You're listening to the mushroom revival podcast. Welcome all of our listeners if you are new to the mushroom revival podcast, I'm your host, Alex Dora. And if you're a longtime listener, welcome back. We are a podcast dedicated to going super deep into the wonderful, wacky, mysterious world of fungi and mushrooms and we bring on guests from all around the world to geek out with us and have a really fun time. So today we're going to talk about fungal materials and so welcome Marie is that I pronounce your name yes, in Finnish you say Mari, Mari. Mari. How you doing? What are you up to? What do you what do you do in relation to mushrooms?
Well, I am a designer. So I'm a Finnish designer. My name is monocoque banana. And currently, I'm living in Norway, but I'm a bit half in there. So both in Finland, and in Norway, I have my background in furniture and fashion design. But currently, I'm focusing on my PhD in artistic research. And I'm doing it about fungal materials. So funghi fungi is my very close to my heart. And currently I'm in in central Finland out at our summer cottage, building up huge quality ports for my exhibition in one month. Wow.
And what were you an artist first and then you got into mushrooms? Or were you into mushrooms first and then got into art?
Well, I've I think I've always been into mushrooms, I grew up in a family where we are we have always picked mushrooms and I also grew up in rather close to nature and and forests. So mushrooms have always fascinated me. But then I've always been also quite in the creative field. So my grandmother and my mother are both very into crafts. So they I started studying after high school. I started with fashion design and then continued with furniture design. And during the furniture studies I got into mushrooms materialize and not only eating them.
What, what inspired you to work with fungi? Like what was the moment that you were like, oh my god, I gotta weave these two things together.
Well, we had a project that we were supposed to investigate one group, and I felt I didn't find any connection with any kind of it could be like, elderly or city gardening or whatever kind of group of humans. And then I just didn't feel inspired. So I chose to I chose fungi fungi. So I decided that I will investigate fungi as my my Gru. And that was the first project I I made the that I started seeing fungi as as a person and also mapping out different places in Oslo and using same techniques as fungi books, us they qualify the different kinds of mushrooms like how, how well the area is or how them How does it taste? Or how does it feel? Or how does it look like so I I mapped out different parts of Oslo as they were modules.
Wow, that's really cool. Then I Yeah.
Yeah, and also, this is growing mushrooms by myself.
And as an artist, and I'm, I'm always curious with other artists, whether they do kind of visual arts or music or whatever, you know, I hear with this pressure to create, you know, you, you you I feel like as artists, there's always this this huge pressure to create something new to create, you know, to do something unique and it can that pressure can cause you know, for writers is writer's block. I don't know what it's called for other artists but you know, it can be hard to get into that flow state and that flow state can be kind of addicting like you're always kind of chasing the dragon of I want to get in that state where I can you know, everything aligns and I'm just totally inspired. I know exactly what I'm doing. everything just flows but but it's it's rare to get in that state do you have certain tricks or, you know, rituals that you do, or you know, life hacks that you do to like, get into that flow state where you can create this beautiful art?
Well, sometimes I get into the flow stage, and sometimes I don't, or it doesn't come so naturally, but I'm also, I have started to trust the process. It's such a cliche, but it's very exhausting sometimes being a designer, because you have to, you have to exhaust your brain all the time. But I think that for me, it's almost every time I get an idea, then I get really frustrated, I get comfortable. And then it turns out into something anyway. So there's always those stages, and I know they come, and then you'll go, and it will be sorted out, but the process can be shorter, it can be longer. And also, I've started to trust my gut feeling somehow that's sometimes or maybe often even the first idea is the best idea.
Yeah, definitely. That that is a really good life lesson that I've been working with all this summer. I mean, all my life, but But it's been really big this summer of trusting your gut, and not overthinking things, you know. Yeah, your mind can get in the way, you know, and it's usually that first gut feeling that it's totally right. And, and I've had so many situations where I'm like, Ah, I knew it. I knew it all along, and I should have just trusted my gut. And it's powerful, you know, that, that intuition, and it's cool seeing science kind of catch up of our understanding of the gut brain connection. And you know, how powerful our gut is. And it's really, I mean, it, it controls so much of our life is our gut. And it's cool that yeah, it can create really beautiful art as well. And so one of your kind of your main projects, I maybe is the right word that you were working on was focusing on using Ahmadu or foamies, foam antarious. Or, you know, Tinder conch is another common name that a lot of people use. Can you kind of give a, a brief background, maybe a history of what is the mushroom how it's been used throughout history and what can you use it for?
