Mexican designer Fernando Laposse has recently developed a naturally colorful material made with native Mexican corn husks, called “Totomoxtle”.
Moved by the conviction of creating materials and objects for a new generation of conscious users, Fernando Laposse has been working on various projects focused on sustainable design since he graduated Central Saint Martins in 2012, including a glassware made from 100% roti-moulded melted sugar or a loofah-based series of furniture including a coffee table and adjustable light. Totomoxtle is his latest design investigation and was recently showcased as part of an exhibition exploring past and future heritage entitled ‘legacy‘ at the third edition of Schloss Hollenegg for design.
By recycling and treating corn husks through a craftsmanship process, Fernando Laposse created a new sustainable material that can be used as a surfacing veneer for interiors and furniture: the husks are flattened and glued by hand onto boards and card that work as reinforcement. The prime material has obviously some limitations for the dimensions of the average corn leaf but it also showed to be quite flexible as small sheets can be sawed or laser cut to create marquetry.
Beside creating a new sustainable material, Fernando Laposse’s project is moved by the necessity to raise awareness about the rapid loss of the original species of corn in today’s globalized world. Corn is the most planted grain globally and the key element of Mexican meals. It was first planted in Mexico 9000 years ago and the country now has over 60 different species, each with its own wonderful flavor color and texture.
Unfortunately, the increasing use of GMO corn has been devastating local agriculture in Mexico, where corn represents not only the main food but also the principal living source.
Created in a partnership with indigenous farmers, the project creates local employment based on this new craft to ensure farmers can keep planting their heirloom varieties. ‘Totomoxtle is inspired by the relationship of my country with its maize,’the London-based Mexican designer explains. ‘It focuses on the people who are struggling to harvest it with traditional methods in a globalized world. This project is intended to make more income for famers by making an inexpensive secondary product — the veneer — from husks that would otherwise go to waste. This will help them have the financial independence to keep planting native seeds and decide how they want to feed themselves.’
Fernando Laposse’s work is deeply rooted in material experimentation and craft by suing cheap, readily available material or waste to create projects that can raise questions regarding whole system thinking, ephemerality, patterns of consumption and the politics of food production.
The mix of playfulness and sophistication that characterizes his work is what makes it so fascinating. If you have missed some of our latest Arts and Crafts posts, you can check them here.