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Seminar Partcipants Professors



Kay Bea Jones - School of Architecture

Elizabeth Fischer

Xinge Huang

Amy Youngs - Art & Technology

Xinge Huang

Ann Corley Silverman - Artist

Students Joachim Bean - Department of Art

Levi Bedall - School of Architecture

Gretchen Cochran - Artist; Professor, Otterbein University Elizabeth Fischer - School of Architecture Matt Herrmann - Mechanical Engineering

Xinge Huang - Department of Art, Art & Technology

Henry Peller - Agriculture, Sustainable Plant Systems Evan Rimoldi - School of Architecture, Landscape Lindsay Scypta - Department of Art, Ceramics Casey Slive - Environmental Geography

Dennis Turner - Agriculture, Crop Science Patrick Vokaty - School of Architecture

Zachary Weinberg - Department of Art, Glass

Kay Bea Jones Ann Silverman Patrick Vokaty Amy Youngs

Book Designers Elizabeth Fischer Patrick Vokaty

worms in our furniture “Soil� by Ann Silverman


Introduction to Vermicomposting


Vermiculture Furniture Events



Crochet Worm Compost by Ann Silverman


The sibilant ‘s’ slides quietly into the open oil of a liquid landfall. A slight growl pushes air into what is round beneath the feet. Ground. The dental stability of final sound an anchor on planet underfoot. But here, the liquid. Soil. No labial pout, no punctuation. So much for definition.

Worms turn in the soil of our syntax, enriching excrementally the nature of understanding. All lips and liquid boundaries. Mouthfuls of earth in endless periods. This life. And this life. And this life.

A surface of soil, at midpoint to tree, cushions the foot. Some surface in a plowed field sucks at the boot and removes it. Some surfaces slip inside and under. Feet sink into surf. Toes splayed in mud and sand grow no roots. Attempting, though, a pirouette, Striking some balance of the awe-struck. Ann Corley Silverman


Introduction to Vermicompost

ver-mi-com-post-ing noun

the conversion of organic waste into fertilizer through the use of earthworms




creating a healthy environment feeding: non-greasy kitchen scraps such as vegetable peelings, carrot tops, wilted lettuce, fruit rinds, sandwich crusts, teabags, coffee grounds; other organic waste, such as yard trimmings, dead flowers, rabbit manure, scrap paper. -chop up food scraps and spread 1� on top, with another 1� of bedding on top of that about once per week. worm type: red wiggler (Eisenia Fetida) -add approximately 1 pound of worms per 1 square foot of surface area of bin, once your colony is established, feel free to share a pound of starter worms with friends. bedding: shredded paper, cardboard, and/ or egg cartons. -keep moistened and keep adding it on top of food, worms will also eat the bedding. conditions: keep worms in a dark moist enclosure with holes for aeration. Ideal temperature is between 55-83 degrees Fahrenheit and ideal moisture level is between 80-90% end product: rich, fertilized soil for houseplants, gardens or agriculture.


*Solar Farm Fountain, 2009 by Ken Rinaldo and Amy Youngs


Worms in Our Furniture Kay Bea Jones

As an architect, I have chosen to direct my research and teaching efforts to advocate for design that makes a difference in people’s lives. According to Walter Benjamin, most people experience architecture in a state of distraction. If so, it is no wonder that we hold low expectations for the materials, qualities, occupation, and performance of the places that we live. A little consciousness can go a long way toward creating environments where we want to stay, raise families, and reinvest our time and energies. Witnessing our changing food system in American culture, even as rates of poverty increase for urban populations, a cohort of local design professionals saw an opportunity to effect environmental change with enhanced food security and good food access near our campus. Under the leadership of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission [MORPC] our team of researchers and practitioners in agriculture and urban design received a Community Challenge Grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to envision big changes in Weinland Park by recouping brownfields, providing jobs and job training, changing lifestyles and improving what we eat--all under the aegis of urban agriculture. Yet the dark underbelly that few are interested in when it comes to grand urban visions is our waste stream. Computer renderings that feature children romping

through green fields in front of stylish new buildings rarely portray the need to harvest water and dispose of our growing volumes of trash. Then in a casual conversation with artist and food guru, Ann Silverman, we hatched a plan around two questions: Why are we so averse to thinking about our waste? Can we embrace living with worms in the home to eat our scraps and enrich out soils? Perhaps by giving the problem to young designers, their search for novel solutions can alter our domestic relationship to the by-products of daily life. So we approached Amy Youngs, renowned artist and OSU professor of Art & Technology. From Portugal to Australia, Amy and partner Ken Rinaldo have exhibited Solar Farm Fountain*, Hydroponic Solar Garden, and other works from a series of investigations that provoke questions about how we process food waste while encouraging a symbiotic relationship between humans and worms. Amy’s own Machine for Living Interdependently and Digestive Table provided us with direct inspiration of works of art that also perform. The next step seemed obvious…….we invited Buckeyes from allied design studies to conceive, compose and craft domestic furniture that would use living red wigglers to process everyday food waste. We believe that these students’ responses speak for themselves.