Yeah, so, in my opinion, amado is the mother of all fungal materials, it has been used for 1000s of years, for different purposes for for medical purposes and spiritual purposes. And it was found even that the itsy The Iceman carried on model and the inner fungus within 5000 years ago. And Hippocrates discovered also that amado has anti inflammatory properties and started manifesting for this material that it should be used in the as a medical substance. But Amato has been also used not only for firemaking, but also as a crafts material. And there are traces in different parts of, of Europe that that Amadeu has been used as a isolated or textile kind of material in various accessories or, or clothing. And in central Romania, there is still a small village which practices these crafts. So there are still few families practicing a craft in quorum. And they still make these traditional hats and bags out of Amadeu. And that's my, that has been my main subject, which I've been researching the past five, six years, and still am. So that's a very briefly the history of Oh my god.
And you went to Romania, for your studies to kind of dive deeper on to the historical practice and use of of this mushroom, how was your trip? Was there things, you know, experiences that were very notable or new things that you had no idea that you were able to learn?
Yes, so my whole Master's project was about this handicraft tradition and made this cultural sensitive project about the craft tradition. So I traveled to Romania in 2090. I had just briefly been in contact with the guide, I got contacted, or I had a contact with this guide. It's my mother's phone
such a really pleasant ringtone. As it adds, I was going off I was like, Yeah, I should probably change my ringtone that's like, way nicer than what I use.
Yeah, it was my mother. I told them that they have to stay away and still my mom manages to leave her phone in the cottage. Like Yeah. So what was my
trip to Romania?
I just contacted this guide. Yes. So I traveled to the village, I flew to Cluj Napoca, which is the nearest airports to this village. So I had just briefly been in contact with the guy who promised to pick me up from the airport and we didn't have so much contact then. And then I wasn't sure if there will be anyone picking me up from the airport. But when I arrived then there was this guy with the mushroom pads waiting for me and we drove to the border. Yeah.
Yes, there was a guy picking me up from the airport with the mushroom hats. And we traveled to the village for approximately three hours. And the road just got smaller and smaller. So this is some really small Hungarian speaking village in, in eastern Transylvania. And, and then I spent a bit over a week there in Korea and Dan participated in the mushroom hunts, and also tried to learn the mushroom processing. And then after, when I was back home, I designed this collection which, which was the result of this project.
And if heard that the process is really hard. I had a friend try to make mushroom leather. The traditional way. Using foam is foam antarious. And, and she was like, Yeah, I've put in a lot of work. And I only got this really small square of leather and she's like, I put in so much work and it's really hard. And can you go through the whole process of what it looks like from you know, I know a sickle or a knife is involved to slice it into thin slices and but yeah, do you want to go start to finish and how they make this traditional mushroom leather?
Yes, so the process is very manual, everything is fairly made by hand. So you have to be very skilled to know which kind of polypores you should pick by by looking at their age and size and shape. And I think the most problematic thing is that the mushrooms should be picked up from a beech tree not from Birch, which is for example, the most common three species in Finland were for Miss gross, and there's so little beech forest here that it's impossible to use the finished volleyballs for this so in Romania, they always pick the mushrooms from peach tree. Why take the mushroom? And then you use I'm not sure it's some it has something to do with the exchange of nutrients nutritions or how the the tree grows, but it just doesn't grow grow that flexible layer as it's not as interesting when it grows in beach when it grows in a birch tree. So look for beech trees. That's a Yeah,
little insider knowledge. That's great. That's interesting. Yeah.
