Last year, materials expert Aart van Bezooyen traveled around the world on the “It’s Not Easy Being Green-tour” – in search for sustainable solutions in materials and design. Together with his partner Paula Raché, he explored twelve countries during six months and returned with lots of inspiring materials and items with great stories.
Photo: Golden grass fields in the Jalapão region of Brazil. Source: Mapapalo Creations
Brazil was the first country we visited after leaving our home for six months. At the local markets our eyes were amazed by a plant called “golden grass,” a wild flowering plant native to the humid grasslands of central Brazil.Photo: Golden Grass jewelry from the artisan markets in Curitiba (Brazil)
The uniqueness of this flowering plant lies in its innate, shiny golden sheen. The stems of golden grass are very delicate and lightweight and is mainly used and crafted for jewelry, baskets, and household accessories. Golden grass can only be harvested once a year after seed maturation and dispersion, to ensure the continued growth of the species. It’s a pure vegetable material from a renewable source that grows naturally in the wild.
In Argentina we visited the Metropolitan Design Center where design studio Pomada was exploring so called “chaguar fibers” to discover new interior and furniture applications for this traditional material.
Chaguar fiber is a vegetal fiber that can be woven into textiles with various colors and patterns for a wide range of products. The chaguar fiber is mainly employed by the Wichí Tribal Groups in the provinces of Salta and Formosa, Argentina, to provide a resistant fiber. Pomada, a young design studio based in Buenos Aires, recently started exploring new (interior) design applications for this local craft. The production of chaguar textiles is clearly an activity for women who travel into the forest in small groups to harvest the chaguar, separate its fibers, spin it, dye it and knit it. The fibers can be made into fishing nets, bags, string, ropes, hammocks, mats, covers and clothing.
In Santiago, young designers made us curious with stories about products made of hair.
We discovered that Crin (horse hair) weaving is one of Chile’s most distinctive folk crafts woven out of dyed horsehair. Almost all Crin crafts originate from Rari, a small town located 300 km south of Santiago. Crin is made entirely by hand (no equipment is involved) and results in exquisitely fine objects.
Crin craft skills are passed on from mother to daughter. Today, many of the women over the age of 30 who live in Rari and practice the craft, say they learned weaving as young girls observing their mothers. They also mention that today’s generation of young girls are not so interested in these crafts anymore. Crafts are an important part of a local culture and we expect that design(ers) can play an important role to keep crafts like this alive.
During our lecture in Indonesia, local designers told us about Magno Radio made by Singgih Susilo Kartono, a real “local hero.”
Together with a team of 30 young and skilled cabinet makers he produces individual radios and small items in his workshop in Temanggung on Central Java. His company secures the income of local families and gives the young workers a professional perspective combined with fair social standards. Magno comes from the word “magnify”. Singgih interprets Magno as “seeing details” similar to the functioning of a magnifying glass. The small Magno products all have a simple and beautiful form. They are built with a high quality of craftsmanship to draw the attention of the people to the details of the products.
If you enjoy Indonesian TV, watch Singgih S. Kartono at the Kick Andy Show (2009) here:
During our six months of traveling we were amazed by the 1001 uses and products made of bamboo.
If you thought only plastic was versatile, think again! At the Chatuchak market in Thailand (one of my favorite hotspots) we found the kratib, a handmade household container to keep sticky rice nice and warm over time. The container consists of two parts which are made of woven bamboo strips. The double layered wall keeps the hot rice breathe and regulates the moisture level.
Local workers often carry kratibs with them to keep their home cooked rice warm for lunch. Bamboo is one of the most common materials for handicrafts in Thailand. This is because of its availability and flexible properties.
Kratib basket made of cleverly woven bamboo strips
It’s not easy to be green (2011)
It’s Not Easy Being Green was a project by Aart and Paula traveling around the world for 184 days. Aart van Bezooyen is educator and founder of Material Stories. Paula Raché is a Berlin born designer experienced in graphic, packaging and exhibition design. Together they decided to embark on a six month journey around the world to discover and share solutions in materials and design to give our tired planet a helping hand.
Currently, they are writing a book that brings together their local discoveries to inspire and enable more sustainable design.
Upcoming Book (2012)
More local happenings can be found at the website ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’ with over 300 photos, online articles and references. An upcoming book about sustainable design will bring local materials, personal stories, tools and methods, and cultural context, and will be available this summer. For more information please email Aart and Paula at: firstname.lastname@example.org
About Aart van Bezooyen
Aart founded Material Stories in 2005 to bridge the gap between the materials industry and the world of design.
> More about Aart van Bezooyen
About the Hello Materials exhibition
Experience fascinating examples of present and future materials and gain an insight into what they will mean to society and the individual. Visit the exhibition between the 2nd of April and the 21st of September 2012.
> Visit ddc.dk for more information about the Hello Materials exhibition