Digestive Table, 2006 by Amy Youngs


Machine for Living Interdependently, 2012 by Amy Youngs

Designing for Worms and People

offering them the gift of starter worms from my colony. But free worms were not enough; people asked skeptically, “Where would I keep them?”

Making artworks with living worms inside of them was a way for me to explain – through built examples – several possible ways we can live with worms. In an attempt to celebrate and normalize the concept of living with worms I created situations that allowed people to listen to them, watch them, feed them and appreciate them. At the end of the exhibitions I could always find people interested in adopting the worms. However, most people did not want to keep worms in elaborate art projects in their homes. They desired solutions that fit their own lifestyles. The opportunity to work with creative faculty, artists and students at the Ohio State University on this design problem was an incredible learning experience for me. The students were able to create furniture that solved their own living arrangements with worms, as well as potential products that could help facilitate new, convivial relationships between worms and people.

The design possibilities for integrating worms and people into interdependent domestic bliss are broad. The red wigglers, or Eisenia Fetida, commonly used for vermicomposting are ideally suited to our homes; they thrive in the same temperature ranges as humans and eat many of the same foods. When provided with a dark, moist enclosure, they remain unseen, unheard and undetected, as they process waste into nutrients that can be used to grow plants. They efficiently absorb food and paper waste that would otherwise travel from our homes to the landfills that are overflowing with decomposing, greenhouse gas producing waste. Composting with worms does not smell or produce methane gas. In fact, what worms eat are the microorganisms that grow on decomposing organic waste, including the type of bacteria that emit offensive odors.

Amy Youngs

Living with a colony of composting worms in the 1990’s was eccentric, but as an artist I could get away with what others considered to be odd cohabitation. For me, participating in the circulation of food-to-waste-to-fertilizer-to-food was both satisfying and logical and I was convinced that anyone who gardened, or just had houseplants, would agree with me. I encouraged all of my friends to join me in the practical act of vermicomposting by


Vermiculture Furniture


When is it time to compost food waste? Joachim Bean Time is quite certainly a necessary requirement for the way we live. We are constantly looking at clocks and are reminded to conduct the order of our daily lives to be on time. In contrast, worm bins are something people often forget about, or don’t think about the issues that cause us to use worms to compost waste. VermiClock integrates a worm bin into a cabinet of a grandfather clock, bringing worms into a primary part of daily life. Composing a hydrometer, thermometer and timepiece in a clock face along with a worm bin in the center, we are drawn to think about the worms at work. Bringing worms into awareness we become one step closer to making our lives more sustainable. The clock is constructed out of birch plywood. An off-the shelf clock-thermometer-hydrometer forms the top of the object. The clock’s middle body is open to view the worms, offering flexibility between where food waste is generated and the VermiClock’s location. An aluminum tube connects the face and worm bin together allowing air to flow between the mechanism in the clock face and the worm bin. Lastly, the worm compost falls into a bucket attached to a “drawer” cart at the bottom of the clock, allowing easy access to the compost. Using off-the-shelf materials, assembly time and cost was reduced.




Cabinet of Vermiosity

Does today’s “Cabinet of Curiosity” contain the living? Levi Bedall Worms do not yet have a place in the house. They can be kept in furniture, but there is not an established mode of keeping worms. My project proposes the re-use of the “Cabinet of Curiosities”* as a home for vermicomposting. The cabinet has the silhouette of a classical cabinet, but the innards of a strange animal. I thought of it as a solid object that has cuts taken out of it in which those cuts expose different textures of the beast. By manipulating the cabinet it also can become an object of curiosity.

*Cabinet of Curiosities by Ole Worm, 1643




Worm Tumbler

Composting for all ages and abilities? Gretchen Cochran We know that the healthy future of our planet depends upon good soil stewardship. I am drawn to vermiculture furniture design because it presents challenges of both form and function. In my small sunny kitchen I want to add only things to that look great and function well. I think strong form, saturated colors and uncluttered surfaces look great, and I like objects that make me smile. My requirements that furniture and tools function well have become more challenging as I age. Ergonomic issues: counter height, overhead reach and container weight, are now more central to function. I share a need to reach, carry and be able to move things with children whose size and strength also demand consideration. In order to start thinking about design it was necessary to think about what we need to consider before we invite red wigglers into the house? Children who are involved in vermiculture will become more aware of food sources and soil conservation. Seniors who share their interest in composting with children will be enriched by the children’s company and enthusiasm. Rationale: Inviting worms into our personal space requires furniture that is good looking and easy to use. Both seniors and children need composting equipment that is light weight and easy to transport.




