Dutch Designer Wieki Somers just might have found the next new renewable building material — human ashes. For the Grand Hornu Images gallery exhibit “In Progress,” she used a 3D printer to turn human ashes into art. Somers created three pieces — a toaster, a mini vacuum cleaner and a scale — for the exhibit that was meant to have the designers rethink the idea of progress. The haunting pieces, which you can see in detail over at Designboom, were a way of asking how we could become more attached to objects in order to move away from consumer culture.

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The artist statement for the project — which is entitled “consumer or conserve” — notes our seemingly unending need to consume objects and our detachment from their meaning and impact. So what is something that most people are unswervingly attached to? The ashes of their loved ones. Perhaps if we made those ashes into useful products like a chair, a toaster or a vacuum cleaner, it would make us all realize the importance of holding onto things.

The objects also have a hint of the 16th and 17th century still life Vanitas paintings, which were meant to depict just a hint of human life without including people. The “consumer or conserve” toaster has one live bird perched atop the piece and one dead bird lying on its back near the power chord. These were meant to include the notion of how fleeting life is, how futile pleasure is and that we will all meet a certain death. So upon that death, why not make use of our bodies? This is definitely one of the most creative uses of materials we’ve seen yet.

+ See more at Designboom

+ Grand Hornu Images

+ Wieki Somers

Via New York Times T Magazine