Back to the future— the bio-pioneers making innovation a thing of the past
From our pivotal position as a design studio, we have the opportunity to positively impact the world, connecting the right people and amplifying the right conversations. Our London Craft Week exhibition Beautility; How Fusing Beauty and Function Can Change the World came together as the purest distillation of this thought. The showcase itself celebrated bio-pioneering efforts of students from Central St Martins and what could be achieved when they were paired with real world change-makers in fashion, fragrance, and architecture. Curated and created by Here Design, the exhibition builds on our all-consuming belief in Beautility - the art of creating beautiful things with meaningful purpose.
When we think of innovation, it’s often the stuff of far-off futures. But innovation can also be rooted in the past – a revisitation of old methods and the most fundamental of components fused with future learnings. Or, future materials in the case of these three MA Material Futures students. And though their sights are set firmly on “tomorrow”, their lofty future imaginings all tell a story that connects us, both emotionally and physically, with our past.
Jesse Adler’s quest for colour is a return to simpler times before mainstream colourants made from fossil fuels became the norm. Discovering that mushrooms and lichens produce colour naturally and have done so without ceremony for over 250 million years, Jesse has found a way to recreate the CMYK palette with natural hues so vivid, they appear synthetic.
There’s something so primal and yet futuristic about her work. That, and the simple wonder that whilst we’ve been honing our synthetic (and to that point toxic) colours for years, all the while microorganisms have been carrying about their business quietly, but oh-so vividly for eons. To look upon her work is to look upon theirs, and in doing so, to travel back in time.
Partnered with ever-sustainable designer Rejina Pyo, Jesse’s colours are brought into the real-world and onto the catwalk, a tangible expression of how nature’s ancient ways can inspire us all.
Of all our senses, scent is the most primal, capable of tapping directly into our emotions and triggering thoughts and memories at a single sniff. Fitting then that Tetsuo Lin has turned to DNA, the very building blocks of life, to create a range of synthetic lab-grown scents. The idea was conceptualised with the help of designers, strategists, and writers from Here, and brought to life in partnership with skincare brand Haeckels. What makes this work so ground-breaking is that lab-grown scents require no essential oils or physical flora, thereby cutting out the mass-scale cultivation required of mainstream fragrance production and raising important questions about how we consume resources.
As the finite resources required for mass-produced glassmaking are called into question, the sustainable reputation of the material has become far from crystal clear. Inspired by ancient methodologies, Lulu Harrison found that all you need to create an eco-friendly version is sand, water and shells. Things you can find on the shores of the Thames. Her work brings together local and waste materials including invasive quagga mussels that block up Thames Water’s Transfer tunnels and usually head straight to landfill.
The natural minerals in these materials cause a variation in colour and clarity, tinging it a beautiful blue, so that each iteration of what she calls Thames Glass is not just tied to place, but to a time too. In doing so, Lulu has done the impossible, seemingly capturing time in a bottle.
As more and more architects shy away from glass, the award-winning founders of Bureau de Change saw opportunity in creating sustainable tiles made from Lulu’s Thames Glass. The intricate patterns are modeled on terracotta chimney pots designed by Royal Daulton, who, in a wonderfully cyclical turn of events, were also responsible for improving the city’s sanitation system in the 1870s. A full circle water cycle indeed.
It’s worth noting that these three iterations of innovation are merely at the beginning of their respective cycles. Who knows where they’ll lead? As we work in a time of climate crisis towards an ever more uncertain future, we are armed with only what has come before and the imagination to change what comes next.
Calling into question processes in 3 major industries, this work is a clarion call for more bio-pioneers that hold a deep reverence for the elemental. Because in uncertain times, it’s imperative that today’s forward thinkers look backwards too.