Living Table

Is nature’s cycle revived by bringing the garden inside? Elizabeth Fischer As a designer, I play a specific role in the creation of the objects and spaces we surround ourselves with. I was taught to use my skills to create seductive architecture with a function. Quickly I discovered that I could apply those same design skills to thinking outside of architecture. Thinking outside of architecture led me to thinking about problems, problems that, if solved, could have a bigger impact on the world. For me, I was less interested in seeing the worms at work and more interested in the mystery of the process within. The coffee table was a piece of furniture that is often talked around, but rarely brought up in conversation. I wanted to refocus the attention of the coffee table within a space, allowing it and (specifically) its contents to become a topic of conversation. And since plants were in direct effect of the nutritious benefits of the composted soil, I wanted to include them in the design as part of a complete cycle. I wanted what was used up top to be fed and created at the bottom. However, this design is not strictly limited to being used for only herbs. It is a design that should inspire the mind to think about the complete cycle and direct benefits of composting.


herb garden prep table

sliding compost door lights for plants

elizabeth fischer aeration ornamentation



composting zone


reu se


tray for leachate

scale: 1’=1.5”



Beef Crystal

How far can composting go? Matt Herrmann, Henry Peller, Zachary Weinberg Three dominant, creative personalities all somehow working together on a project that was constantly evolving and developing and changing, the patience everyone possessed rivals that of the saints. It was like playing a semester of jazz, and missing a planning or construction session meant not knowing what was going to occur next. The physical undertaking was no less impressive than any of the design work. The spool was large, unwieldy, heavy and designed for a long, brutal and hard-wearing life. To deconstruct and then reconstruct such an item into something new was no small undertaking. All too often the legacy of post modernism is simply the act of deconstruction. That’s only half the formula. After deconstruction the artist or maker is obligated to then reconstruct the piece to share his or her unique narrative. It is fitting that this process of deconstruct/reconstruct has been applied to a piece centering on vermicomposting. Vermicomposting is an interesting process that evokes an emotional response: some positive, most less so. It is a cyclical process, one of decomposition, and as such is messy. Like life. It’s fitting then that a microcosm representing human interaction be housed in a reconstructed cable spool with the new narrative of “dining table” placed upon it. The dining table being the center of family life, a place of social interaction, of life; in all its messy splendor.




Book Worm

Does aquaponics need a systemic adjustment or adaptation? Evan Rimoldi




Worm Crockery

Fresh compost--can you dish it up in style? Lindsya Scypta The table comes first, everything else follows: the dishes, the food, individuals and conversation. Taste is our most intimate sense, and the table is where we experience it socially. We gather for family dinner, for coffee with friends, for business meetings; all centered around this table that civilizes us. We sanctify with food life’s most treasured moments, and with some degree of grace we dine together, not alone. My studio practice pivots around these notions of the table, and leading people back to this place of social intimacy. Although, what is often not discussed is what happens to the food left on the plates after the guests have gone. In the midst of my Masters Thesis exhibition, this course focused on vwermiculture became surprisingly complimentary to my larger ideas as a ceramic artist. I was able to utilize my skills as a functional potter to create ceramic vessels to serve as a worm composting system. Inspired by the Indian Kambha model, I set out to create a way of composting which could be utilitarian and beautiful. As an avid container gardener, the most logical way for me to integrate the worm castings was through the potting and repotting of plants. Thus the investigation of the potting bench began.




Chop, Drop & Roll

Can we compact and mobilize compost? Casey Slive We live in an industrialized society that separates humans from the source of the goods that we produce. After we consume, we do not think about where the waste goes after we “throw it away�. What is needed is a reintegration of full-cycle natural processes into our daily lives. Vermicomposting is an accessible way for humans to compost their food waste and scraps inside the home. Little space is needed, and the worms may coexist and be extremely helpful-- turning waste into a resource, and growing their population and their composting abilities over time. Unlike traditional composting, these friendly worms do not emit methane in the process. My vision was to design, create, and build a beautiful piece of furniture, which would also function as a worm compost bin that could easily be incorporated into any home. Most items that I will be placing in the vermicompost will come from my food preparation. Thus, I designed a worm compost bin beneath a beautiful Ohio wood cutting board. After I prepare my food, I will simply lift up the cutting board and let the food scraps fall into the worm habitat. As the worms compost the food, the finished compost will filter through a wire mesh, and fall into a drawer beneath the worms. When I am ready to access and harvest the finished compost, I will simply pull out the drawer and gather the beautiful, nutrient-rich compost.




