Sugru: A Wonder Stuff for Hacking Things Better

Sugru is a malleable silicone based substance used for all manner of applications and is capable of being used in all sorts of environments. Like modelling clay it can shaped and formed to repair items large and small and it is possible to use it to enhance their design and function as well. It was invented by Jane Ni Dhulchaointigh who went to study at the Royal College of Art in 2002.

It took more than six years to develop Sugru to the point that it could be made available to the general public. It is a material that can be moulded into any shape you wish to make and has the advantage of maintaining the integrity of that shape once it has set. Once the packet is opened there is a thirty minute window to create the desired form and then a twelve hour wait while the material cures at room temperature. Apart from repairs, in the true repurposing tradition of hacking, it is possible to amend or adapt the shape or function of existing items.

How did you get the idea for Sugru?

“It came from a design project. I wasn’t so interesting in designing more consumer products for shops. I wanted to do something that was more about individuals making things and empowering people to redesign and improve the stuff that they have instead of throw it away.”

“I’m a sculptor, my background is in sculpture and I spent quite a lot of time in materials experimentation. I’m very interested in materials and on the other hand I am very interested in design strategies that are to do with organic growth rather than traditional design. It’s about facilitating and enabling things to happen rather than designing things yourself. Those two things came together in Sugru.”

How did the material itself come into being?

“[Sugru] came out of accidents in terms of material experiments that happened in the workshop. I made a material with silicone, bathroom sealant and very fine wood powder out of the wood extraction system in the workshop where they collect all the dust in a bin. I combined that wood dust with silicon sealant to make this paste that then turned into a rubber. I started using that to make sculptures and other things.

“There was some leftover so I used it in my house to improve stuff. I modified the sink plug so the water wouldn’t drain out as I had a problem with the sink plug not fitting. And I used it to customize some knife handles to make them more comfortable to hold.

“Then I got a bit of a lightbulb moment and I realized that if something in that vein, obviously more refined, industrially reproducible and safe was available then I thought a lot of people would find that quite handy.”

On Sunday, December 5, at 2pm a Hackquarium (a word coined by the people at Sugru,) will take place at 091 Labs where people are invited to bring all items they wish to repair modify, decorate and just plain hack.

According to Jane, “Hackquarium is an idea for people to get together and so some making and hacking – a bit of craic really.”

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