London-based designer Julia Lohmann thinks dried strips of seaweed could replace leather, paper and plastic to make everyday objects like these laser-cut kelp lampshades. “I’ve been working for many years with undervalued materials.” says Julia, who has made lamps out of sheep stomachs and furniture out of soap. “The story of the material is part of where its value is determined. I find it strange that we kill an animal, and we eat some parts and some parts we wear – but with others parts we say, ‘Ew, I’m not going to use that.'”
Her 2013 installation Oki Naganode, made of Japanese Naga seaweed, was inspired by her conversations with seaweed farmers she met during a residency in Japan. “I approach everything as a maker, so when I asked them, ‘What do you do with the seaweed?’ I was surprised when the answer was simply, ‘Oh, we eat it, that’s all we do with it.” Seaweed filters toxins out of the water – a problem when it is farmed solely for food. If used as a raw material, however, its life as a water purifier doesn’t detract from its later usefulness. Lohmann has pioneered treatments for seaweed that allow it to be used in furniture veneers or to remain flexible and translucent, like leather.