Phytophilia Design Conversation

Designers have always contributed to shaping material culture, which makes them important actors in the context of transformative change. This panel talk therefore aims to bring the discourse on regenerative perspectives in design to design students and design professionals who are significantly involved in material decisions for new consumer products and living and working environments. They are often themselves the initiators of future-oriented perspectives to address the major ecological challenges of our time. One example is the project Phytophilia by Danish designer Sara Martinsen. In her project she explores the aesthetic and functional potentials of plant fibres, which are of great relevance for the fields of product and textile design, applied art and architecture, especially with regards to transformative change. This design conversation takes Sara Martinsen’s project as a starting point for discourse and raises questions about possible applications and ecologically relevant aspects of plant fibres: Can the use of plant fibres in design always be equated with sustainability? Can consumers be influenced in their purchasing decisions in the long term by natural material aesthetics? What is the significance of material culture in general for sustainability and transformative change? These and other questions will be discussed with speakers from design, business and academia.

Phytophilia – Design Conversation

Recording from Thursday 26 January 2023
The recorded event can be viewed below…

Part 1:
Welcome Note
Sara Martinsen: Phytophilia Project Presentation
Dr. Kirsten Scott: Fashion, Ecology, and Anthropology

Part 2:
Dr. Svenja Keune:  Designing and Living with Organisms
Jess Redgrave: Climafibre – Modular Materials Made Entirely from Sunflowers
Panel Discussion

Speakers and Presentation Topics (all talks will be held in English)

Sara Martinsen

Phytophilia Project Presentation

Sara Martinsen, Phytophilia, Culturesphere, Symbiocene

Sara Martinsen is a Danish designer based in Copenhagen. She works at the intersection of art and design, creating edition pieces from bio based materials and has developed a digital encyclopedia on the subject of plant fibres.

In her presentation she will talk about her on-going project Phytophilia, in which she has archived her collected knowledge about possible applications and ecological background information of these renewable and fully biodegradable materials in a digital encyclopaedia in order to make it accessible to a broad public.

Dr. Kirsten Scott

Fashion, Ecology, and Anthropology

Dr. Kristen Scott, Symbio(s)cene, Symbiocene, Oliver Szasz, Ingrid Ruegemer

Dr Kirsten Scott, Research Lead and Programme Leader for Postgraduate Fashion courses at Istituto Marangoni London. She has worked extensively on cross-cultural research collaborations and product development, navigating ethical concerns, the legacies of colonialism, local to global and the realities of diverse fashion markets.

There are profound lessons to be learned from indigenous textile practices about how we might better collaborate with nature – including associated land stewardship, sustainable fibre and production methods, inter-human relationships, care, and the local, cultural significance of processes that have sustainably been performed for centuries – that might re-orientate us towards a future where we all may thrive. However, when radically indigenous materials are suggested for fashion, questions of scalability quickly arise, as the impulse to commercialise and grow is privileged over relational modes of knowing, being and doing. Focusing on the work of the Barkcloth Research Network, the talk will highlight the importance of reframing indigenous textile technologies as innovative rather than primitive and of learning – with humility – that traditional knowledge systems have much to offer for our future.

Dr. Svenja Keune

Designing and Living with Organisms

Svenja Keune, Symbio(s)cene, Symbiocene, Oliver Szasz, Ingrid Ruegemer

Svenja Keune is a postdoctoral researcher at the Swedish School of Textiles, University of Borås, in Sweden and at the Centre for Information Technology and Architecture (CITA) at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation in Copenhagen, where she is currently working on ‘Designing and Living with Organisms (DLO)’, a 3 year project funded by an international postdoc grant from the Swedish Research Council.

Questioning her role as an artist/designer towards environmental issues, two major questions arised: How does one design and how does one live in a time in which we are dealing with an environmental crisis and experiencing its consequences first-hand? In search for answers she started to use seeds as a dynamic material for textile design and built her own hybrid house to be able to ‘live her research’ and to explore first hand how sustainable living could look and feel like. As a result of this experience Keune is now interested in two additional questions: “Who to design for?” and “How to live with what was designed and fabricated for humans and other organisms (plants, fungi, insects, bacteria)?” This hence generates an impetus for new aesthetics and perspectives to design, live and educate to unfold.

Jess Redgrave

Climafibre – Modular Materials Made Entirely from Sunflowers

Jess Redgrave, Clima Fibre, Symbio(s)cene, Symbiocene, Oliver Szasz, Ingrid Ruegemer

Jess Redgrave is a multidisciplinary designer working at the intersection of fashion and science, pushing the boundaries of regenerative design and traditional biological practices. After working for several years as a fashion designer, Jess enrolled in the MA Material Futures course at Central Saint Martins, where she set up her design practice with a focus on fashion that’s actively good for the planet and biodiversity. As her graduation product she developed Climafibre, which uses sunflowers to develop textiles, dyes and a hydrophobic coating for the fashion industry that support regenerative food systems, protect biodiversity and aid climate mitigation. Using enzymes, Climafibre is the first to develop a unique process to isolate cellulose fibres from sunflower stems, which are then spun into yarns. The hydrophobic coating is made from a by-product of the sunflower oil industry, providing protection for natural fibres. Pigments are extracted from various parts of the plant, and used as natural dyes.

Hosts / ModeratorInnen


PD Dr. Tina Heger
Co-Founder Symbio(s)cene & Lecturer at Chair of Restoration Ecology, Technische Universität München (TUM), School of Life Sciences, Munich

Ingrid Rügemer
Co-Founder Symbio(s)cene,
Co-Founder Culturesphere GmbH,
& independet Designer, Artist and Curator

Prof. Oliver Szasz, Symbio(s)cene, Symbioscene, Culturesphere

Prof. Oliver Szasz
Co-Founder Symbio(s)cene & Professor and Head of Design Management at Macromedia University, Munich

Phytophilia Exhibition

In addition, the aesthetic and sensory qualities of plant fibres of the Phytophilia encyclopedia can be physically experienced in the accompanied Phytophilia exhibition in Munich from 20 January until 31 März 2023 at Culturesphere Gallery. There are free guided exhibition tours every Friday at 18:00

Phytophilia, Sara Martinsen, Symbiocene, Symbio(s)cene, Culturesphere, Ingrid Ruegemer

Supporters and Sponsors:

The Phytophilia exhibition is supported by Culturesphere Gallery and sponsored by Selbach Umwelt Stiftung. The Phytophilia talk event is sponsored by Bayern Design and Bayerisches Staatsministerium für Wirtschaft, Landesentwicklung und Energie.

Culturesphere, Selbach Umwelt Stiftung, Bayern Design, Bayerisches Staatsministerium