Hands.on.matter: Notes on a series of material workshops

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Notes from a series of material workshops Published by The Institute for Endotic Research Press Edited by Tim van der Loo and Sandra Nicoline Nielsen Lay out and illustrations by Tim van der Loo This booklet is published on the occasion of the first season of hands.on.matter material workshop series. Hands.on.matter is founded and facilitated by Tim van der Loo and Sandra Nicoline Nielsen. The first season was held at the project space The Institute of Endotic Research. The editors want to thank all the artists, designers and material innovators who contributed their time and work to be featured in this booklet: Jessica Langley, Alanna Lynch, Lena Ganswindt, Irina Hefner, Stefanie Kenitz, Alberte Laursen Rothenborg, Elena Azzedin, Ayumi Matsuzaka, Christian Schloh, Christian Frank Mßller, Julia Perera, Anton Richter, Elena Sofia Stranges and Kanako Ishii. A special thanks to The Institute of Endotic Research for hosting us, and to Loren and Christian for their support. Š belongs to each of the authors. The notes sections are developed by hands.on.matter and are open source. The pages are printed on Steinbeis PureWhite, 100% recycled paper. ISBN: 978-3-9819512-5-7 The Institute for Endotic Research Press Donaustrasse 84 12043 Berlin Germany 2019



Living our daily lives we are constantly, inevitably surrounded by, using, dependent on and creating materials - processed materials, natural materials, waste materials. We wear ‘fast’ textiles, our food is wrapped in plastics, we slide our fingers over the glasses of smartphones - that are prone to break, only possibly lasting to the next system update that deams the phone to be replaced. Moving to Berlin puts you in the position of the observer. Looking at the life of the city - people at their hang-out benches, temporary living conditions, and heaps of waste - in the streets and parks, with great quantities of take away packaging among it. We needed to do something. We met at a yearly festival on circular economy. In a common interest in closing loops and purpose of creating meaningful and more sustainable paths, of consumption, production, in our culture. Tim was taking old posters down around Berlin and transforming them into biodegradable furniture. Sandra was frequently occupied with stopping her dog from swallowing plastic sausage wraps in the shadow of park trees. We started to take a more naive approach to material - looking into the essence of fundamental materials supplied by mother nature and building from basic matters towards more complicated ones. We wanted to go deeper into the molecules. To understand the composition of certain materials and why one natural fiber is better than the other to bind, weave or construct with. But as we were to find out, learning also has its sacrifices. It requires not only intellectual but also material resources - funny enough. Waste is a by-product of


Hands.on.matter every doing, most of them at least. Trying to cook something without waste is close to impossible, when living in a city in far proximity of cultivation and agriculture. Avoiding plastic altogether is more complicated than such. When we tried to grow our own mushrooms, previous experiences were all build on the accessibility of plastic. You need plastic bags and plastic gloves to have an uncontaminated environment to grow mushrooms. And so we experienced many obstacles; to change something you have to build new infrastructures. As it turned out, it was harder to change the practices of consumption and production, than first thought, even in a little workshop, tucked away from the big world. No one expected change from day one. The experience was, nonetheless, that the more you dig into a matter, the more complicated things turn out to be. Like the codependence of new sustainable practices on not so sustainable ones. We hope we have taken a small step in the right direction. By creating the framework for a place for this awareness to grow. We believe that together we can create more clever, genuine and sustainable solutions. Hands.on.matter has in its first series, as represented here in this booklet, on the one hand explored ‘natural materials’, like SCOBY - bacterial cellulose used in the process of fermentation that could source us healthy food, drinks and materials for textiles and casing. Efforts have been made to grow it, harvest it and drink, eat and dry it. Also traditional techniques like making bast shoes, dying with plants, making mushroom paper have been shown, discussed and tried out. On the other hand, the potential of consumer waste has also been looked into how to use it and see it as something valuable. Waste materials like asparagus peel, used clothes and baby diapers are represented in the booklet. We live in a world where we buy, use and throw away products like never before. We need to rethink this idea and unfold the opportunities of reducing, reusing and recycling. In order to do that we need unconventional thinkers and doers to explore the properties of different materials, like waste.


Introduction Hands.on.matter started as a workshop series founded and facilitated by material and object designer Tim van der Loo and techno-anthropologist Sandra Nicoline Nielsen. Hands.on.matter sets to explore the potentials of material techniques as an outset for resource use, material consumption, sustainability and culture of our current time. Through the workshop series hands.on.matter seeks to learn from, encourage, and promote sustainable practices in art, design and innovation. This booklet has for us been important in order to collect the knowledges we have gained during the first season of the series. So they don’t disappear into thin air, and can continue to be shared. ‘Notes from a series of material workshops’ is thought of as an archive, and a handbook. Learnings, findings and thoughts that have been shared with us by the contributing artists, designers and material innovators are collected here. So are the recipes for DIY approaches that can be used at home, or in another context, as they are open source. – Sandra Nicoline Nielsen and Tim van der Loo


