Décor/Nature/Recycling | God's World News


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    These sconces from designer Nina Edwards Ankers are made from dried algae. (nea studio via AP)
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    This chandelier is made from dried algae. (nea studio via AP)
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    A Svala brand purse made of cork (Handout)
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    This nea studio sofa is filled with lentils. (Handout)
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    Two Mexican innovators, Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez, created a faux (imitation) leather using cactus leaves. (Marte Cázarez via AP)
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Nina Edwards Ankers’ light fixtures look like ancient parchment or bronze taffy draped around lightbulbs. In reality, her signature look comes from . . . algae. Ankers is one of many artists thinking beyond traditional materials and melding design with sustainability.

Ankers landed on algae during a research project. She was studying materials and lighting in Norway. Now she creates light fixtures that include green algae. Her collection contains sconces, lamps, and even a chandelier named “Chlorophyta” after an algae.

Ankers doesn’t camouflage the algae. Her lampshades include the God-given variations, undulating wrinkles, and hues of common northern California seaweed.

“From the beginning, we wanted to keep the integrity of the material and display its unique properties,” Ankers says.

She is part of a movement in textile pattern and development. She and other designers increasingly emphasize recycled materials to produce new products.

The team at Ankers’ nea (her initials) studio work with a variety of natural materials.

“For lighting, we’re interested in red/orange algae, sustainably sourced [collected from farming or nature] feathers, horseshoe crab shells, and crushed seashells, as well as rubber made of leftover corn,” Ankers says. Materials used in nea furniture include bamboo, beans, buckwheat, cork, and rattan.

Olaf Schmidt is a vice president for the Heimtextil, a cutting-edge German trade fair for textiles and interior design. One product at this year’s fair used seaweed “to produce acoustic mats and panels.” The objects “provide great insulation, are fire-resistant, and regulate humidity well,” Schmidt says. Plus, “at the end of their life, the panels can be shredded and reused.”

Another natural product, cork, is popping up everywhere too. Schmidt calls the material from cork oaks “breathable, hypoallergenic, antibacterial, insulating, and tough.”

Cork home décor products include trays, tables, wall panels, and lighting.

Beyond that, cork is also pulverized and applied to fabrics. It creates a soft, non-animal leather. Some designers use the cork fabric to cover furniture. Others make jackets, shoes, hats, bags, wallets, sunglasses, and umbrellas from cork.

Fashion industry analyst Veronika Lipar sees a shared trend with the various natural products. “The industry is trying to minimize its impact on the environment.”

Versatile cork is still harvested by hand. Harvesters use axes to pierce the bark and pull it away from the living tree.

But gathering what’s readily available can lead to some seemingly unpleasant products. For example, Heimtextil highlighted a mattress made of “marine waste.” Ummm, maybe if sleeping on floating ocean debris doesn’t sound restful, you’re not doing it right?

Why? Minds that are open to creativity and not presumption can find unique and even beautiful solutions in unexpected places.