In response to the widespread presence of digital technology that dematerializes experience, the students of Design Academy Eindhoven explore the dimension of touch as a focal point of experience.
And, by extension, the return to contact with the earth, people and biodiversity. It was no coincidence that at the entrance to the exhibition Touch Base curated by Ilse Crawford and Thomas Widdershoven in the Ventura zone there was a corral with a sheep and a small meadow to remark on our loss of contact with farm animals. But also to demonstrate an entire economic system that can be generated by wool processed on site.
The projects included interesting research on natural materials. Pine trees are an abundant and accessible resource in Europe, but they are prevalently used for solid wood. The large quantity of pine needles, on the other hand, is seldom used, though they represent 20-30% of the mass of a tree. The designer Tamara Orjola uses them to make a sort of fiber through techniques of crumbling, soaking, carding, folding and pressing.
The fiber can become fabric, a composite material or paper, and even provides essential oils and natural dyes. Similarly, Nina Gautier finds unexpected virtues in nettles, for both medicine and fertilizer. They also have textile applications: the fibers of the plant can be combined with traditional yarns to reinforce the structure, while other parts are used for natural dying in a range of different hues.
The Latvian designer Sarmite Polakova uses the inside of pine bark, which has properties similar to those of leather, as a covering or a material for fashion accessories and furnishing complements. With respect to tanned leather, the bark offers another variable: time. The pieces last for about ten years, so their natural decay becomes part of the project, not only in aesthetic terms, but also in terms of the product life cycle, which includes the phase of return to the earth.
Decay as a part of the project is also a characteristic of the Soilid seat by Erez Nevi Pana, made in an oven with methods that are not unlike cooking: precise quantities of soil, fungi and other natural materials like sugar are blended to give rise to a solid object that can be shaped in a mold. The surface is so strong that it can even be sanded, sawed or perforated.
Photos by Emanuele Zamponi – Text by Valentina Croci