Photo credit: Fernando Laposse.
The London Design Fair has chosen biomaterials as its Material of the Year 2019. Now in its third year, the Material of the Year award highlights a key material, one whose properties are the subject of analysis and debate across the design world.
Biomaterials (also known as bio-based materials) are often derived and made from by-products found in the agricultural industry and therefore have the potential to reduce waste and positively contribute to the environment.
Identifying suitable by-products is the first step in a complex process to bring biomaterials to a usable state. It involves hundreds of hours of carefully analysing the different elements of the agriculture chain from which the by-products were derived. A decision is then made about the most suitable moment to harvest these by-products and how they can be sustainably used on a large scale.
Fernando Laposse develops materials from sisal and from the husks of heirloom Mexican corn. An important part of traditional Mexican gastronomy, the country’s native corns range in colour, from wonderfully deep purples to soft yellow creams. Working in partnership with the community of Tonahuixtla in the Mexican state of Puebla, Laposse’s Totomoxtle is helping to regenerate traditional agricultural practices and establish a new craft that generates income for impoverished farmers.
Studio Tjeerd Veenhoven uses leaves from the areca palm; the areca betel nut is a staple ingredient of Indian cuisine. Employing simple, natural ingredients and processes, Tjeerd was able to permanently soften the dry, hard and brittle palm leaf, giving it a leather-like quality. Known as PalmLeather, this project was established in 2010 and has been growing ever since.
Photo credit: Studio Tjeerd Veenhoven
Second Yield exhibition, London Design Fair, Old Truman Brewery, 26 Hanbury Street, London, E1 6QR, until 22 September 2019
Blog post by Kate Grinnell