Content Mushroom and Mycelium Jessica Langley: Ish-ness

page 8 - 13

Event impression page 14 -15 Notes on making mushroom paper/ growing mushrooms

page 16 - 17

Kombucha and Fermentation Alanna Lynch: Gut Feelings

page 18 - 21

Lena Ganswindt: BC Universal

page 22 - 23

Irina Hefner: Kombucha Reflect

page 24 - 25

Notes on making kombucha candy

page 26 - 27

Re/upcycling Textiles Interview with Stefanie Kenitz from Berliner Stadtmission

page 28 - 31

Tim van der Loo: New Blue

page 32 - 33

Alberte Laursen Rothenborg: Wasteland

page 34 - 35

Elena Azzedin: Quoting Miranda July and Deborah Levy to a Beluga

page 36 - 37

Event impression

page 38 - 39

Notes on square pin loom weaving

page 40 - 41


Regeneration and Soil Dycle: Diaper Cycle page 42 - 43 Christian Frank Müller: Animal Coffin

page 44 - 45

Event impression

page 46 - 47

Notes on making seed bombs

page 48 - 49

Plants Julia Perera: Ötzi’s shoes

page 50 - 51

Anton Richter: 100 % page 52 - 53 Kanako Ishii: Re-landscape

page 54 - 55

Elena Sofia Stranges: Kräuterstoff

page 56 - 57

Event impression

page 58 - 59


Mushroom We are at the beginning to use the by-products of living systems as materials in the quest for sustainability and ecological approaches. Mushrooms and mycelium offer closed-loop, circular systems of the natural world and biodegradable materials.

the nearly imperceptible species of fungi that fruit spontaneously. When a mushroom forager tries to know a mushroom, she also winds up learning about the trees, the weather, the altitude of a place. She knows the smell, and what other animals may be lurking around.

“The uncontrolled lines of mushrooms are a gift - a guide - when the controlled world we thought we had fails” - Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Mushroom at the End of the World Jessica Langley – Ish-ness refers to the psychedelic experience of seeing the inter-connectedness and “intrinsic significance” of all things that Aldous Huxley described in The Doors of Perception. This is also a happy byproduct of spending time outdoors looking at the ground, trying to see


The mushroom forager begins to understand these relationships when wandering around, and the psychedelic experience can exalt that feeling towards the spiritual, perhaps giving greater meaning to life itself.

Mycelium My first mushroom foray was with the New York Mycological Society led by Gary Lincoff, the author of the Audubon Guide to North American Mushrooms. About 30 people met in Central Park, and we wandered around, looking at the grass and spaces between the manicured lawns and specially placed boulders, under bushes and trees, lifting up leaves to see if there

When making this work, I thought about the process of the foray, how the forager follows instincts and senses rather than a planned route. These collages combine paintings made using gouache, watercolor and ink on handmade paper from foraged saprobic fungi which has been cast onto repurposed scraps of polystyrene. They reference networks, doodles, and systems - wandering and

“No tree is an individual; all are communities of organisms changing throughout the life and death of a given tree. A tree is a microscope of all the kingdoms of life. Know a single tree thoroughly and you know more about the life and evolution than any world traveler can ever hope to attain” - Gary Lincoff was something growing underneath. We had to soften our eyes, so that we could see pattern differentiation, rather than attempt to see something specific. I had never imagined that a place like Central Park, in the middle of New York City, could contain such diversity of species, let alone so many edible mushrooms. But, Gary patiently led all of us beginners through the process of identification and fascination.

indeterminacy. To hunt for mushrooms is an exercise in chance; Gary’s advice when asked about the mysterious Morchella sp. was, “They grow where you find them.” In Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s book Mushroom at the End of the World, she connects the notion that human disturbance is a necessary part of the harvest of a certain choice edible mushroom. For this mushroom to thrive it relies on a healthy ecosystem in which humans play a vital role by


Mushroom helping to spread the spores. But, this delicate situation reflects the greater precariousness of our current climate crisis and the terrible role humans have played in the destruction of our planet.


Ish-ness VI

Without mushrooms, we would have no living matter. Saprobic fungi decompose matter and are essential to Earth’s ecosystems. There is new research in the field of Mycology, the study of mushrooms, that reveals more about the ecosystems beneath our feet and the potential that mushrooms have to undo some of the environmental havoc of the Anthropocene/Capitalocene. Myco-remediation is the process of using mushroom mycelium to remove toxins from soil or water, and is being used in some places to remove heavy metals near creek beds effected by industrial runoff. There is also research into how certain mushrooms like Pleurotus ostreatus (common known as the Oyster mushroom) can break down plastics, offering a lifeline out of the mess we have created.

These works are a meditation on the possible. While the relationship between the handmade paper and the polystyrene is only suggestive of the potential mushrooms have to breakdown petroleum-based materials, it suggests a small symbol of hope in an otherwise hopeless climate crisis.


Jessica Langley Ish-ness jesslangley.com

of the J. William Fulbright Scholarship and the Leifur Eiriksson Foundation Scholarship for research in Iceland, and she earned her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2008.

