ProjectOut of the Woods
Out of the Woods explores the forest as an ecosystem yielding a diversity of material possibilities. This exploration refuses to reduce the forest to a mine for wood alone as currently practiced in vast territories of the world with the disastrous consequences we have all heard of.
The forest is a realm of awe and serenity but also chaos and freight. We long for this disorienting, majestic entity when we need to come to our senses, when we feel the need to reconnect. We have been depending on and connected to this ecosystem for food, medicine, as a refuge, for the construction of our homes, the list is long. Its effects on our health are understood by certain cultures better than others but are becoming universally embraced by scientist and health practitioners alike. It is an ecosystem of complex life forms of which the functioning still lies beyond our full understanding, hence its connotation with chaos and danger, mystical power and brutality. The forest is the context of destruction and attempted resurrection; of ritual and tradition; of history and future; of growth and decay; of disconnected societies and attempts of reconnection from ever more individuals.
Our planet’s forests are the scenery of massive ecological destruction fuelling the paper, furniture and building industry and feeding design and architecture. In this period of accelerated climate change, demographic growth and overconsumption, the planet’s forests are eroding, threatening and threatened by human existence. How can we holistically approach the forests and its ecosystems, and the life and life-giving wealth they contain?
Based on forgotten knowledge and in collaboration with some of the last craftsmen of their kind, Studio Plastique has dissected the challenges and potential for the use of Rosin as a binder for the development of a new material combining forest resources such as leaves, needles, bark but also residues from the industry such as wood dust and rejected wood. This lays bare the relevance for more balanced methods and contexts to take part in defining the future for the forest and its resources.
The qualities of this thermoplastic material have been at this stage explored in thickness, strength, plasticity, joining, finish and aesthetic depth. Also their behaviour when processed and machined for example by waterjet cutting, abrasive cutting, milling, screw tapping, sanding, filing and polishing have been positively tested and were used in the development of the boxes.
The proportions of the ingredients structuring the material, the temperature and pressure used when moulding the material, the application of texture, the types of moulds used, etc. are the result of an extensive laboratory experimentation phase, leading to the current stage and possibilities without yet finding limits to its further development. At the end of life, this material loses none of its interest as it integrates its original ecosystem flawlessly: it will decay over time, becoming a resource in its turn for the life-forms fuelling on it.
The current stage of the project shows the development and the possibilities of the material for mechanical processing of diverse nature based on its inherent physical properties and thus its potential as a material for design.
The resulting objects form a collection of boxes paying tribute to the properties and beauty of the material in its multiple surfaces and embodying simplicity and honesty of intention. The boxes play with constructive proportions for the different forest resources: wooden details and rosin-based material surfaces of diverse composition. Species of trees like for example white pine, red pine, and yellow pine as well as their bark, needles, leaves and industrial residues but also charcoal as a residue of the production of natural tar combine into a palette of sensible possibilities the collection aims to showcase. It has also been of primordial importance to the studio to highlight the desire of advocating an entangled and balanced relation to our natural environments and their resources, rather than a unidirectional alternative leading to the next excessive exploitation. The objects of Out of the woods thus express a sense of diversity and belonging: to nature to our human context and to each other.
This project was initiated for the exhibition ‘Generous Nature’ by Belgium is Design, 2018/19.
x Julien Feller
x Julien Feller
Studio Plastique and Julien Feller collaborated to create this box as a symbiosis of their respective practices.
The main material used for the object is a development by Studio Plastique – based on the almost forgotten craft of tree-tapping. The material combines tree resin with a variety of other forest materials such as sawdust and bark, which are waste streams from the timber industry. The result is a natural and biodegradable material that respects the ecosystems involved.
For this project, the carving residues from Julien Feller’s wooden laces were used as the main ingredient, combined with pine resin. The outside of the box – of which the shape is inspired by shipping crates – incorporates the boxwood shavings, the inside the boxwood bark.
Similar to hieroglyphs, a story related to the contexts of the materials and processes involved is engraved on the faces of the object by Julien. Each side depicts a different context: the natural challenges boxwood and pine face, their botanical specifications, a microscopic view revealing the cellular structures of the wood species, the tools involved in sculpting and producing the material, and a representation of the wood species. The engraving therefore draws attention to this natural thermoplastic material, bringing back to the foreground an ancestral know-how that has almost disappeared.
This collaboration was initiated and supported by Wallonie Design.