The Protein project is a process-led investigation into the use of milk proteins as a natural material, utilising surplus milk from the UK dairy industry, and discouraging the consumption of oil-based plastics. The project began with an interest in pre-industrial materials, before synthetics were invented - drawing inspiration from the past to influence the future of making.
Cow’s milk contains high levels of protein which is necessary for the production of this material, formally known as Casein. Casein plastics were originally commercially produced in the early 1900s from a formula requiring powdered cow’s milk, but faded from use by the mid 1900s. This project has re-invented the processes employed by casein manufacturers to cater to the use of fresh milk, sourced straight from organic dairy farms in the UK. Milk can often be wasted during the process of separation required to produce butter and cream. The project therefore does not suggest an increase in dairy production or in any way support industrial farming, but allows for the creative use of one of many wasted raw materials, with the aim to inspire similar thinking.
The material is versatile in both its properties and the processes that can be applied to it. Although typically referred to as a plastic alternative, it also possesses qualities comparable to natural binders, and modelling materials such as clay. It therefore allows for a lot of creative freedom when it comes to designing the various processes to apply to this material; not only can it be treated as a thermoplastic allowing for compression moulding, etc, it can also be sculpted by hand.