Marlene Huissoud parses the insect world for innovative design materials


Bugging Out

Raised in a family of beekeepers, Marlene Huissoud knows a thing or two about insects. That familiarity was on full display this past week in Milan, when the French-born, London-based designer presented her clever and highly experimental project, From Insects.

From Insects, Black Propolis, photo © Thibault Picazo Y. & Combal Weiss H. from Studio Immatters (2014) From Insects, Black Propolis, photo © Studio Marlene Huissoud

The two-part series explores design possibilities using byproducts of the common honeybee and the Indian silkworm (check out the lovely video below!). For Propolis Vessels, Huissoud applies glass-making techniques to black propolis, a biodegradable resin that bees use to seal their honeycombs, then engraves the blown objects to replicate textures found in the insect world.

Photo © Thibault Picazo Y. & Combal Weiss H. from Studio Immatters (2014) Photo © Studio Marlene Huissoud

Photo © Thibault Picazo Y. & Combal Weiss H. from Studio Immatters (2014) Photo © Studio Marlene Huissoud

Huissoud applies glass-making techniques to the black propolis extracted from honeycombs. Photo courtesy of Marlene Huissoud Huissoud applies glass-making techniques to the black propolis extracted from honeycombs. Photo © Studio Marlene Huissoud

Huissoud engraves a vessel from From Insects, Black Propolis, photo © Thibault Picazo Y. & Combal Weiss H. from Studio Immatters (2014) Huissoud engraves a vessel from From Insects, Black Propolis, photo © Studio Marlene Huissoud

For Wooden Leather, meanwhile, she plays with discarded silkworm cocoons—each of which is composed of lengths of raw silk, comprising hundreds and hundreds of layers of super-strong fibers. Huissoud cuts the cocoons in two, extracting the fibers one by one. These fibers contain Sericin, a natural glue that she activates by applying water and heat, to create resulting in a super strong paper. Then she adds a layer of propolis as a varnish; the resulting “Wooden Leather” can be applied to fashion, furniture, and surface design.

Discarded silkworm cocoons, photo © Thibault Picazo Y. & Combal Weiss H. from Studio Immatters (2014) Discarded silkworm cocoons, photo © Studio Marlene Huissoud

Huissoud separates a silkworm cocoon, photo © Thibault Picazo Y. & Combal Weiss H. from Studio Immatters (2014) Huissoud separates a silkworm cocoon, photo © Studio Marlene Huissoud

Wooden Leather, photo courtesy of Marlene Huissoud Wooden Leather, photo © Studio Marlene Huissoud

According to Huissoud, “Already science is exploring the potential of insects for food production and to satisfy our future dietary needs; however, I am primarily interested in using insects as co-partners in the design process. Rather than consume them, I am interested in how we can work with them and explore how their natural waste streams could be harnessed in the production of valuable craft artifacts in the future.”

 

Thanks so much, Marlene!

To learn more about Marlene Huissoud's work, check out marlene-huissoud.com