Roll up: unravel these inventive toilet roll holder designs
At Marta gallery in LA, over 50 imaginative interpretations of the loo roll holder go on view from designers, artists and studios, addressing the environmental politics behind the domestic product
The toilet roll holder admittedly might not stand at the crossroads of art and design, but as the focus of a new exhibition at the Los Angeles-based gallery Marta, it appears to be finally getting the attention it deserves.
The exhibition, ‘Under/Over’ sees over 50 imaginative interpretations of the loo roll holder from a range of designers, artists and studios, including Mansi Shah, Martino Gamper, Sabine Marcelis, Tyler Hays of BDDW, MOS Architects, Nifemi Marcus Bello, Chen Chen + Kai Williams, Pat Kim and many more. Instigated by the gallery, which shines a light on overlooked domestic objects that dwell in the overlap of art and design, together with Plant Paper, a toxin-free toilet paper made from FSC-certified and fast-growing bamboo that’s disrupting the toilet paper industry, the show delivers a much-needed dose of levity to a fundamental aspect of daily life.
Domestic design in the frame
‘We were interested in the tangible point-of-contact between toilet paper and its user or consumer: how the paper was literally dispensed, and what the form of that dispenser was,’ recalls the gallery’s co-director Benjamin Critton. ‘We’ve always been enamoured by under-celebrated and often under-designed hardware, especially in the domestic space. Over time, the show became predicated on the idea that if the source of the toilet paper was more considered, dynamic, and engaging, then the more considerate the end-user might be towards the material dispensed.’
As mundane as toilet paper might seem, the fluffy, white-bleached rolls that have proliferated across the United States are actually steeped in environmental politics. With two-thirds of the toilet paper brands in North America controlled by a single company, Koch Industries, it’s clear to see why an alternative is needed.
‘We created a sustainable toilet paper using fast-growing, FSC-certified bamboo — organic, without chemicals, better for body and planet — while eliminating consumers’ inadvertent ties to dark money groups in this daily routine,’ says Rachel Eubanks, head of sales at Plant Paper. The statistics behind toilet paper use are staggering – approximately 27,000 trees are flushed down the world’s toilets each day, while 37 gallons of clean water (and over a gallon of bleach, formaldehyde, and other chemicals) are used in manufacturing each roll.
‘In preparation for the show, one of the resources we reviewed was the Toilet issue of the publication ‘Dirty Furniture’, which includes cultural and design-related explorations on the history of the toilet, how humans have managed their waste over time, and how toilet paper companies have used myths of what it means to be clean across decades of advertising,’ she adds. ‘In [an article], it is posited that T.P. brands most likely use images of angelic babies, fuzzy bears, and cuddly puppies to befuddle us sufficiently to prevent us from considering the lack of any real technological innovation in toilet paper over the past 120 years.’
Designer toilet roll holders
In the gallery’s stewardship, the toilet roll holders range from Tyler Hays’ exquisite painted porcelain piece to Martino Gamper’s bent steel bar version. Theo Martins’ installation-like work addresses the issue of how and where to elegantly store reserve rolls while Brendan Timmins’ ‘Alone Time Media Console’ incorporates a perfectly formed shelf to hold or store a device or book, depending on one’s fancy.
‘We’ve always been enamoured by under-celebrated and often under-designed hardware, especially in the domestic space’ - Benjamin Critton
‘We are particularly proud of the fact that, with very few exceptions, all the work present in the show was produced specifically for the exhibition, which makes the collective works a compelling snapshot of a specific point-in-time,’ adds Marta’s co-director Heidi Korsavong. ‘Many pieces were made under the confines, concerns, and production limitations of pandemic-related closures and stay-at-home mandates. With that in mind, the pieces become particularly personal.’ §