Recycle and Renew: Future Materials Bank Archives Hundreds of Projects that Emphasize Sustainability
Fashion designer Stella McCartney’s latest collection made headlines with a form-fitting jumpsuit composed of iridescent, scale-like sequins made entirely from plant-based compounds. Lauded for her longtime interest in sustainable fashion, the designer collaborated with Radiant Matter, a studio founded by Elissa Brunato dedicated to producing “naturally shimmering biomaterials.” Engineered from renewable cellulose, the biodegradable material provides an environmentally conscious alternative to mass-produced plastics. It’s just one of nearly 400 remarkable projects archived in by the Future Materials Bank.
In 2020, the Jan Van Eyck Academie in The Netherlands saw an opportunity to respond to the global shift toward sustainability. The Future Materials program was established to position “art, design, and other creative practices in relation to the climate crisis, environmental breakdown, and their manifold effects,” tapping into artists’ and designers’ penchant for experimentation. Through researching and proposing renewable alternatives to unsustainable practices, the program aimed to open up discourse and set “a framework that embraces a diversity of practices and allows for a multitude of voices.”
Placing an emphasis on the availability of different materials around the world, the archive showcases substances and resources found in a range of climates and various industrial processes. In Uganda, Katesi Jacqueline Kelange repurposed polyethylene bags, plastic strips, and second-hand clothes to create lightweight woven shelters and costumes for public performances that draw attention to the need to move away from the manufacture of products that rely on fossil fuels.
Ubiquitous yet unexpected organic sources appear in textiles, such as seaweed, human hair, or plant roots. Intricate fabrics made of roots by Zena Holloway (previously), for example, are grown inside beeswax molds; nature does all the work producing the lacy detail. Matter that seasonally sheds onto the forest floor and would normally rot on the ground, like tree bark or pine needles, can be gathered and processed into modern tableware. And items like pendant lamps, vessels, or stools can repurposed from limestone dust or ceramic waste—industrial byproducts—into functional objects.
The Future Materials Lab was launched in collaboration with the Material Futures Masters course at London’s Central Saint Martins and facilitates “an ecologically mindful approach to material choices.” Find out more about the program on the Jan Van Eyck Aademie’s website, peruse the Future Materials Bank for inspiration, and follow on Instagram. You might also like Phillip Lim and Charlotte McCurdy’s sequins made from algae.
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Discarded Scallop Shells Combine with Recycled Plastics in the Waste-Reducing ‘Shellmet’
The village of Sarufutsu in Hokkaido, Japan, is known for bringing in some of the country’s biggest hauls of scallops. Unfortunately, when the bivalves are processed for the food industry, they generate about 40,000 tons of discarded shells annually. The village teamed up with product design startup Quantum and plastics manufacturer Koushi to tackle the ever-mounting quantities in local landfills. Along came Hotamet—a portmanteau of “hotate” (which means scallop) and “helmet”—alternatively known as Shellmet. The marine-inspired, eco-friendly safety accessory incorporates discarded, crushed scallop shells into a protective covering.
A main component of seashells is calcium carbonate, a compound also found in hard materials like eggshells, pearls, and some rocks and minerals. Combined with recycled plastic, the substance produces a tough material that Quantum and Koushi could form into headgear. “Based on the idea of biomimicry, Shellmet incorporates a special rib structure in its design that mimics the structure of scallops, which are part of the material. As a result, we have achieved a strength approximately 33 percent greater than normal,” Quantum says.
Originally designed as a protective hat for the fishing community, Shellmet will also come in handy when Japan mandates that all bicyclists must wear protective headgear starting in April this year. You can find more information on the company’s website. (via Spoon & Tamago)
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So Far So Good: Vivid Paintings by Murmure Take a Wry Perspective on the Climate Crisis
Artists Paul Ressencourt and Simon Roche, a.k.a. Murmure (previously), have worked collaboratively for the past twelve years to synthesize a studio-based practice with large-scale street art. In high-contrast acrylic paintings, the duo reference the climate crisis and enduring problems of overconsumption, especially regarding the immense impact that humans have on marine life and rising sea levels. The artists’ new exhibition Jusqu’ici tout va bien, which translates to “So far so good,” approaches environmental catastrophes like thawing glaciers and overfishing from a characteristically sardonic perspective.