And then then it requires quite old forest. So the forest has to be also quite old and the environment and the altitude and everything has to be perfect. Even I don't know the exact ticks or the points that you have to know when you try To achieve the big sheets of UModel. So you pick the mushrooms and the men of the family go to the mountains for a few nights, and then they pick the mushrooms. And pick after the pickings, they already pre peel the mushroom in the forest and check if it's a good or bad quality, then they returned back home, and then they place it in a in a nylon sack. And there's a chemical process starting so it starts kind of like sweating out some chemicals, which makes it more flexible and more soft. And then there's this one layer that is suitable to for processing. So the cuticle, the heart cuticle and the gills underneath, they are taken out. So there's only this so called trauma layer left. And then it's just with small circular motions, you start stretching the piece. And it's crazy because you can have a really small piece of trauma, and then it can be stretched into almost like a square metre piece if you're very lucky. And then the sheath is left to drying. And then after a few days you can use it for for your crafts or designs.
And what are kind of the most typical crafts that you saw, obviously, hats is pretty big. But I've seen bags what what else are used? Like what are the most popular things that people use this mushroom leather for?
Yeah, I'm gonna do has been also used for drying insects. So fly fishers use it to. But in current day, they make mainly hats and bags, and then also this kind of small decorated table clothes or small decorated pieces on the table, I was happy to receive this as a gift. So I still have this much room table decoration. My Awesome. They they use very traditional decorations, and they get really inspired by the forest, forest. semiotics and animals and plants and
Yeah, and I've seen, you know, especially on the bags, that and the hats too, you know, there's like these leave shapes that they they carve these decorative kind of leaves, or sometimes maybe flowers, but mostly I've seen leaves. And you kind of took that idea and the design and we're like, hey, it could be a band aid. And which I'm sure people have have used for a very long time as a septic agent, but to make it look like you know, this beautiful band aid as well Did it work? I know you have a picture of it on somebody's arm, but have you used it yourself and was it effective?
Yeah, I haven't used it personally. But my friend was forced to use it because she was kind enough to help me with polar polar peeking in Finland when we were doing my I was doing my master's project. And she was very eager to learn how to peel the mushrooms beneath my friend, so she we didn't have the proper equipment. And we didn't have the skill either probably, and she caught herself. And then we know that this is perfect timing to test another band aid. But the cut was quite deep. But we didn't give up. So we use the bandaid. So the bleeding stopped eventually, but there was a lot of blood everywhere. And then the day after we sent also picture of the of the car to our other friend who's a doctor and he was devastated that we we had used this amado sheets on the on the wound because he thought that we should have gone seen the doctor and get it stitched. But the wound healed. It didn't get inflamed. There was no problem and it's very absorbent material. So dentists have used it after tooth extractions back in the days because it absorbs blood really nicely doesn't drip. So before medical cotton, it was very commonly used by dentists to stop needing
interesting. Wow. And I know people also burn it as well. Either you know that that's theorized of why what's your Otzi the Iceman then was carrying the mushroom was to carry either carry embers of a fire in the full mushroom or to just slice it and make it into like Tinder for quickly starting a fire. But also people use the smoke for various rituals and things like that. And you made an art piece where it's like this beautiful is it pottery, or I'm not sure what what exactly it is. But you know, it's a, it's a bracelet, which you can put the Ahmadu inside and burn it and has holes on top where the smoke can come out. And you're saying, kind of in the description that, you know, it's used for calming insects and animals. And I know it's been used for beekeepers to calm down bees. But what what other uses this smoke had traditionally used for
the smoke is very kind of like lung blessing smoke. So here at the summer cottage, we have a little beef farm. So we have actually tried it and it's very nice to use something so natural to please and it saves, that it doesn't harm the beehive, as much as some artificial materials would. So this, this whole collection was designed around this cultural situation when when the people of the village go to the mountains to pick the mushrooms. And there are a lot of bears in the in the area. And when we went to pick the mushrooms also, they were like fresh marks of bears. They had been working there. And they they used to smoke to keep the wild animals away. Because when when there's smoke that the bears won't come to you. So that is one reason why I chose to make the bracelet. And it was actually designed for the lady of the family because the the women of the family is not invited to all stages of the work. So usually it's only the men who go to the forest. So I wanted to invite the lady lady also to to pick the mushrooms. And she would carry this bracelet in her hand or in her wrist to repel insects and the wild animals.