Jessica Langley (b. 1981, USA) is an interdisciplinary artist whose work considers how cultural symbols of nature and certain representations of landscape are experienced both directly and through the mediated and sublimated image. Using foraged materials, fresco, digital print, sculpture, and collage she is exploring abstraction as a form which dehumanizes place and investigating how the analogous dichotomy of abstraction/representation and the objective/subjective perspectives complicate this relationship.

She is an amateur mycologist, and her artwork and writings have been published in the New York Mycological Society Newsletter, New American Paintings, NPR, Hyperallergic, and Temporary Art Review. She is co-founder of Ortega y Gasset Projects, an artist-run-gallery in Brooklyn, NY; The Stephen and George Laundry Line, a project space in Queens, NY; and The Yard, a site for public art in Colorado Springs.

Langley has recently relocated to Colorado where she is the treasurer of the Pikes Peak Mycological Society. She has exhibited her work internationally and been an artist-inresidence in numerous programs including Skaftfell Center of Visual Art in Iceland, Askeaton Contemporary Art in Ireland, the SPACES World Artist Program in Cleveland, and the Digital Painting Atelier at OCAD-U in Toronto. She was a recipient





Installation: Ish-ness I - 13 IX


Event impression

Left: Workshop: grow your own mushrooms (Pink oyster mushrooms) Above: Hand crafted paper made from mushrooms (Polypore mushrooms) (Photos: Ben Busch, Courtesy of TIER)


Notes Making mushroom paper: Season:


Where to find:

GrĂźnewald, Berlin

Grows on:

Dead birch trees, moist and dark spots

Type mushroom: Birch Polypore mushrooms

In the forest you need to find fresh Polypore mushrooms: growing on dead trees.

Cut the mushrooms in small pieces (+- 1 cm). Open wooden frame

Mix the mushrooms in a blender with 1/2 part water. Make sure it turns into a thick mush.

Wooden frame with metal mesh

Take the top frame off. The mush sticks to the mesh. Turn quickly and carefully the bottom frame up-side down to press the mush onto a non-porous surface. Let dry for a few days.


Pour the mush on the wooden frame with the metal mesh and make sure that its equally distributed, shake it a bit.

Notes Growing your own mushrooms and mycelium culture: In order to grow your own mushrooms and mycelium culture, you need some mushroom spores, which can be bought online. For our experiments we used pink oyster mushrooms that are some of the easiest to grow, at home on little space (also under the bed!), and on either chopped straw, sawdust, cardboard, coffee grounds and even cotton clothes - or a mix of any of these. Pink Oysters are one of the fastest growing mushrooms, producing fruits in as little as four weeks. You can either focus on growing mycelium, which can be shaped in different forms and used as building blocks (the advanced model: with mushrooms growing out of them), or on growing lush mushrooms for harvesting and eating. What you need: - Glass jar or plastic bag (latter is best for growing and harvesting the fruits) - Latex gloves - Alcohol (for sterilisation of tools and glass jar or plastic bag) - Kettle (for sterilising water) - Water spray bottle to keep mushrooms moist - Mushroom spawn, Pink Oyster (We used Mushroom Box UK) - Sawdust, coffee grounds (optional), chopped straw (optional) 1. Sterilize tools and use gloves. 3. Mix the coffee grounds, sawdust and straw in a plastic bag (be careful not to get polluting bacteries in there). 4. Add a small part of the mushroom spawn and mix it gently. 5. Seal the bag and keep it safe in a warm environment 18 - 27 ̊C, for 4 weeks, depending on the temperature (if low it might need longer). It doesn’t need light at this stage. 6. Get ready to take care of the precious fruits. Take the glass, or bag out in daylight (lit enough to read in). Open the jar, or poke holes in the bag so the spores that have grown over the past 4 weeks now get oxygen to grow fruits. 7. Spray the growing fruits twice a day, best indirectly by aiming at the sides of the jar, or the bag. 8. After a few days, you will begin to see baby ‘pin mushrooms’ of the ‘first flush’ form. These will grow fast into full sized mushrooms in just a few days. 9. Harvesting the mushrooms without damaging the stem will help you succeed in growing a second and maybe even third flush of mushrooms. Keep them moist.


Kombucha Kombucha is a well known topic, especially in connections with China and Russia where it is said to originate. A traditional approach to making fermented drinks. But what about the part we do not know so much about - the SCOBY, the living bacterial cellulose? Which is now experimented with, while creating emotions, experiences and links to our already existing world.

past 3½ years, I have been working with various microorganisms: fermenting, consuming, observing, accumulating, manipulating, and then presenting my research through performance and experimental formats. My current research relates to questions surrounding wider notions of symbiosis, hierarchies in the classification of life, care and imbalances in power, contamination and vulnerability,

‘‘Working through collaborations, with both human and other agents, and direct material engagement I want to find the generative potential within our reactions to difference’’ Alanna Lynch – Gut Feelings is a research-based project informed by recent and rapidly developing research on the microbiome that challenges the self-contained body and binary categories like subject/object, human/ nonhuman and mind/body. For the


the gutand intuition, and embodied knowledge. Working through collaborations, with both human and other agents, and direct material engagement I want to find the generative potential within our reactions to difference.


