Kelp grows up to three feet per day and can be harvested sustainably – and according to designer Julia Lohmann, it’s flexible and plentiful enough to replace all kinds of everyday materials that are harmful to the earth. Lohmann created ‘Kelp Constructs’, a series of objects made of kelp, and is working on new techniques that even turn it into a potentially hardwood-replacing veneer.
In 2008, Lohmann debuted her series of kelp lampshades, and in October 2012 she presented more complex objects at Vienna Design Week. The designer used a laser-cutting machine to punch patterns into strips of seaweed before sewing them together around rattan ‘skeletons.’
In addition to the lamps, Lohmann showed off hats co-created with milliner Moya Hoke as well as structural test pieces that showcase the strength, flexibility and luminosity of kelp.
Lohmann believes that seaweed could be used as a more sustainable alternative to leather, parchment and certain types of plastic as well as a wood-like veneer. She hopes that an increase in the use and value of kelp could assist poor farming communities, providing income and helping to filter their water.
“I want to develop tools to make something from the material that is very valuable, and then I would love to share them with the communities, who then can combine them with their local craft techniques,” she told Dezeen. Check out audio and video interviews and additional photos at Dezeen’s coverage of Vienna Design Week.