Amazing. And you I can't remember exactly the name of the bags that you're making, but they look amazing. Cool, one of the coolest bags I've ever seen. And also the vests that you made also equally as a super, super cool. Do you sell these? Or are they just part of the art exhibition? Do you have any plans to I know you said you wanted to finish your PhD project before you launch a business. I don't know if if you want to make these as your future business.
Hopefully I will be able to work with the material in the future too. But actually, we received nice news earlier this summer that the project will be supported by the European Commission. So the next 10 months we will be focusing on documenting the the manual processing of the mushrooms and also designing more products. So hopefully, near the end of by the end of next year, I will be able to say yes that there will be some products that will be also available for our customers.
Amazing. Looking forward to it.
Hopefully, yeah. And
I saw that some of the pieces were dyed. Or these natural dyes How easy is it to dye the Ahmadu leather
in this relatively hard to dye it with natural pigments because it's it has this rich brown color, which is actually really beautiful as it is so i i love to leave it as it is. But I've been trying natural pigments and also artificial like sweet sweet dyes, everything. But usually natural pigments are not so strong in color so it's easily absorbs the pigment inside. And it just turns to a model a bit more darker. So the shapes are not so visible. But something that I'm also researching now is how to be able to die this with fungi. So dying fungi with fungi is something that I want to discover more.
Absolutely, that'd be super cool. and your furniture is probably the coolest thing I've ever seen. Just the shapes, the whole, the textures, everything really amazing. And I would love to have those pieces in my living room what what was the inspiration, what was the process like, kind of give a one on one on the furniture that you make?
Yeah, the best thing about this, that I get to work with, what I do is that I get to implement all the crazy ideas that you get 3am in the morning. So I just created these huge pieces of furniture were which were inspired by the qualitative form the shape of the polypore in different stages of growth. So I combined our model with wall mixture and created this big wide surface, which is has the same shape as the form is from authorities. And then also this little ottoman chair stool, which is more like a little mushroom popping up from the wood. Because it's always it changes the shape when it grows, it's the beauty of the materials that they are in eternal circulation of change and changing the shape and color. Yeah.
And I've been able to feel the Ahmadu leather, and it's it's really sturdy. But I've heard, you've also worked with kind of like kombucha SCOBY. Leather before. And I've heard that that is not sturdy. And there's just like, there's this famous TED talk of this woman who had a kombucha SCOBY dress, I think it was and she said, Hey, I have to like get off stage right now, because this is deteriorating right now. With all the lights and the sweat and everything. So what was your experience with working with SCOBYs? And and do you? Do you feel like there's a use case that works with its durability? And do you think that that because of its lack of durability, it's a good thing with certain use cases?
Okay, it's not so durable and but there are different ways to manipulate the durability also you can, you can choose how thick you want to grow it. And it depends also so much on what kind of tea or what kind of as eveness you have in the liquid how how well your material will turn out and depending on what you dry it on also affects the flexibility. But I think there's also some beauty of of it not being turned all or nothing, something so durable. And I think that most designers often tend to design things that should be here forever or, or making them as as durable or great as strong as possible. But with Scobie, I find the beauty in that that there is this material that grows, it's being born. And then you can let it dry and it kind of like dies, but then you can place it into tea. Again, tea and sugar and it will start the process again, because it's yeast. So as yeast works, it can go asleep. And then it wakes up again. If you give it moisture and water and food. So there's a there's something purely beautiful that it's not like a material that should be eternal.
Right? Besides Mamadou and SCOBY What is your favorite fungi to work with?
I'd be very much in today's natural pigments and and fungal dying. And recently I was experimenting with lightning to pronounce it. Like Yeah. Yes. Like it's not technically a fungi, but it's a combination. It's a partnership of all guy and fungi.
Mostly fungi. Yeah, it's like 90% Yeah, so yeah, yeah. Pretty much.
Yeah. So there's a really rich purple pigment you get from from rock tribe, tribe. Rock tribe, isn't it?
Yeah, yeah. Love. Right, right. Yeah, totally.
Yes. So you played florid? Yeah, it's so rich. It's wonderful. I I'm also very up horrible person for I love the color purple. But you blaze it in ammonium chloride for for a month or two and it gives the pigment to the liquid. And then you can use this as a fungal pigment. And you can also play with it. So if you leave it in the sun, it turns blue. Yeah, that's very true.
