Plastics of the Future?

The Manchester School of Art Collection contain a vast range of material types, from early plastics to 3D printed ceramics, and it now includes a bowl made from part of a fungus. ‘Mycelium Bowl #2 – Oyster (The Growing Lab)’ was recently acquired for our Contemporary Craft and Design (Material and Process Innovation) Collection.
It is formed from Mycelia – the vegetative part of a fungus that usually grows underground. This dense network of threadlike micro-filaments, called Hyphae, will grow on a wide variety of organic substrates such as straw or other agricultural waste. When baked, the network of filaments are transformed into a light, durable and waterproof material.

Image property of Officina Corpuscoli. The Growing Lab | Mycelium Bowl #2 - Oyster Photographer: ©Maurizio Montalti (Officina Corpuscoli)

Image property of Officina Corpuscoli. The Growing Lab | Mycelium Bowl #2 – Oyster Photographer: ©Maurizio Montalti (Officina Corpuscoli)

When initially examined, the bowl has a lightweight, cork-like quality despite its thick-walled form. Yet, on closer examination, the material is incredibly hard, strong and dense. And yes.. it does smell of mushrooms! This material is unlike any other we have and is almost certainly unique in the museum collections of the North West of England. The designer, Maurizio Montalti (Officina Corpuscoli), has expressed the need for an alternative to traditional industrial production methods. He has initiated various research projects to demonstrate how  synthetic, oil-based materials, such as plastics, could be replaced with mycelium-based materials, grown on natural, organic substrates. Moreover, mycelium-based materials are fully compostable and can be freely disposed of, e.g. in a garden, re-entering the natural cycles and becoming nutrients for new life.

If you would like to see the bowl please contact us to make an appointment. To find out more about Maurizio Montalti’s work visit Officina Corpuscoli.

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