Photo: Matthias Reichelt, 2016



Alanna Lynch Gut Feelings alannalynch.com

Alanna Lynch (CA/DE) is a Canadian artist and researcher based in Berlin. She works with living organisms, biological materials, smell and performance, examining the politics of affect and questions of agency. Working with difference, the visceral body and with ideas of contagion and care, she combines past studies in biology and psychology with experiences in activism. This shapes her perspectives, coming from art and science as well as from privileged and more marginal positions. She has exhibited and performed internationally and she is a founding member of the artist collective Scent Club Berlin. She has been supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and was awarded the 2018 Berlin Art Prize.



21 Photo: Tim Deussen, 2017


Lena Ganswindt BC Universal

Bacterial cellulose (BC) is a natural material that is synthesized by living organisms. It can be produced independently of the industry within a circular process and with conventional ingredients. Therefore, designers can manipulate the material and its material development process. However, the living organisms influence the process to a certain extent and thereby do not make it completely controllable. With the question “How do we work with living materials as collaborators in the design process?�, it was examined to what extent the handling of a living material or a material made of living organisms differs from that of conventional materials. In addition, an exchange with designers, artists and people who also deal with bacterial cellulose took place. Two different directions were followed in the project. On the one hand, an experimental material research was conducted to investigate BC and its


incomparable properties. Manipulation was performed in the areas of formulation, dyeing, shaping, scaling, composite formation and application-oriented prototyping. During the course of this work, the designer slips into the role of material researcher, material manufacturer and material designer. In this way, the usual design tools are initially set aside and instead pH, temperature and humidity parameters are determined. BC can also be seen as a medium to enter a dialogue with society about growing materials aiming to find out to what extent our previous awareness and understanding of materials and materiality is changing. Such a dialogue is not only triggered by the dried, leathery BC, but only together with its circular material development process. In doing so, it is not regarded as a material but as a process and thus offers a wide field of associations and conveys understanding for the development of materials.




Irina Hefner Kombucha @irinahefner

Kombucha Reflect - The surface extends over the water. It accepts almost any format. The water becomes murkier and begins tocome alive. The cloudy yellowish turns into gelatinous layers. It rests and becomes juicier and denser. The skin marbles, changes colour and touch depending on what is added to it. You wait, watch and feed it. Until the time comes to take it out. To put it down carefully. Draining it from water. Now it is transparent, not paper and not leather. It is flexible but tears easily. Its gracefulness brings you to discourse. It is fetish and nature at the same time. It reminds me of ages long gone. But can it meet today‘s needs? The attempt of a collection. It will be jacket, trousers or shirt. But in its pureness it is vulnerable. Moisture returns it to its origin, leads to dissolution. Moisture is body – body is fashion. Is this effort of growth, the food, the time worth this vulnerable material? Do we still call it sustainable design?


Photos: Nicolas Ritter Henny Steffens Robin Klußmann Model: Aline Tima



Creating Kombucha SCOBY candy (Photos: Ben Busch, Courtesy of TIER)


Notes Making SCOBY candy: The fermented tea, kombucha, is probiotic and healthy to drink, while the SCOBY is a source for new material and food. Due to the properties of the SCOBY you can use it for food by adding flavour or dry it so it becomes a strong leather-like material. In our workshop we made candies out of the SCOBY’s. To grow a SCOBY you need: - Mason jar (1 Liter) - Fabric to cover the mason jar (to vent and protect it from outside bacteries) - Black tea (5 organic tea bags. Tip: If you mix in raspberry tea the colour will turn dark pink) - Water (1 Liter) - Sugar (60 gram) - Kombucha Starter Culture (find it in your local kombucha community) Grow a kombucha SCOBY Boil the water and tea for 30 min. Let it cool down and pour into a sterilised mason jar. Add sugar and mix. Lastly, add the starter culture and cover with the textile. Leave it alone for around 4 weeks. When there is a thick SCOBY growing, around 2 cm thick, you can harvest it. Make fruit leather SCOBY: Take the Kombucha SCOBY out of the liquid and cut it into small pieces. You need to boil it in water for 10 minutes to kill the bacteria. Blend the SCOBY with fruit and honey/sugar of your choice - we used strawberry, raspberry and a tablespoon of honey (spices can be added as well, like cinnamon or cloves). Take the fruity mush out and spread it over a covered baking sheet. Put the fruit roll to dry in an oven at 50 degrees for a couple of hours. Make SCOBY-caramels: Boil small chunks of SCOBY for 20 minutes in 1 liter of water. Drain half of the water left and add sugar, cinnamon and orange peel. Stir it till it becomes a sticky caramelized mixture. Take the chunks out to cool on a sheet of baking paper.