Yeah, I was blessed to live by this kind of Nature Park. And there were some cliff sides. And they were just covered in rocks, right? Like there were 1000s of these rock tribes all over the rock face. Yeah, I've never seen. It's just abundance of them. And so yeah, usually they're a bit rare. And you know, but in that specific location that I've never seen, so, so many, they're just covering all these these cliff faces. So it was cool to pick some of them and to make a die. But super fun, super fun. What is the weirdest fungi that you've ever crafted with?
Well, I already mentioned SCOBY. It's, it's for somebody weird, weird, but I wanted to skate. Yeah, I wanted to scale it up a bit. So I grew scope in my laboratory, not children's swimming sport, because as swimming pool. So it was a diameter of 1.8 or something. And then the thickness was like five centimeters. So it was a huge SCOBY I was living with in the laboratory for a few months. And then I had this exhibition where I I presented it as a as in, in his living form. And still, every time when I post something about it on my Instagram, I lose followers, because people are just so disgusted about it. But I think it's fantastic. Because it's such such a beast.
That that's really, yeah, I can picture it. kiddie swimming pool filled with SCOBY. And very interesting for people to walk into if they don't know what that is.
Yeah, exactly. And also the smell is quite intensive. Because you have to use vinegar prevent to prevent the molding and also keeping the the SADC in on the right level. So it's quite intense. Smell also on grass. Yeah, at that.
Are there any species of fungi that you have really wanted to work with? But you haven't yet? Or any type of, you know, furniture or clothing or craft that maybe you want to make with like, say Ahmadu? But you haven't?
I'm very I tried growing those mushrooms that grow in in the dark? I didn't remember the name of the species, actually. But I guess maybe if then. Yeah, probably Yeah. But they'd never worked out for me, I think it's quite, you have to be a bit more skilled than it was the first year I got into fungi and then tried to grow that but it didn't work. So I think that would be very interesting to use that in light, some kind of like lighting or, or another object that would create light. I would also and also love to experiment a bit more with other kinds of fibers combined with our models. So the problem with Armando is that, that the fibers are quite short. So combining the amado fibers with other kinds of like cellulose based fibers could be interesting to create new material possibilities. So something to that director, I'm quite into Amato at the moment. So try not to expand my research too much, because there's still so much to learn from that. And those materials and I've been working.
Yeah, it's really good to have focus. And then you can go kind of 10,000 feet and really go really deep with it and become, you know, a master of Mamadou or, you know, have a have a really deep relationship with with comedy, which I think yeah, there's so much you can do. Just just from this conversation is like, yeah, you can make furniture, you can make hats. You can make fests, you can, you know, deter bears, you can deter insects, you can calm down bees, you can do all these really make bandaids. And there's probably so much more out there that that you could do, which is really, really exciting. What has been the hardest time in this journey? Was there kind of Have an art project that you've been working on that you just couldn't get right or working with a specific species or a certain process? Did your kiddie pool all get contaminated? And it's spread all throughout your lab? Like what? What was the hardest time in this process?
Well, working with very organic materials is quite, quite challenging for me who is not from chemistry or biology. area, like coming from a totally different background of education. It's, it's quite lonely to stand in your laboratory without having an idea what to do next, and why why your samples didn't turn out as they, they were supposed to. So probably that is the hardest part in general, that I always have to start the process by trying to learn and understand how the material is grown, or how the fungi acts act. And why it reacts in various ways. But hoping I'm hoping that next year, I will be able to collaborate with with people who has who have this dedication to next week, I'm actually starting a course in biomaterial or by material course, at the Aalto University and hoping to network with with engineers and biologists and chemists. Cool. I hope it's a really fun title. So x x. Yeah. And also excellent working under pressure, but but when I work with my PhD, I have to be the pressure myself, so. So you have to be quite strict about your deadlines and time frames to make the pressure yourself. Yeah.