Ressencourt and Roche focus on the absurdity of capitalist systems in the face of destruction. Paradoxes abound as surveyors plot developments on a melting ice sheet, supine whales are served up as giant sushi rolls, and oblivious holiday-makers dive from icebergs and wade around shorelines devoid of flora and fauna. “In spite of everything, Murmure favors in their art a form of beauty which contrasts with the cruelty, the stupidity, and the urgency of the situations depicted in their works,” the exhibition statement explains.
Jusqu’ici tout va bien is on view at Galerie LJ in Paris through November 26. You can find more of Murmure’s work on their website and Instagram.
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Diverse Ecosystems Merge in Hyperrealistic Paintings of Flora and Fauna by Lisa Ericson
Ecosystems intermingle and mammals find themselves immersed in an increasingly watery world in Lisa Ericson’s hyperrealistic acrylic paintings. A hare and a mountain goat, which would typically be found in dry climates or high elevations, stand atop a small island of cacti or rock in an ongoing series of works that view the climate crisis—especially the impending rise of sea levels—through a lens of magical realism.
Drawing on the artistic legacy of chiaroscuro, or contrast between the bright figures and deep background, Ericson’s compositions appear as if a spotlight has been directed on the scene to highlight unusual interactions, such as a fox ferrying bluebirds across a waterway or a mountain goat stranded on a submerged rocky peak. Furthering the notion that environmental change cannot be ignored, the titles speak to witnessing immense change, experiencing a sense of foreboding, and heeding warnings.
You can see some of Ericson’s recent works on view at Antler Gallery in Portland, Oregon, through November 20, and find more on her website and Instagram.
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Anthropomorphic Interventions in the Landscape by Estelle Chrétien Playfully Examine Rural Life
For artist Estelle Chrétien, the expansive lawns, fields, and wooded ravines around her home in Nancy, France, and other parts of Europe become sites of mischievous mixed-media interventions. Through a playful approach that she refers to as gauillant, akin to the feeling of playing in the mud or jumping in puddles, the works develop through chance encounters with the landscape and objects within it. Displayed in an “open-air” exhibition style, her pieces can be encountered by viewers in a similar way, with the potential to surprise and delight.
Chrétien is particularly interested in rural and natural places and examines the way we interact with those environments through an often humorous or ironic anthropomorphizing of her surroundings. Naturally occurring forms and textures inspire temporary installations like “Dessous” (“Underneath”) in which a tree with a double trunk, adorned with some oversized underpants, transforms into a pair of long legs jutting out of the ground. In “Opération Terrestre” (“Land Operation”) the manicured lawn of a stately home has received a wound in need of stitches.
The process of learning how to construct or manipulate different mediums is an important part of Chrétien’s approach. From crocheting industrial twine around a hay bale to repurposing a door into the shape of a giant key fob, she enjoys experimenting with unassuming materials in unexpected locations. She is currently preparing for a new open-air project in France this summer, and you can find more of her projects on her website and Instagram.
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An Ornate Metallic Butterfly Hides Hundreds of Symbols in a Screenprint by Seb Lester
In his latest screenprint, artist, and calligrapher Seb Lester (previously) focuses on the Transcendentals: the virtues of truth, beauty, and goodness as they manifest to all living things. In the form of a butterfly, the work is filled with dozens of hidden symbols that dot the insect’s wings and abdomen, a mixture of order and chaos rendered in metallic ink. Lester shares about the piece:
It has been said that artists often seek to create order from chaos. Recent times have been nothing if not chaotic. In ‘Butterfly’ I’m trying to visualise a beautiful reconciliation, a balancing and harmonising of our currently fraught and destructive relationship with the flora and fauna of this beautiful and fragile planet.
“Butterfly” is available as a limited edition of 75 in Lester’s shop and is nearly sold out. You can follow more from the Lewes, England-based artist on Instagram.
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Editor's Picks: Animation
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