Just like sea levels and global temperatures, biomaterials are on the rise. Essentially defined as a substance engineered to take a form used to interact with components of living systems, the roughly half- century-old science has traditionally been used for diagnostic or therapeutic procedures. It was only a matter of time before it seeped into the commercial world.
Not to add to the disgruntled folk grousing about consumerism but at the consumption rate we’re speeding through, it’s only natural (ha!) to look to biodegradable matter as a solution to the mounting landfills. Sprinkle a little creativity and these alternative constructs transform into a teeming well of potential. Learn about the intriguing biobased materials from cow blood to cigarette butts, and the creative minds behind them.
BIOMATERIALS: COW BLOOD AND CHICKEN EGGS
This one is clearly not for the faint-hearted. Yet while the extraction is gruesome, the outcome is surprisingly far from it. It’s hard to believe the sleek, black series of small items are made from 100 percent discarded cow blood from the meat industry.
The protein-based polymer is made by dehydrating the blood into powder, which can be heated and bound by the adhesive properties of the albumin protein when pressed. “I’d say my practice is material centred; how it can be created, applied, used or reused and questioned,” German designer Basse Stittgen affirms.
He hopes that the approach could lead to investigations into production cycles, or become a tool to unfold hidden narratives and potentials embedded in the matter at hand. The mutual impact between nature and culture is very much the focus of the materials he works with, with depletion and aversion as central themes.
“With cow blood, it shows the destructive repercussions that mass slaughter has on the environment, the animals and the people working in the industry; by giving physical form to something that would otherwise remain hidden.” The designer has acknowledged the value and sanctity of blood, and the irony of it reduced to nothing more than a massive waste in the context of the slaughterhouse.
It’s the same story with damaged and b-stock egg whites and shells, which Stittgen thermoforms into bioplastic cups with zero additives. There’s something poetic about the fully degradable egg packaging, protecting the egg which symbolises the beginning of life, juxtaposed against how it is swallowed up in cheap consumption.
More amazing then, seeing the extraordinary potential in an ordinary item. By mending the torn thread between production and consumption, Stittgen works to shed light on contemporary issues and uncomfortable topics. In a variation of project Blood Related, the designer worked with the highly stigmatised blood of donors who are HIV positive.
“Rather than sustainability, I’d like to say that my practice focuses on awareness,” Stittgen says. “Awareness can be the first step towards a positive change and through that, sustainability can be achieved. I believe that we often don’t need new or different things, but we need to take better care of what we already have.”
Find out more about Studio Basse Stittgen.