen the construction, we covered the model of the second paper boat with a layer of paper maché made of old newspapers, magazines and waterproof wood glue. Unfortuantely this version also sunk eventually, but it stayed afloat considerably longer than we’d expected.

    Fig.5 Mr.&Mrs.Gray - Filmstill ‘Disconnected from Reality’, August 8th 2013

    So we set out to build the next version, Paperboat 3, which was finally successful.

    Fig.6 Mr.&Mrs.Gray - Paperboat 3, August 8th 2013 photography Bart J. BenschopFig.6 Mr.&Mrs.Gray - Paperboat 3, August 8th 2013 photography Bart J. Benschop

    After 6 months the Paperboat 3 is still operational as we demonstrated recently at award ceremony of the Haagse Lift, a Dutch sustainability/innovation prize of which our project came in second.

    Fig.7 Mr.&Mrs.Gray - Award ceremony ‘Haagse Lift’ March 4th 2013, photography Esther van der Wallen

    The entire construction of the Paperboat 3 is made of paper. The skeleton is a cardboard mesh, made from old cardboard boxes collected from supermarkets. The finish consists of layers paper maché, made of paper (newspapers, magazines) and waterproof wood-glue.

    Fig.8 Mr.&Mrs.Gray - Making of Paperboat 3, July 2013

    And at this moment we are experimenting with organic glue, to see if we could make a fully bio-degradable paper boat you can toss on the compost heap after use. And could we build something like Noach’s Ark in anticipation to the rising sea levels? And what if we would be able to make floating paper gardens or floating paper isles?

    We envision the people of urban environments to step out of the rat-race for a moment and spend a day on the water with a Paperboat and enjoy the beauty of nature, just like the BM in the past gave more people the opportunity to go boating. And afterwards they can just throw away the paper boat with the other waste paper.

    Fig.9 Mr.&Mrs.Gray - Paperboat 1, The Hage, the Netherlands, June 12th 2013

    Since we want to offer everyone the opportunity to have fun with a Paperboat, and do something for their environment at the same time, we’ve made DIY-kits, to make your own disposable paper boat.

    We embrace the the cradle-to-cradle theory of Michael Braungart and William McDonough, that eco-efficiency and traditional recycling is in fact down-cycling and will eventually cost more and cause more damage than rethinking our production methods based on the fact that in nature there is no such thing as waste. For if we use bio-degradable glue and paper for our boat, the whole boat can be used again to make new paper, and thus a new boat. Or a sunken boat could become nutrients when it decomposes.

    Our aim for our Paperboat project is to create awareness for our environmental situation. We hope that people will reconsider the worth of what they trow away, where they dispose it an what effect it has on their environment in a playful and inspiring manner.

    Fig.10 Mr.&Mrs.Gray - Filmstill ‘Disconnected from Reality’, August 8th 2013

    For more information: 


    Mr.&Mrs.Gray (Jeroen van der Linde en Carmen Hutting) is an artist duo from The Hague, the Netherlands. Their work is about possibilities and new adventures to be found in the smallest and most trivial things. They don’t believe in complaining over everything that’s wrong, but in focussing on what there is to work with and turning it into something better.

    They attended the WdK Academy in Rotterdam and graduated with honours for their MFA at the FMI in Groningen. They have been working as lecturers at the WdK Academy and l’Ecole Superieure des Arts Decoratifs in Strasbourg, France.