Re/upcycling When is changing something restoring value or even adding more value compared to its original state? Textiles are an integral part of being a human being in a modern society. Textiles create a lot of waste and massive pollution. Alternatives are offered by high quality materials, direct reuse, circular methods, modularity and upcycling. We interviewed Stefanie Kenitz, product manager at Komm & Sieh, a social, upcycling project at Berliner Stadtmission. What is the background for why Berliner Stadtmission is collecting used clothing and textiles? About 25 years ago at one of our soup kitchens, the citizens of Berlin started to donate other things to the homeless, like clothing, sleeping bags

‘‘We receive around 10 tons of clothing donations a week’’ In the summer of 2018 we came in contact with the people of Berliner Stadtmission. A charity that provides the homeless people of Berlin with clothing, and have second hand shops around the city. We were astounded by the manual labour entailed. We discovered a world we didn’t know about, or rather, would never have thought about.


and products for personal hygiene. One of our employees had the idea to sell the textiles we couldn’t use for the homeless - in support of other projects. As the donations we received increased, the sorting department also grew and eventually we moved it to our main location near Berlin Hauptbahnhof. We developed a central collection and distribution point, called the

Textiles Kleiderkammer (meaning: wardrobe ed.), where the received clothing could be given directly to the homeless. The rest was sold in different second-hand shops, where Komm and Sieh slowly came into existence. We realized that a big part of the clothing we got couldn’t be sold. So we had to come up with something that could give value to these donations. Until this point, we had given all these leftovers to a ‘recycler’. With the given problem that we couldn’t monitor or control what happened with it. We therefore came up with a new collaboration. TEXTILHAFEN (meaning: textile harbor ed.) is a circular economy project where designers and makers can buy second hand textiles for low prices. It’s a win-win. The value of these textiles are kept in circulation meanwhile supporting creative projects. What kind of textiles and clothing do you get? We receive around 10 tons of clothing donations a week. We get everything from high-quality textiles such as wool suits, silk, from good brands, to towels, washcloths and homemade children’s costumes. Everything is there, shoes,

bags are there - you can imagine. We find clothing in every condition including dirty and smelly clothes, which we unfortunately can’t use. What do you do with the textiles and clothing you get? First and foremost, we sort for the Kleiderkammer. There mainly we need male clothing in sizes S to L. We need basic things like sneakers, jeans, t-shirts, sweaters and jackets. Everything else we get that the people on the street can’t use, like suits, or for the biggest part, women’s clothing, are sold in our local shops. Around 15% of the donations we receive go directly to the homeless. The largest obstacle is that we mostly receive women clothing but 90 % of the homeless in Berlin are male. Everything that we can’t sell further in our second hand shops goes to TEXTILHAFEN, where we sell different textiles and clothing for prices ranging from 1 to 3 euros. From here creative projects source their materials. We also hold social workshops where we teach techniques of upcycling.


Re/upcycling There are of course things that we can’t use. Items that are stained, smelly, have holes or things that are worn out, for example. How does Berliner Stadtmission more specifically work with upcycling of clothing/textiles? On one hand, we have founded the upcycling label Water to Wine where we make underwear out of t-shirts that we can’t give away or sell. From all the donations we get in, little to none is underwear. And one of our necessities is clean underwear for the homeless. At the same time the TEXTILHAFEN is also a meeting place for artists and designers to discuss and exchange ideas on how to further develop circular economy. What does Berliner Stadtmission think the future holds for direct reuse and recycling of clothing/textiles? We hope that in the future we will be able to return all the clothes donated by the people of Berlin and Brandenburg back into circularity. We envision a society where we can give our ‘materials’ into the hands of designers and artists that are able to push forward new systems.


We also want to initiate collaborations with the industry to recycle on a big scale. For now we want to spread the word about the current situation and that people need to be aware that it’s better to consume secondhand goods and refer to the resources and ‘value’ we already have instead of newly produced commodities. The threat lies in the fact that society often prefers to distance itself from secondhand goods and that it’s not yet a substantial economical part of our society. Mainly because recycling and upcycling is just too expensive and labour intensive in manufacturing. In the current state, research and development is still being done to improve the second hand textile industry. We hope that we with TEXTILHAFEN can connect people, institutes and industries to accelerate this process.


Underwear for the homeless and a carpet made out of old tshirts, for the the project Water to Wine. (Photo: Ben Busch, Courtesy of TIER)



Tim van der Loo New Blue timvanderloo.com

In New Blue the emphasis is put on using unconventional techniques where old jeans are processed into small fibers and stitched together with a digital embroidery machine. A layer of water soluble fleece holds the jeans fibers together, so a grid can be stitched over the fibers to create a new, persistent material. After embroidering the jeans fibers together the water soluble fleece is washed out and rest fibers are collected.

“Denim is a ubiquitous material loved by everyone and used by everyone. It’s also a big source of waste in the textile industry. The challenge as I see it is to keep old worn out denim and rest fibers recirculating within the system� New blue is about finding new pathways in circular economy, aesthetics and production processes. Van der Loo explores the world of Circular Economy with denim taking the centre stage. Denim was originally a durable fabric that through time has lost its integrity in the rise of globalization and fast consumption. We are left with vast streams of waste and no infrastructure to absorb them.


As a result New Blue proposes with its patchwork of jeans fibers a new textile material that could be incorporated in the fashion industry. A material and process that invites former waste streams as old cotton jeans and rest fibers to be reused over and over. As the embroidery only covers the needed surface, and the unstitched fibers that come out of the washing process are collected and reused, the opportunity is there for producing zero waste pre-made clothing parts.




