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Autarky: Ode to the Grain

Eindhoven-based Italian duo FormaFantasma launch an exquisite series of tableware and lamps made from flour coloured with natural pigments derived from dried spices and vegetables, and brooms crafted from grain stalks and tops.

By Jeanne Tan /asdf 15-04-2010

The delectable series of Autarky tableware look almost edible, but unfortunately they're not: the limestone powder and desiccated agricultural waste inside the ceramic-like dough probably wouldn't taste very delicious.

The new pieces designed by Studio FormaFantasma are being launched in Milan at Spazio Rossana Orlandi. The collection takes its starting point from grains and cereals, consisting of a series of vessels, vases and lights all made from a specially developed bio-material consisting of 70% flour, 20% shredded dried agricultural waste (like grain stalks and leaves) and 10% natural limestone.

Their exhibition in the popular gallery illustrates the process of research, displaying the different steps in how the designers created the pieces. Different types of flour provide the basis for the dough, each one giving the mixture a specific colour or texture: Sorghum and rye are darker and rougher in texture while regular 00 flour gives a pale shade with a fine consistency. Next up in the dry mixture comes the dried, powdered agricultural waste and crushed natural limestone which are added to absorb moisture and act as a natural preservative. Natural dyes are derived from dried vegetables and spices like saffron, spinach, beetroot, curry and paprika. The water-based dough is then pressed into moulds (which are powdered with limestone to prevent sticking) and after the pieces are baked slowly (under low heat of special lamps for 4-8 hours depending on the air humidity), they are left to air-dry. A thin layer of natural shellac provides a protective outer coating. Some edges glazed with egg and then fired add a burnt contrast to the smooth surface of the bowls.

As guests in the project, Studio Formafantasma invited the Italian broom maker Giuseppe Brunello and the renowned French bakery Poilane, to join in the development of the installation. The cereal Sorghum works as a link between these crafts – in a perfect production process without waste, the cereal is harvested and used to create tools, vessels and foods. Traditional brooms made from the stalks of the grain are reinterpreted to be crafted with the grain tops - the broom's plume - and roots still intact. Poilane created bread accessories including stunning bread wreaths to accompany the vases.

“'Autarky' pays homage to the uncomplicated, the simple and the everyday," explain the designers. "The collection suggests an alternative way of producing goods where inherited knowledge is used to find sustainable and uncomplicated solutions."

Main image and images 1-4, photography Matylda Krzykowski
Images 5-12, photography: Studio FormaFantasma

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