Josh Bitelli isn’t entirely comfortable being called a designer. In fact, defying categorization seems integral to this 25-year-old British “maker’s” practice, which moves between materials and methods, interests and ideology to explore subjects such as hidden infrastructures, the nature of labor, or notions of sustainability and decay. “Disciplinary definition can speed things up, it can lead to conversation,” says Leeds-born, Brighton- and London-educated Bitelli. “But I try to maintain an ambiguity. Ambiguity can lead to very interesting things.”

Bitelli’s objects are indeed both ambiguous and very interesting. All are created using the tools and materials of industrial production, and each one incorporates a loosely fictitious narrative. He’s made porcelain trophies using molds made of loaves of bread (Outsized Nutrition, 2012–13). He’s created rough-hewn urns by burning cement from radiation-tainted oysters found off the coast of Scotland (Faslane’s Finest, 2013). And most recently, together with studio partner and old friend Felix Melia, he made Place of Dead Roads (2014), a film exploring romantic concepts of space and objects in Marrakech, Morocco. Coming soon, if all goes well, will be a series of side tables covered in asphalt, a riff on the ideas of infrastructural labor that Bitelli began wrestling with in his White Liners series (2012–14), which consisted of Doctor Seussian tables and shelving finished in asphalt and road paint. Then there’s an exhibition at Depot Basel set for September 2015, which Bitelli may fill “with combustible drawings made out of incense and London plane-tree bark. To survive, London planes shed their bark when it’s saturated with pollution. The idea is to make a brew, a paste, and have fragile objects imbued with this notion of expelled air.”

It’s this quirky intellectualism paired with an aversion to labels that makes Bitelli stand out in today’s art-and-design market, where personal branding and commercial concerns often dominate the work. Instead, Bitelli’s conversations delightfully detour into thoughts on literature, morality, and network theory: “Research into the clusters of networks, be they infrastructural or social, built or sporadic, needs constant reassessment. In the end, everything is malleable.”

Taken from PIN–UP Issue 17, Fall Winter 2014.

Portraits by Harry Mitchell.