Turning milk to stone



This project explores methods of processing the protein (casein) extracted from cow’s milk as a natural alternative to oil-based polymers, utilizing surplus milk from the UK dairy industry to produce objects. 

Primarily an in-depth material investigation, the project champions a hands-on approach to designing, whilst promoting the consumption of more sustainable products and supporting a local economy. Objects designed include a collection of tableware, tabletops, and vases, demonstrating a crafted, small-scale approach to working with the material.

The casein material is quite unique in both its properties and the production processes that can be applied to it. Although referred to as a plastic, it also possesses qualities comparable to other natural materials such as horn and clay, and can be machined similarly to wood. Therefore, it 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 commercial thermoplastic allowing for compression moulding, injection moulding, etc, it can also be hand sculpted for a more crafted and organic result to other plastics.

Casein plastics were produced commercially during the early 1900’s as an alternative to resources such as tortoiseshell and ivory, but faded from use due to the development of polymers derived from oil. This project explores a new way of processing and forming the extracted milk proteins.  

Skimmed milk is routinely wasted in large quantities at raw dairy farms in the UK due to the separation process required to make butter and cream. The project therefore does not suggest a mass increase in dairy production, but instead proposes the use of a commonly wasted and widely available raw material. Sponsorship has been provided by Hook & Son raw organic dairy farm by means of deliveries of their surplus skimmed milk.