Making a green stand – literally and figuratively

By Peter Kerr 22/10/2013

Flexibition's range of sustainable exhibition stand products

Flexibition’s range of sustainable exhibition stand products

Here’s an example of a simple idea being good, and a good idea being simple.

It’s also pretty green in the scheme of these things as well as being a “why didn’t I think of that.”

‘Flexibition’ is the brainchild of Wellington designer Juliet Cooke. (

She was showing what has been designed as a packaway exhibition system made from entirely sustainable materials at, somewhat appropriately, the GoGreen Expo in Wellington on October 12 & 13.

Flexibition is based on a lightweight bamboo framework and various fabric panels. These panels include recyclable polyester, jute (recycled coffee sacks) and recycled dacron sails.

Cooke’s got a background in designing for various types of display in exhibitions and museums and other tricky spaces, so is well aware of the collapsible aluminium stands that are readily available.

After a request from a couple of organic-oriented clients (Mary Kelleher of Handmade Stories, and Richard Bacon of Organic Boxes), Cooke perfected her initial two-panel design.

This packs into a 2.1m x 200mm diameter carry bag (jute of course!) weighing eight kilograms. It costs $1700 + GST, plus another $500 for printing. This compares to its aluminium/plastic poor relation which start at about $2100 + GST.

Upcoming developments include a single pop-up stand designed for airline travel which will probably cost less than the two-panel version.

Cooke is a 3D designer, specialising in exhibitions – and this often involves designing furniture, sometimes of a pack down variety for touring shows. Part of her sustainable product repertoire is a collapsible seat, using simple panels held together by rubber straps. This is all the better to allow exhibition-goers a green seating option, with the ultimate plan being to join these together to make various modular structures such as tables and a bench seat.

She says it isn’t worthwhile trying protect the intellectual property or design, but that there’s enough tricky elements in creating a sturdy simple structure that will make imitations difficult.

“The joining method is probably pretty easily imitated, but the supply of materials and craftsmanship for the stand is harder to come by,” she says. “I’m still investigating the viability of various methods of production for the box seat, including getting it made out of recycled material at Trash Palace [Wellington dump’s ‘treasure trove’], and helping to rehabilitate mental health patients. There’s a bit of social sustainability and saving material from the landfill.”

It is early days for a new side of Cooke’s enterprise with the stand being about 12 months in development, and the box seat a much more recent addition to the Flexibition range.

“I’ve got other sustainable product ideas up my sleeve, including a collapsible vase that can fit in a car for funeral flower arrangements,” she says. “Of course though, all this has to be juggled with museum exhibition design contracts and my family’s needs.”