Artist Philip Ross Cultivates Fungal Furniture


Artist Philip Ross first became interested in the fibrous structures created by mushrooms and other fungii about twenty years ago, when he was working with a chef who grew his own shrooms. After years of practice and perfecting the art of manipulating molds and spores, Ross has created a range of furniture made of fungus.

Right now Ross is working with a fungus called Reishi that creates new forms as it devours the wood upon which it's placed. New Scientist uncovers how it's done:

As [Reishi] digests the wood, it rearranges the fibers and forms a hard substance called chitin, also found in crab shells. The arrangement of the sawdust and the size of its chunks alter the chitinous forms that result.

With tools such as the serendipitous kerosene-Vaseline mix, Ross determines where a mushroom blossoms, where fuzz forms, and where the soma toughens: a black plastic bag pressed tight against the soma cuts off gas exchange, prompting the fungus to form a leather-like layer to encase itself.

Ross dismisses the notion that his rot is a dangerous addition to anyone's living room. Once a piece reaches a point to his liking, he kills the fungus within a 67 °C oven and coats it with a biodegradable lacquer. That means the finished furniture is dead and spores to spread it no longer form.

Ross has a number of other really cool pieces of art/design that you can check out, and perhaps even purchase, at his website.

Posted January 5, 2013 at 3:20pm ETC by Andrew Belonsky
in Design, News, science