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Shells, algae, mushrooms…: the new materials of tomorrow’s design

At a time when environmental issues are at the heart of industrial and societal challenges, a new generation of designers is exploring new natural materials to evolve the properties of objects and their manufacturing processes. In their workshops, new materials created from organic or mineral elements are emerging as virtuous design pieces. These ecologically conscious designers open the way to new perspectives for a better future. Inspired by the theme “(RE)GENERATION” of the 10th edition of Paris Design Week, Acumen Magazine presents you a portrait of 7 designers who invent the materials of tomorrow and revolutionize the design factory.

Mushrooms, micro-algae, seashells… these natural organic or mineral substances could well compose tomorrow’s chairs on which you will sit. If eco-design is now at the heart of the creative experience and expectations of our society, it is more often associated with the notions of recycling or upcycling than with experimental design. However, a new generation of designers is using research in the field of sciences and biology to experiment with new materials and develop new virtuous manufacturing methods. Through their experimental approach, it’s no longer the object but the material that is at the heart of the design process and becomes a source of exploration. In their workshop-laboratories, biomaterials made up of biological organisms (algae, shells, silk thread, fungi) or transformed natural elements (fibers and liquids) give rise to durable, biodegradable, and, for some, “living” objects capable of surpassing the objective of carbon neutrality and producing oxygen.

While 80% of a product’s environmental impact is determined during its design phase, these designers intervene further upstream on the nature of the material that will be used to create inherently virtuous objects. Manufacturing techniques are rethought to transform these materials and processes with a lower environmental impact, for example, by reducing the production cycle or choosing short circuits. Although they are also researchers and engineers, these designers still play their primordial role in the design of objects, to learn how to work these materials, transform and adapt them, with the aim of making people forget their constraints or highlight their intrinsic beauty.
If ecology is an obvious and totally integrated part of the creative approach of these thirty-ten-year- olds, the aesthetic approach is also one of their preoccupations. Designers and manufacturers are now aware that the sustainable and ethical character of a product is not enough to make it desirable. While it’s important to develop a healthier way of life, reduce the carbon footprint, and protect the planet, this doesn’t mean sacrificing the fundamentals of design, which are to combine function and style in the conception of the object. Between conservation and innovation, this new generation of designers inventing tomorrow’s materials is ushering design into a new era.

7 designers to follow :

Clara Hardy

On the premises of Sericyne, the company founded by Clara Hardy, silkworms don’t produce cocoons but directly weave objects such as lampshades or seamless busters! A graduate of the Ecole Boulle and the ENS, Clara Hardy became fascinated by the world of silk during her studies. She has travelled all over the world and met all of the key players of the industry to get to know all the stages of its manufacture. Considering the multitude of phases necessary for the production of silk yarn, Clara Hardy conceived a protocol to reduce this cycle and privilege short circuits. This technique consists in “educating” the worms to directly weave the silk thread on 3D or 2D flat forms. Thus, instead of weaving a cocoon, the worms weave flat, reproducing the shape on which they are placed. From this is born a new natural material, the “sericine silk,” which can be worked like any other textile. Woven, embroidered, dyed, embossed … or set with stones, crystals, gold leaves, this material offers a range of varied aesthetic qualities that have earned it orders from the great luxury houses. Supported by the LVMH group, Clara Hardy has become the leading producer of silk and silk objects in France and has the long-term objective of reviving the industry.

lucile Viaud

Lucile Viaud

A graduate of the Boulle school, Lucile Viaud is an artist-researcher specializing in the development of bio-based materials. In particular, she promotes marine products from fishing and aquaculture in order to create a 100% marine industry. Under her Ostraco brand, created in 2016, she is working on her research in “geoverrerie” by substituting the raw materials present in the composition of glass with materials sourced from the sea to obtain new materials, such as plaster or marine glass. She uses these materials to design collections of objects blown with a cane, particularly for tableware, such as a glass set made from oyster shells reduced to powder. Winner of one of the Grand Prix de la Création de la Ville de Paris 2018, Lucile Viaud now wishes to extend her processes to other areas and is developing projects with other craftsmen.

Marion Saignon Designer

Marion Seignan

The young designer was introduced to experimental design with a particular interest in organic materials. Having observed that 11 billion liters of milk are thrown away in Europe each year because they are unfit for consumption, for her diploma project, Marion Seignan developed a system for transforming milk into a natural material that is totally bio-degradable. Using casein, a milk protein, she transforms it into a diversity of materials that have several characteristics: soft or hard, porous or dense, translucent or opaque. It’s from these materials that the designer creates biodegradable objects through which she questions our uses, as well as the relationship to time, of the material and our everyday objects.

Julia bourel

Julia Bourel

A graduate of the Paris National Higher School of Decorative Arts in 2014 in design, textiles and materials, Julia Bourel explores the relationships between nature and industry. Her new collection, “I come from the sea,” consists of dyed cement fiber trays combined with aerial metal supporting structures and explores the theme of lack, the sea, and certain sensations.

design bouture d'objet

Boutures d’objets

Laurence Saugé has created Boutures, a company that cares about the environment and uses recycled and innovative materials. Concerned about the waste of resources and the impact of man on biodiversity, she has imagined a collective project bringing together several designers to create collections that experiment with recycled and innovative materials. Made in France, Boutures d’objects aims to change the way we look at recycling and to surprise with tomorrow’s materials. Laurence Saugé’s creations will be exhibited during the Paris Design Week Factory which will be held at the Galerie Joseph at 116, rue de Turenne.