Articles of Protection
'Articles of Protection' are part of 'Pieces of Home' from Ikea's design studio Space 10. Created in the residency during their Pop-Up in Mexico City in 2022.
Mexico is considered the centre of the domestication of corn and as such continues to be one of the most representative plant species of the country, housing the greatest diversity of corn in the world, with at least 59 native varieties. Corn continues to be the basic crop of self-consumption for rural and indigenous communities. Along with the production of tortillas, its main form of consumption, it is the basis of food for most of the urban and semi-urban population. At least 600 ways of preparing corn for food have been identified in the country.
However, industrialisation and the global market have significantly transformed the ways in which corn is produced and consumed in Mexico. The Mexican market has been flooded with American corn, mostly transgenic. Even though in December 2020 a Presidential Decree that banned transgenic corn was released, it is still of great urgency to continue to defend, inform and raise awareness about the importance of native corn that privileges the biocultural wealth of Mexico.
As mentioned before corn constitutes the base of the Mexican diet and the informal food stalls in Mexican urban areas aren't the exception, this type of commerce constitutes a third of Mexico's city's food sales. These food stalls continue to use disposable plastic as the main way to serve and sell food, disregarding the law that bans single-use plastics such as containers and plastic bags.
Articles of Protection seeks to find a substitution to disposable plastics with locally sourced biomaterials, like corn waste, that can also be returned to earth as nutrients, reducing plastic waste and closing a loop in the corn crop and food commerce. Taina Campos created a series of vessels that can be used to serve, protect and transport food — made with discarded corn husks. To design the vessels, Taina Campos worked with Mexico City's local farmers, the city has around two thousand corn producers, which are largely concentrated in Milpa Alta, an area that houses at least 12 corn varieties. Specifically, she worked with Mujeres de la Tierra (Woman of the Earth), a community organisation supporting women who have experienced domestic violence. To become financially independent, the women make and sell tortillas, tamales, and atole, which are made from the corn they grow locally.
To produce the vessels the designer collects the corn husk, not used to wrap the tamales, then using corn starch as a binder, she moulds the corn husk into 3D printed mould and lets it dry directly in the sun.
For the agricultural populations of Mesoamerica, corn not only represented the basis of nutrition but it is also seen as the essence of the human being. Today, there are around 60 species of corn in Mexico, but many of them are in danger of extinction. The cultivation of native corn is gradually being displaced by foreign hybrids and transgenic seeds. Protecting native corn is culturally and ecologically vital — for the health of the land and the people. With these vessels, Campos extends this thread of protection to encompass people, food and place, while reducing plastic waste and agricultural residues.
Information submitted by the maker and edited by the Future Materials Bank.