French designers Laurence Saugé (Boutures d'Objets) and Louise Rué "cultivate" objects in volume from mushroom filaments. Their window decorations and ‘vegetal’ spheres can already be produced in small and medium runs.
Early this April, in Paris, as part of the Journées Européennes des Métiers d'Art (European Fine Crafts Days), Louise Rué and Laurence Saugé showed their ‘vegetal’ spheres, cultivated from oyster mushroom and shiitake mycelium.
With a softness comparable to that of the skin of a camembert - "but even thinner and slightly vaporous", the material is naturally water-repellent and biodegradable in home compost. Could it remain in contact with water for days without being altered? “Absolutely!" affirm the designers. "Once dehydrated, mycelium is hydrophobic for at least four to five days, unless it is completely immersed of course. In the case of the vases we exhibited at the show, they can be dried and then reused if necessary.”
The material’s vocation is to be an ephemeral replacement for petroleum-based foam and polystyrene merchandising fitments, notably for events and/or window displays (note that mycelium is fire-resistant). But also in packaging, as an alternative to cushioning systems since the material is both extremely lightweight and shock-absorbent.
Shaped by molding
Here, mycelium is both a raw material and a binder: "We grow it on a substrate that serves as a support. Most of the time, we use hemp straw, which provides good mechanical resistance. The mixture is grown in molds to reach the desired shape then dehydrated for stability. To obtain a relatively simple part, it takes four to five days.”
This time frame cannot be compared to injection molding, of course, but the material rendering is distinctive. Especially since it can attain geometries that are both detailed and complex. "The limit here is that the material is not good with right angles and sharp edges,” where the straw can easily pull away and the material can tear. "But it is perfect for rounded and curved organic shapes."
The two designers have not yet delved into the question of coloring the material: "For the moment, we are working mainly on white and beige variations that essentially come from the substrates we use and possibly embellished with flower inclusions. Of course, we could paint the material, but that would mean losing the aesthetic qualities of the mycelium to tend towards what looks a bit too much like polystyrene to our taste!"