As we continue to convert more and more of the earth's resources into products for the human world, we need to consider that what we have already converted is not going anywhere: it will remain in its product form. This project is meant to bring materials with explicit circular life-cycles into our everyday lives and home use.
Humans have made their living spaces beautiful and inviting with the decoration of houseplants for thousands of years. These houseplants—aside from their laboratory tested positive psychological effects on humans, and gas exchange of carbon dioxide into oxygen—do nothing in people's homes but survive. Beth Esponnette sees more potential for houseplants' use in the home, and she has tested this by introducing plants and derivative material into products like clocks, lights, and stools.
Esponnette is an Assistant Professor of Product Design at the University of Oregon, where she spends her time considering new ways of manufacturing and new materials for our products. She wonders how much longer the earth will allow people to build products from synthetic materials, with its limited materials inventory, and how sustainable products' current linear trajectories actually are. Design needs to consider a product's life past the point of purchase.
To Esponnette, the plants in her latest series provide more than just a welcoming aesthetic and inviting texture—when applied correctly, they can also provide cushion, surface protection, and temperature insulation. The lichen bounces back with great compression strength and traps air very well. There are many reasons why these plants are found so abundantly outside, covering the forest floor: they are resilient.
To create the clocks, Esponnette blended grown Cladonia Evansii lichen with silicone in various-sized molds. To create the stool, she graded Cladonia Evansii lichen into concrete within a stool mold to achieve a soft gradient along the stool's vertical z-axis. These products have a curious and exciting textures and absorb compressive force well.
To create the floral lights, Esponnette collected and dried flowers, including lavender, gypsophila, ammobium, gladiolus, snapdragons, strawflowers, miscanthus, and sedum. She then poured two-part, pre-cured silicone into a mold, inserted a cavity negative and then embedded the flowers into the silicone as if arranging a vase. The cured result resembles an inverted bouquet of flowers, and disperse light in a pleasing way. The light seems to emanate from the flowers themselves.