Not exactly alchemy, but close: in the next chapter in Formafantasma's Autarchy project—where they reimagine, semi-utopically, the way we use our natural resources—the design studio looks closely at conifer trees, an important source of lumber, resin and turpentine. Instead of chopping the trees down and processing them into a series of independent products, typical of present-day manufacturing processes, the studio is attempting "to show the qualities of plants through a single object, utilising every aspect of the tree, from the resin to the wood." This is easy enough, given the multitude of industrial processes available to us these days, but Formafantasma attempts to operate outside of them, to find new means of slow but durable production.
In April of this year, Formfantasma undertook a similar project with sorghum, inviting master broom makers and bakers as collaborators; this time, they integrates their own research on creating natural polymers. Below, they describe their methods, to be performed at the Abu Dhabi Art Fair 2010 between the 4th and 7th of November:
Four blocks of solid pine will be excavated and carved
in order to create a mould from the void in the wood. The collected waste
is then reduced to a powder, mixed with natural hydraulic lime, flour,
water and pressed like clay back on the wood. The material will be slowly
dried by electric incandescent bulbs and later lacquered with a mixture of
pine resin melted together with bees wax, so to make the bowls waterproof.