What is Darjit?
By Brent Sumner
Brent Sumner is a builder and sculptor, Darjit is a variety of scrap, including old magazines, recycled into building materials that are both beautiful and functional. Brent had us wondering about making a house for OPEN EXCHANGE. Maybe some day....
I've been a professional architectural sculptor for the past eight years. Before that I built things; ascetic lines, surface textures, practical function and reusing recycled materials were my primary focus.
When I wasn't building houses, boats, gardens and wood fired ovens, I was building performance art pieces, sets and costumes for dance shows. The houses were art houses or buildings that were out of the ordinary.
I've always loved art. My mother has always been an inspirational artist and supporter of my work, it was a natural step to become a professional artist.
My Mum's house is in Peria, New Zealand, I built it for her early this year, it's a smaller place for her to live in in her old age. The house on the property that she moved out of was the first insitu adobe house built in New Zealand, and has been on several TV shows, in New Zealand and internationally. We've explored lots of experimental ways of building with natural and recycled materials there.
In 1998 I was laying a mixed media floor in my mothers' art house. It was poured clay with a pebble mosaic and slate design. I was getting the clay from a china clay mine in our area (Far North of New Zealand).
They knew me as an experimenter of building styles and materials and asked if I would be interested in investigating a way of using their waste product from the mining process. The tailings, (as we refer to the waste product) are 30% china clay and 70% silica powder in very fine particles. The fineness is the part that makes them such a problematic waste product. When it is dry it turns to dust and blows into the atmosphere, when it rains it mixes with water and flows into the water tables.
I experimented for 4 years to come up with the architectural sculpting compound we call Darjit. Darjit is made of mine tailings, paper fiber (we recycle newspaper, magazines, junk mail, etc. to make the fiber) and recycled old paint from the hazardous waste dumps. When used outside in the elements it is stabilized with cement. Darjit can be used to build houses, floors, walls and roofs. It is load bearing, insulating and very tactile and friendly to live with. If the building is a parabolic shape, it needs no other structural framing aside from itself. As an interior plaster it doesn't need painting, making it a non-toxic, environmentally friendly alternative. As an exterior plaster and sculpting compound the possibilities seem endless. Given the times we live in, I consider this a very important product and have made the wide spread use of it my passion.
In 2002 I formed the New Zealand based company Alchymia LTD. My strategy was to develop, manufacture and distribute Darjit as a building material. I didn't have the financial backing to carry this until it became economically viable. So I set up a wood fired oven manufacturing plant as the financial income side of Alchymia. This gave the opportunity to showcase Darjit as the outside finish on the ovens and gave the ovens a unique sculptured, ascetic finish. I could then afford office and manufacturing staff for the oven business which allowed me the time to research and develop Darjit.
I quickly found I could build sculptures in large scale. Working with Darjit allowed fine detailing capacity, ease and speed of use that no other product would allow. As I gained recognition for my work, my peers wanted me to teach them about Darjit and the techniques I'd developed to work with it. This seemed like a good way to get Darjit known as a sculpture medium. I started teaching seminars at art schools throughout New Zealand. They were well attended and successful. As Alchymia's representative I started getting invitations to teach at art schools in Australia and California.
Stone Vine Design in Northern California headed by Jennifer Mcgee. Visit Darjit.com for contact details.
These distributors use tailings from local sand mining operations. In some cases we need to add a little clay to get the consistency right.
I now also teach architectural sculpting seminars which cover the making of Darjit as a way of getting Darjit into the building industry, the focus being on cutting back on the demand on dwindling natural resources by recycling and using waste products.
With the USA consuming the most natural resources and having the most waste products that need to be reused, here is an opportunity to be at the forefront of developing a sustainable future model. This is where there is the biggest demand for Darjit training seminars.
I am in the process of getting an educational book on making and building sculptures and landscape architecture together and published.
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