Sean Rodrigo poses by a stall

Design fixing to help those who need it most

Published: 22 May 2023
Filed under: Communications

Meet Sean Rodrigo, the Walthamstow resident who uses his design expertise to create solutions for those who need it most.

Sean owns The Fixatorium, a studio in Argall Avenue: the base where he uses design, art and technology for social good. He describes it as “design fixing meets social good”.

He focuses on solving challenges such as ‘how to collect more food for a food bank’ or ‘how to reuse plastics in a meaningful and sustainable way’. The studio’s purpose is to help those who need it most and Sean has worked with charities, not-for-profits, community groups, college students and more.

Cllr Clyde Loakes, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Climate, said, “It is fantastic to see local people like Sean helping others in the community and making a difference. His creativity and willingness to help those who need it most is admirable.

“Not only is his work making a real-life impact for the people of Waltham Forest, but design fixing is good for the environment. We need more people to recognise the importance of a circular economy and to repair things rather than throw them away.”

Sean’s work is already recognised in the community. Using his 3D printer, he created ‘mini food banks’ for local group PL84U Al-Suffa. These miniature houses were dotted around the borough and captured the attention of locals, who were curious to see what this was all about.

Sean said, “I saw an opportunity to be creative during the COVID lockdown by reproducing the concept of roadside boxes to encourage donations for foodbanks and the rest is history. The most exciting part of the project was the public response – not only have we collected over 5,000 items of food in the past 18 months, but we’ve also had some heartwarming interactions, including parents teaching their children the importance of charity mixed in with their weekend walks.

“For me, initially the project was a practical way to increase donations for the foodbanks, but turned into a lovely collaboration between the public and myself. It just goes to prove that if you work on a grassroots level, and inject creativity to solve problems, you really can make a practical impact on national issues such as food poverty.”

Other examples of Sean’s impact in the community include creating custom-built playgrounds, an event involving ‘Reggae Santa’, showcasing his 3D printer with a demonstration during Repair Week and his work with volunteers from Waltham Forest College.

There are always multiple projects on the go for Sean, as he comes up with creative solutions for real-life local problems.

He is in the process of creating ‘The Tool House’: a community workspace in the Walthamstow Pumphouse Museum. This space will be fully accessible and will run a range of workshops focusing on things like upcycling, 3D printing and recycled jewellery, as well as having dedicated sessions for people with autism.

Locals can use the community workspace for DIY, repair, arts and crafts or 3D printing, and it will be affordable. Alternatively, people can volunteer at the ‘Tool House’ in exchange for using the space.

Sean said, “We want this space to be inclusive: a community resource that will allow people from different background and those who are not considered ‘typical DIYers’ to learn by doing. We have wheelchair access and a hydraulic hoist between levels specifically installed to allow the space to be inviting for everyone regardless of ability. The space has been built in collaboration with many community members from varying ages, the fantastic helpers from Goodgym and diverse young adult learners from Waltham Forest College, as well as students from local Special Educational Needs schools who we hope to encourage to be involved in the operation of the space.”

The ‘Reuseful Project’ is another on Sean’s radar. This is a plastic recycling initiative where he will work with schools and local community groups to remake plastics into useful objects, such as bookmarks, using a plastic shredder.

Cllr Clyde Loakes added, “At Waltham Forest Council, we are committed to becoming a zero-waste and net zero carbon borough by 2030. Sean’s ongoing work in the community, upskilling local people on repair, will contribute towards a collective effort to reduce waste in Waltham Forest.”

Sean has also received ward funding from Waltham Forest Council to create 100 custom scarves. These will be knitted automatically using machinery and will be donated to those who need it most when temperatures dip again later this year.

Sean is invested in using his skills in design to serve the community. By offering quick solutions to ongoing problems, he has been able to help thousands of people – including those most in need.

He said, “For organisations such as charities, schools, food banks and community groups we are continuing to offer solutions to help solve their biggest challenges using creativity and innovative technology. Waltham Forest is a great place to deliver these projects as the Council and local people have a real interest in my work and are committed to reducing waste.”