Alberte Laursen Rothenborg Welcome to Wasteland @alberterothenborg

Welcome to Wasteland wants you to reconsider the value of waste. Provoking the idea that the things and objects we now consider disposable are the valuable resources of tomorrow. For 2 months Alberte Rothenborg collected and archived her own waste. She documented waste discarded in the streets of Berlin. And gathered disposed products that could gain new value. By reframing and upcycling the waste in an aesthetical context, the garment installations give new life and meaning to the things someone threw away. The clothing someone didn’t want anymore. The plastic packaging removed from food. The cigarette buds that will take 10 years or more to decompose in nature. Every piece, material and detail is used to ask: what is waste? And what holds value?


Clothing and textile waste is estimated to be the fastest growing waste stream in western countries. 350.000 tonnes of clothes and textiles are annually discarded as waste. More than 70% are burned or ends in landfills. This is a direct consequence of the fast growing consumption of fashion. Fashion is designed to be wasted – and not designed to last. By equalizing fashion waste, with household waste the project frames the absurdity of current consumer behavior. Because “waste is design gone wrong” (Dr John Whittall, Lead Technologist in Resource Efficiency at Technology Strategy Board).


Text: Alberte Laursen Rothenborg Photo and design: Alberte Laursen Rothenborg


Re/upcycling Elena Azzedìn Live the dream - “Quoting Miranda July and Deborah Levy to a Beluga” The work consists of a bird-cage into which a sentence is woven that says “Live the dream”. The cage is open and a birdshaped potato stands at the edge of the open door. This work is inspired by two different novels, “No one belongs here more than you” by Miranda July and “Things I don’t want to know” from Deborah Levy. In the first referred novel, there is a short story in which the protagonist, brainwashed by the yellow press, decides to chase Prince Charles who is visiting the city that day, seeking for a romantic encounter that she had dreamed about. While walking on the streets on her mission, she encounters a very worried lady who asks about her dog, “Potato”, which ran away. The protagonist apologises for not having seen it. The story continues and in a certain moment, she sees a dog running, “must be Potato”, she guesses, then she looks at the dog running free along the street and she thinks “live the dream Potato!”. A few pages later, she again crosses paths with Potato’s owner, and when been asked once more she can’t avoid to tell her the truth: -Yes I’ve seen him, the protagonist says. -And why didn’t you stop him? Potato’s owner asks inquisitively.


-Because he seemed happily running. -Happy? He was terrified! says the lady. The protagonist rethinks the dog’s expression and realises that the owner was probably right. At the end of the chapter the owner of Potato is in a car, with Potato dead in the back seat. On Deborah Levy’s autobiographical novel, “Things I don’t want to know”, her father, a member of the African National Congress (ANC), was jailed when she was 5, and after giving some troubles in school, she is sent to her godmother’s house. A pretty conservative family with an apparently shallow daughter who slowly reveals a deep understanding of how to navigate such context in her teenage years. In one scene, the protagonist liberates the dear bird of the Godmother, who doesn’t fly too far but disappears for long enough to create the drama. The family’s daughter defends the protagonist by telling that she sees her father in the bird. Both stories reflected how the understanding of the things that happen around us are shaped by our own projections. “Live the dream” highlights the idea of happiness as something consensual, as a fixed goal, a vague common idea of success, which seems to be easier to reach for others but not for us. While in Deborah’s story the sorrow of the protagonist is projected onto the bird, which once

Textiles released from the cage, demonstrates that in fact it is not seeking freedom.

Condemneed to Becoming and Never Being’, The Dirt, April 29).

When I was invited to participate in Hands on Matter, working with textile around the idea of consumption and sustainability, I thought about Berlin as the place to “live the dream” for any artist nowadays. In times of consumption of the intangible and cultural capital, as other big cities in different times, today Berlin is the new “Colorado” for the so-called creative class. Contacts and openings have become the new value and the places to purchase your success.

The reference to the Beluga in the title of the artwork, is because that is how I call the talented woman who read the two novels to me. She, aware enough to be sceptical about what the big cities and their relevant art scene can offer to accomplish one’s dream, as many other artists, still pays the demanding price that implies to live in Berlin.

The idea of freedom of expression and avant garde has built a history of art around specific places, mostly western cities. Places to get to know and be known, but at the same time their “b” side is competitiveness, the fast rise of the living costs that push us to make any kind of job to survive while developing our artistic projects.

The potato, on the edge of the door of the cage, suggests a bird about to fly, but it’s most likely destinies are wether to rot in place, or end up as mashed potato. But no one knows. Extraordinary things happen every day, and the potato may fall into a plant pot and it will definitely not fly but may grow leaves that could reach very high.

