berlin-based artist and former acne accessories designer yasmin bawa champions hemp for its myriad of qualities.not only is it purported to be the strongest natural fiber in the world but it’s also sustainable, less harmful to produce than cotton and can be used to create a biodegradable material that is as malleable as clay. that’s why bawa uses it to create her monolithic plant pots and vases, presented during paris design week 2019.
called hempcrete, the bio-composite material is a mix of lime, plaster and hemp-hurds, the inner part of the hemp stalk which is leftover during processing the plant. the result is a coarse thick paste, which bawa hand moulds to create one of her organic shapes. she then coats the surface with a finer paste that is mixed with natural colorant before sealing each one using the moroccan building technique of tadelakt — a traditional plastering system that involves using a flat-faced stone and olive oil to polish the surface.
unlike clay, hempcrete doesn’t require firing in a kiln but instead air drys with each layer, which means that bawa uses little to no electricity during the production process. it also means that each piece can take up to a month to finish because of the long-drying time. although that doesn’t phase bawa however who plans to built bigger to support her mission of sharing with the world the benefits of hemp, according to an interview with ignant.
I want to create something that’s challenging what ecological materials are’, she says. ‘I mean, hemp as a fiber can be made into any kind of fabric, but we only see this rough brown material because nobody is really developing it — not because it’s not possible. so when people think it can only be like this, i’m like, no, it’s just that no one has done it yet. you just have to find a way to make it work.’
after starting off a career in fashion — beginning as an accessories designer for acne — she became disillusioned with an industry that causes so much damage to the planet. eventually, bawa found herself in berlin where she started designing her own pieces using concrete. aware of the environmental impact of the material she tried experimenting with hemp, surprised by the similarities in the final result.
- designer: yasmin bawa
- material: hempcrete
- studio location: berlin
- presented at: paris design week