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Botanica

  • Object:

    Vessel

  • Place of origin:

    Eindhoven (made)

  • Date:

    2011 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Studio Formafantasma (makers)
    Studio Formafantasma (designers)
    Fondazione PLART (commissioned)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Bois Durci, sycamore wood, egg albumen, dewaxed shellac, beeswax, wooden buttons

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased through the Design Fund

  • Museum number:

    W.18-2013

  • Gallery location:

    On display in Values of Design, Design Society, Shekou, China

This object is part of a series of vessels created by Eindhoven-based designers, Studio Formafantasma. The designers researched natural polymers, such as shellac and copal, in an attempt to assess the changing attitudes to plastics over the past century. The natural textures and plant-like forms are a reference to the animal and vegetal origins of the polymers used. The V&A has also acquired material samples and form studies for the group help explain the design process which went into making Botanica.

With Botanica, Studio Formafantasma offers a new perspective on plasticity, reinterpreting centuries-old technology lost beneath the impeccable surface of mass production. Botanica does not intend to offer practical suggestions for materials which can be produced and used on an industrial scale. The vessels are instead a poetic and highly aesthetic expression of search and experimentation, referencing the early beginnings of plastics without denying their great versatility as a material of the 20th century.

Physical description

Vessel, vaguely amphora-shaped, in the suggested form of a flower emerging from bud.

Place of Origin

Eindhoven (made)

Date

2011 (made)

Artist/maker

Studio Formafantasma (makers)
Studio Formafantasma (designers)
Fondazione PLART (commissioned)

Materials and Techniques

Bois Durci, sycamore wood, egg albumen, dewaxed shellac, beeswax, wooden buttons

Dimensions

Height: 32 cm, Diameter: 9 cm, Width: 38 cm, Circumference: 21.5 cm

Object history note

Botanica was commissioned by PLART, an Italian foundation dedicated to the conservation of works of art and design produced in plastic. For the project, curator Marco Petroni and Plart founder Maria Pia Incutti asked Formafantasma to create their own personal interpretation of polymeric materials. The project intended to examine changing perceptions of plastic materials over the past few centuries, addressing the current desire for sustainable alternatives and biodegradable plastics.

Studio Formafantasma approached Botanica by investigating the history of polymers in the pre-bakelite period. Researching early experiments with natural polymers extracted from plants or animal-derivatives, they examined materials like rosin, dammar, copal (a sub-fossil state of amber), natural rubber, shellac (a polymer extracted from insect excrement) and bois durci (a 19th-century material composed of wood dust and animal blood). Various samples document Formafantasma’s process (see W.23-2013) as they tested new material combinations, each test aiming to achieve a material with plastic qualities that could be formed and/or moulded. At the same time that they were conducting their material search, the designers experimented with shapes and structures (see W.22-2013).

This project’s search for new materials addresses an important theme in contemporary design practice, as designers increasingly engage with urgent issues of ecology and sustainability. Rather than looking to develop new synthetic materials, Formafantasma ground their experiments in detailed historic research. ‘Botanica’ does not intend to offer practical suggestions for materials which can be produced and used on an industrial scale. The vessels are instead a poetic and highly aesthetic expression of search and experimentation, referencing the early beginnings of plastics without denying their great versatility as a material of the 20th century.

Purchased by the V&A in 2013 (registered file no. 2013/605)

Historical context note

The Eindhoven-trained-and-based design studio Formafantasma is known for their interest in materials and local histories. They often create series’ of objects investigating these themes; earlier projects include ‘Autarchy’ and ‘Craftica’.

Descriptive line

Vessel, prototype of edition of 12 = 2 AP = 2 Prototypes, designed and made by Formafantasma (Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin), 2011, Eindhoven, commissioned by Plart Foundation (Italy), material: Bois Durci, sycamore wood, egg albumen, dewaxed shellac, beeswax, wooden buttons; label: dewaxed shellac)

Production Note

Prototype for an edition of 12.

Materials

Sycamore; Albumen; Shellac; Beeswax; Wood; Plastic

Categories

Product design; Vases; Containers; Plastic; Interiors; Household objects; Shekou; Values of Design; Design Society

Production Type

Prototype

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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