These situations, as Karl Scheffler said about Berlin in 1910, condemn us to always becoming and never to being (Berlin - The Fate of the City). “Berlin is in a perpetual state of transition. The current home vacancy rate is around 1.5%. Berlin just took the title for having the fastest rising property prices in the world” (Dunn, Gabriel (2018) ‘A City



Event impression

Left: Talk; Sarah Schwesig telling about the methods of Berliner Stadtmission. Above: Workshop square pin loom weaving with textile waste. (Photos: Ben Busch, Courtesy of TIER)


Notes Square Pin Loom Weaving (Bias Weave) Square Pin Loom weaving is a technique using an equal number of pins on a wooden frame to weave various woven textiles. It was famous as a craft around 1930 until 1950. It is unclear where it has its origins, but in 1934, a designer called Donald R. Simonds (US) patented the little looms called Weave-It Looms. A handheld loom to weave small squares with numerous possibilities. Another variation of Square Pin Loom weaving is the Bias weave. This weaving technique uses the warp and weft at the same time by working with diagonal lines. This method is called ‘speed weaving’ because you only have to put effort into weaving half of the square – the method automatically weaves the other half.

You need: - Wooden beams - Nails - Screws - Wood Glue - Pen - Ruler - Yarn (Old t-shirt cut in stripes)

You can take any kind of wooden frame or make one yourself. It is important that it is an equilateral square with an even number of nails on each side (12, 48, etc). You can use any spacing you want. We went with 1 cm between each nail. Use a ruler to indicate the distance and put in nails as desired.


Notes We used old t-shirts and cut them into stripes to weave.

Knot the beginning of the yarn in any corner.

Take the yarn to the other corner and go back.

Take a loop of the yarn and go under the first yarn.

Hook the loop onto the two next points, pull the yarn back.

Take the loop and continue, make sure to always start under and then up (repeat) to create a weave.

The last two points only need one yarn. Take it to the end and tie it together with another yarn. Now you can take it of.


Regeneration What is soil? When you think about it, stop for a minute and reflect, you can point to soil as the starting point and the ending point for all living organisms on earth. Not only do our food grow in soil, the nutrients from soil nourish the sea and its life within, soil has the power to transform dead plants, animals, manure and everything in between into the basis of new life - as long as it is alive with microorganisms, insects and fungi. From a solid understanding of soil, business and design cases can be built. Here set by the two examples of Dycle and Animal Coffin.

The Diaper Cycle, DYCLE – transforms the hygiene, health and waste problem of baby diapers into an opportunity to generate jobs, soil and fruits while strengthening local communities.

In Germany alone 1.300 tons of diapers are used every single day, which gives a total of 500.000 tons of waste every year (www.dycle.org). Waste that by CO2 emitting trucks are driven to incineration plants to be burned. But what if it could be done differently? What if diapers did not have the sole purpose of keeping baby bums dry at night? In 2015 Ayumi Matsuzaka and Christian Schloh began the journey of changing how diapers are produced and used - by designing out waste.


DYCLE offers a circular economy system of 100% bio-based and compostable diaper inlays and takes back the used ones to be transformed into black soil (Terra Preta) ideal for growing fruit and nut trees, turning waste into new growth. The Diaper Cycle builds on neighbourhood communities. The diaper inlays are distributed and recollected at meeting points, such as kindergartens and public parks, all within one kilometer of the homes of the involved small children families. This promotes contact among the parents, when they collect fresh inlays, which are provided to them when they bring back the soiled ones. In the local community the families can find support in each

Soil other, swap clothes and toys, and connect with each other. The production of diaper inlays is decentralized - made in local communities by local natural resources. Creating job opportunities.

social unit - by increasingly knowing other local children and parents, as well as more about the way their local environment works.

‘‘Imagine a future where children grow up in an environment in which cycles of production and consumption are closed, and sustainability is practised everyday. It becomes a natural part of their life’’ The soil is used to plant fruit trees that will provide food security for generations to come, while improving microclimate and increasing biodiversity in the local environment. Imagine a future where children grow up in an environment in which cycles of production and consumption are closed, and sustainability is practised everyday. It becomes a natural part of their life. Parents work together to strengthen their communities, empowering each other to take economic decisions and processes back to the local level. Children benefit from this stronger

In the end, good soil is an essential factor in the earth system: only with fertile soil and clever solutions in nutrient cycles we will be able to address issues of soil degradation, food security, climate change, with more..



Christian Frank Müller Animal Coffin diversityanddetails.com

Animal Coffin Is a project based on a big research about waste and how it could be transformed to a new material. We decided to create a new material by using only natural, biodegradable materials. The final material is based on the ingredients: cardboard, hair, flour, vinegar, starch and coffee leftovers. With the new material and its properties we designed an animal coffin in three sizes. After burying your beloved pet in this coffin the material will start to biodegrade and the coffin including the corpse will be nutrients for the soil.

‘‘Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed’’ Antoine Laurent de Lavoisier





Event impression

Left: Workshop; making seedbombs from soil, clay and seasonal seeds. Above: Investigating healthy soil. (Photos: Ben Busch, Courtesy of TIER)


Notes Making seed bombs Seed bombs are an ancient Japanese practice called Tsuchi Dango, meaning ‘Earth Dumpling’ (seed bombs are made from clay earth). Seed bombs were reintroduced in 1938 by a Japanese microbiologist/ farmer Masanobu Fukuoka (1913–2008), author of The One Straw Revolution. Seed bombing was part of Fukuoka’s annual farming regime. He believed that Mother Nature takes care of the seeds we sow and decides which crops to provide us with, like a process of natural selection, because ultimately nature decides what will grow and when germination will occur, be that in 7 days or several seasons away. (Ref. The History Of The Seed Bomb, https://www.seedbomb.ie) In order to make seed bombs, you need very simple ingredients, like earth, clay and seeds that fit the local ecosystem and season. The best period to ‘bomb’ is between April and June. The idea behind the seed bombs is to revive the urban landscape and support local ecosystems incl. bees and pollination.


