At times, designers venture into self directed projects, envisioning the potential of a quick mental image and transforming into a collection of objects. The journey drives them to research and experiment into the qualities of a type ofmaterial and push it to its limit, hoping to figure out how it can be controlled. Mexican designer Fernando Laposse, a recent graduate from Central Saint Martins, in London took on the challenge of exploring the qualities of a loofah or luffa, a tropical and sub-tropical vine that contains a network of xylem or fibers utilized to create kitchen and bath products.
Loofah is an edible fruit (related to the pumpkin and cucumber) popular in Asia, which grows vertically attaching itself to trees. It is harvested with little impact on the soil, reproduces rapidly and leaves little to no roots behind. This sustainable fruit is perfect for extensive use and a dynamic array of uses. With only 6 months harvest time and up to 8,000 of them per hectare, it seemed only natural to explore its qualities to give it a new use and new value.
Laposee wanted to use loofah and exploit its natural qualities: lightness, translucency, heat insulation, texture and shock absorption which when mixed with cement and wood resulted in a pleasant balance as the natural tones blend well. Loofah itself was flattened, sewn together and shaped to extend its possibilities. The exploration allowed Fernando to envision the products and how he could make the material the protagonist rather than the object itself. This approach lends the series of pieces a sense of consistency and gels it as a group. Collaborating with a local carpenter in Mexico City, the designer was able to shape each piece carefully using the craftsman’s experience.
Fernando Laposee shows us how loofah translates well into a freestanding partition which when placed near a light source, diffuses it yet allows you to see through. As a desk, he uses loofah to give depth and the perceived notion of weight to the piece; also ideal for mobility. Another of our favorite pieces are the planter vases that extend the look of its function to the natural environment. Last but not least, we adore the terra-cotta and loofah combination as the contrast plays beautifully. Both molded natural materials come together and show the careful artesian process from the hand of the craftsman and the mind of the designer.
We know projects like this continue to push the envelope in the design process and allow other designers to imagine their next self directed project. Sourcing from what is sustainable and available, we can create functional and aesthetically pleasing objects that demonstrate what we do with our lives and how we use our tools to maintain a sense of balance with our environment.