Photo via: Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum
A dress made out of salmon skin? Hot shot designer Yves Béhar helping women make hot chocolate? What in the world is going on?
If you’re going to be in New York City anytime before the end of the year, plan a visit to the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and check out the “Design for a Living World” exhibit, which runs through January 4, 2010.
Developed by the Nature Conservancy, it features fascinating objects from around the globe, all made from sustainable, natural materials and created by 10 leading designers in the fashion/art/industrial design world, including Yves Béhar, Maya Lin, and Kate Spade.
“Our goal with the exhibition is to connect audiences to nature by exploring the story of place through innovative design,” said Mark Tercek, president and chief executive of The Nature Conservancy. “(The exhibit) challenges us to think about the products we use—where they come from, how they’re made, and what the impacts are on our planet and on local communities.”
With items such as a dress and matching shoes made from salmon skin (typically a waste product of the fishing industry) and a purse made out of wood, it’s also a lot of fun. Here’s a quick sampling of what you’ll see:
Béhar (designer of Herman Miller’s Twist LED task light, Leaf personal light, and Ardea personal light) focused on Costa Rican chocolate for his entry. Working with local women who make and sell a traditional hot drink using cocoa, he developed a device to make scraping the cocoa easier, along with a jute bag to hold it, the cocoa patty, and how-to instructions.
Industrial designer Stephen Burks traveled to Australia to create the “Totem,” a tool made from reclaimed native jamwood that the local Noongar people can use to make and package a line of organic herb-and-sandalwood-based cosmetics they’re developing for export.
Dutch designer Hella Jongerius explored other uses for chicle, a tree residue in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula that’s used for chewing gum products, and came up with more than 20 vessels and plates embellished with the substance.
Abbott Miller, partner in the New York design firm Pentagram, is co-curator of “Design for a Living World,” along with Ellen Lupton, curator of contemporary design at Cooper-Hewitt. Known for his innovative installations at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Harley-Davidson Museum, Miller says his goal with the exhibit is to “open an important conversation between conservationists and designers about the potential and legacy of natural materials. By choosing sustainable materials, designers contribute to the advancement of a global conservation ethic that can foster consumer awareness.”
It’s all quite intriguing. But if you can’t make it to the “Design for a Living World” exhibit in person, at least take a look at this “sneak preview” on treehugger.com.
By Keasha Palmer