Born into a family of beekeepers, Huissoud first experimented with propolis, a biodegradable resin that honey bees collect from different trees and use as a sealant in the hive. The color of propolis changes depending on its source, but the designer opted for a black variant that comes from rubber trees. In order to manipulate the material, which has similar characteristics to glass, Huissoud had to learn about traditional blowing and engraving techniques. Her finished works look like tree-shaped alien artefacts, and each feature a unique pattern to set them apart from one another.
The second experiment involved sericin, a natural glue that holds silkworm cocoons together. Huissoud found that it can be reactivated by wetting and heating the fibers to create a strong paper-like material. The designer also applied a propolis varnish that transformed the paper into a wooden leathered material. Long sections were then used to create the “Silk Cabinet” and “Leather Light.”
While many modern designs place an emphasis on quantity and not quality, while also relying on unsustainable materials, Huissoud’s experiments show that there are other ways to work. Using by-products of natural processes not only has less of an environmental impact, but also results in more organic pieces that each have a character of their own.
Images by Marlène Huissoud