Yeah, I also do really well, when I have deadlines, and that I went to kind of a hippie school where we could design our own major. And basically, we had like a final thesis at the end. This is undergrad, so everyone had their final thesis, and you can make it on whatever you wanted. But you had to, yeah, you had to totally design it. You. You had to make your deadlines and everything. And that was that was hard. But it was it was a good learning. A good learning phase of just like, Okay, I need to get X amount done by a certain date, how do I break this up into little baby steps. And I just finished a book last week, and I did the same thing. And I was like, Oh, I'm so grateful that I had that prior process. So I can do this. And it was just like, once you break things down into bite sized chunks, it's so manageable, you know, of, it seems overwhelming if you if you're like, Oh, I gotta do this big project, and you look at the behemoth of it. But once you break it down into bite sized chunks of, okay, what do I have to do today? Or what do I have to do in just this morning, and then you're like, oh, I can do that. And then you break it down into like chunks of a day or days of a week or even weeks. And it's some and it's just, I feel like you're able to do amazing things in a short amount of time. When you just lay one brick at a time and and so yeah, it's good practice for for anybody listening that doesn't have that practice. Highly recommend it. What has been your your greatest achievement, what has been a time where you've been the most proud?
I think when I graduated from from my master's, or finished my master's The same year, I received lots of positive, positive attention for for my work. I was I received this award in Norway called the best talent award. And I didn't receive only the first prize, but also the second prize at the same event. And that was that was a very lovely moment for me also as a, as a young starting designer, to get kind of like some kind of support and reassurance that maybe I or hopefully I'm on the right track. And also, I'm very proud of my doctoral studies that that I was able to, to get in because it's quite hard. They only choose one to two students for for this education each year, and in the department where I start It's only every sixth year you can apply. So luckily I, I got this position last year, and I'm very, very proud and I'm very happy that I get to be what I do, because I totally love it.
Congrats, that's awesome. If if you had unlimited funds, and an unlimited team, and you could do anything in the world, what would you do? In terms of this research
Oh, it's so strict. No. I would love to do some crazy huge exhibition, which is only relying on fungi. Everything would be focused on fungi, there would be this huge fungal elements where you can go inside and see and touch and smell and experience the fungal world as it deserves to be experienced. So I feel that sometimes we humans, should lower ourselves. We should become the mushrooms. I love the how this anthropology, anthropological. And trouble models. How do you say that? Can you say there were no theme in gold had said has said that? If you reach fungi, you have to become the fun farmers yourself and see with the through the fungal eyes. Yeah, that would be probably my dream to create the space ever Well,
yeah, map it out is going to happen. Looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to going to the the exhibition is going to be it's gonna be amazing.
So invite you.
Amazing looking forward to it. Where can people follow you and your work and stay tuned for this this future exhibition.
People can follow me on Instagram. My Instagram account is Murray jobs Copening. And also on my web page. Maricopa needles calm. So please feel free to contact me if you want to know more or work with me.
Awesome. Well, thank you for coming on the show and sharing all the fun projects that you're working on. People should definitely check out we'll have some in the show notes. But definitely check out her website, your her social media, her art is amazing. And you should definitely see it. The auditory experience does not do it justice, you have to actually see it. And one day, you get to smell it and touch it and and you know experience experience it in a deeper way. So thank you everyone for listening and tuning in and tuning in with us for another episode. We don't have a Patreon or any way that you can donate to support the show. This is really a labor of love and, you know, put a lot of work and effort into it. So if you want to support the show, we have a website mushroom revival.com. And we have a whole line of functional mushroom products from capsules, to powders to tinctures to gummies they are delicious, they work they're incredible. If you want to feel better, these functional mushrooms got your back. And we also have all the show notes there. We have a bunch of educational blogs if you want to dive deeper into the fungal world and learn more and just telling your friends leaving a review. You don't even have to tell your friends about the podcast, although it help but just tell your friends about how cool mushrooms are if you learned something about this episode, tell your friends about it. You know, Hey, did you know that you could use mushrooms to do this and, you know, just spread the word spread the mycelial message. We're all in this together and we deserve to be a lot more like mushrooms. And actually, I It's funny I remember my dream last night and that was the message that I woke up with. It was like be like the mushrooms and that was like I woke up to that message. And now that you say it I remember it. So thanks for it's always good for when you remember your dream halfway through the day. So with that, thank you everyone hope you have a blessed day and much love it the spores with you
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