Worm Picnic Eat with worms? Patrick Turner

As a long-time passive-pile and vermicomposter, I have tested several different types of composting systems. For the past several years, I have vermicomposted in my basement using a “pot-in-pot” system I created using plastic nursery tree pots. This system, while visually unappealing, works effectively due to the needs of worms: darkness, appropriate moisture, and food, as well as their “bottom-to-top” eating pattern. In this table, I created a functional, yet stylized picnic table that meets worms’ needs, but requires them to adapt slightly to the side-to-side feeding pattern. I was inspired to construct this table by the simplicity of Amy Youngs’ vermicompost table design, in which she created a visually interesting piece that was, at the same time, an effective environment for worms. I was also inspired and influenced by the designs of Rhonda Sherman’s Vermiculture Technology.* Finally, I was inspired by my patio’s lack of a picnic table. I was intrigued by the “seasonal” nature of this project. With this design, the worms are strategically located outside during the summer, where they thrive in warm conditions, and inside during the winter, where they are quite content in our warm-to-cool basement. *Vermiculture Technology: Earthworms, Organic Wastes, and Environmental Management by Clive A. Edwards, Norman Q. Arancon, Rhonda L. Sherman 2011




The Caffeinated Worm Can we accelerate composting? Patrick Vokaty

The Caffeinated Worm is a baker’s rack for the kitchen of a coffee lover. One can grow, grind, and make his or her coffee in one place. A camouflaged hatch on the primary shelf leads to the heart of the furniture: the vermi-coffee-compost. This manageably-sized stainless steel bin is built into the wood structure. Inspired by a spaetzle maker, the grate at the bottom of the baker’s rack releases the worm’s… fresh fertilized soil. In turn, the dirt can be used to nourish the coffee plants, completing the circle. This vermicompost solves the problem of wasted coffee grinds, filters, and, of course, other food and paper waste. Having a bin conveniently located next to one’s coffee pot prevents spillage on trips to the garbage can, and the bin benefits from the moisture of the used grinds and filters. The Caffeinated Worm is also an experiment to discover if a vermicompost can be accelerated.





...featuring a storyboard of the class film by Xinge Huang

Extension Specialist Visit

Vermiculture Presentation & Critique Rhonda L. Sherman Rhonda Sherman visited The Ohio State University from the Department of Biological and Agriculture Engineering at North Carolina State Univeristy to provide education and technical assistance to the Vermiculture Furniture students. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Studies and Urban/Regional planning and a Master’s degree in Environmental Resources Analysis with an emphasis in solid waste management. Sherman’s visit was just one of over 40 presentations that she gives annually all over the world. She has been contacted by numerous people who are seeking information of vermiculture throughout the United States and over 80 countries. She recently published “The First Definitive Work on Vermiculture Technology,” Vermiculture Technology: Earthworms, Organic Wastes, and Environmental Management.* During our Tuesday evening of mid-project reviews, Sherman discussed with us the science and practical realities of keeping worms, while providing ample examples of working vermiculture systems to study. She then reviewed each student’s proposed projects in model and drawing and provided insightful and constructive feedback.

*Vermiculture Technology: Earthworms, Organic Wastes, and Environmental Management by Clive A. Edwards, Norman Q. Arancon, Rhonda L. Sherman 2011










The Compostium

campus composting showcase Student Farmers Coalition Before the seminar’s final review, the Student Farmers Coalition, led by our own Henry Peller, organized an event to educate The Ohio State University’s student body and other Columbus locals on composting and vermicomposting at the Knowlton School of Architecture. The speaker series included talks by Peller, Ann Corley Silverman, and Amy Youngs. Silverman also shared her poem, “Soil.” Angel Arroyo-Rodriguez, Environmental Planner at Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, presented the EPA and Ohio DNR’s joint program to fund new food waste recycling systems and illustrated successful models that have received matching funding across the state. Corey Hawkey also attended Compostium, representing OSU’s award winning “Zero Waste” recycling program, responsible for recycling 98.2% of bame day waste at the Stadium in 2012. After the series, the guests were able to view and interact with the furniture produced for the seminar. While enjoying hors d’oeuvres and folk music, the guests also learned how to maintain a compost, brew compost tea, and walk away with fertilized soil for their gardens and red wrigglers to start vermicomposting.






Final Review Just the Beginning

Jury: Katherine Bennett, Assistant Professor, Landscape Architecture, KSA Bart Overly, Lecturer, Architecture, KSA, principal of Blostein/Overly Architects After months of research, discussion, and analysis, Vermiculture Furniture came to a close at the Knowlton Hall mainspace for a final presentation and critique. Katherine Bennett, Assistant Professor, and Bart Overly, Lecturer, both of the Knowlton School of Architecture’s Landscape Architecture Section and both architects served as the jury. Like never before, passerbys stopped to join the final review and the crowd accumulated greatly throughout the evening.









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