Notes You need: - 1 part soil - 1 part clay or mineral rich earth - 1/2 part water - Local seasonal seeds

Roll balls out Mix it togehter

of it. Diameter

into a wet clay

around 3 to 4

like substance.

cm (The balls can be dense).

Let the seed bombs dry for 24 hours. Throw the seed bombs on barren ground or empty lots to grow biodiversity in the city.


Plants What can we learn from ancient production methods? Can bast and dried plant fibers create new modern utilitarian objects? The idea is put forward that maybe we do not have to look that far away (into the technological, self-growing future) in order to find innovative techniques.

circular/ sustainable innovation. She elaborated on the topic using her more recent “bast shoe” project and how it could be built upon to create a shoe of the future. The “bast shoe” is a thought exercise tool. It challenges the status quo by asking: How could a shoe be made if it was reinvented? How would it be made by someone without shoemaking experience - the designer herself? With the material as a starting point - seagrass, which made up

‘‘Ancient production practices could be used as a creative catalyst towards circular/ sustainable innovation’’ Julia Perera – is interested in everything it takes to get there, especially the question of how to make people connect emotionally to circular fashion practices. In her presentation she discussed what thinkers such as the coauthor of “Cradle to Cradle”, William McDonough, have hinted at already: Ancient production practices could be used as a creative catalyst towards


parts of the ancient glacier mummy Ötzi’s shoes, and with superficial research into espadrille making, the meditative journey of sewing archaic looking shoes into existence lead to the conclusion that making truly sustainable shoes is indeed possible by combining the old with the new. Building upon the old technique of espadrille soles, the addition of a

knit or woven, removable upper and 3D- printed, removable/modular soles would result in a truly circular product. Julia Perera, a recent fashion design graduate at HTW Berlin (University of Applied Sciences), has experimented with different circular design approaches during her studies such as upcycling, zero waste and 3D printing. She has co-organized multiple Open Source Circular Economy Days events, a global hackathon series that advocates creating a truly sustainable economy with the help of open source methods of collaboration.

Above: Perera’s Bast Shoe Project. Right: Fragment of painting by Nikolay Bogdanov-Belsky - Oral Arithmetics In the Primary School of S.A.Ratschinskij



Anton Richter 100 %

100% - what looks like wood chips or straw at first glance reveals itself as asparagus shell. During drying, the white and soft peel has turned into a brownish and durable material with wood-like properties. With the suitable processing, a fibre composite material can be produced, which consists entirely of asparagus shells, as they don‘t require any binder due to their own bonding properties. The particularly long fibers also allow a high degree of flexibility and stability. Both surfaces and bodies can be pressed, modeled and folded. In spite of its robust nature, the material is easy to dissolve and can be returned into its natural cycle.




Kanako Ishii Re-Landscape kanakoishii.com

Re-Landscape - Kanako Ishii’s interest lies in the analysis of metaphysical borders such as past – present, remembered – forgotten or presence – absence. She calls these metaphysical borders “grey sensations”. Metaphorically, she senses these borders as grey nuances. Even though achromatic colours like grey are usually seen as a composition of black and white, Ishii regards grey as a mixture of multiple colours.

When she encounters those grey boundaries, she captures them from various angles – through curtains, from a distance, or from the heights of different people. She sees her camera finder functioning as a “window” – the eyes of implied individuals. No matter how much detail the images captured, Ishii senses that there is something like a thin “curtain” draped over them – the memories attached. Her works are often installation pieces, portraying impressions that she gathered. They are artefacts from the dream-like memory, transcending between time and space. Her body of work is constantly growing and becoming an archive of the “grey sensations” that she has collected.




Elena Sofia Stranges Kräuterstoff cargocollective.com/sofel

Kräuterstoff - Is it possible to strengthen social structures through the collective upgrading of old textiles? The series of Kräuterstoff workshops, organised in Summer 2019 in collaboration with Berliner Stadtmission, practice critical sustainability approaches and networking. New value is given to donated clothing by dyeing these with urban plants and vegetable waste. Reviving stained clothing, which is responsible for a large part of textile waste, through personalized techniques - shibori, dip dye, and tie dye etc.. As a result of the workshop series, surprising and unique colouring appeared from using dyes from overlooked plants like weeds growing in the public parks of Berlin. This caused Stranges to build a physical catalogue, a herbarium, over local plants ideal to use for dyeing.




Event impression

The workshop of Elena Sofia Stranges; dyeing old textiles with local plants and vegetable waste using shibori, dip dye and tie dye techniques. (Photos: Lorenzo Sandoval, Courtesy of TIER)