Kera-Plast is a stiff material out of human hair.
The project Kera-Plast aims to re-loop humans and nature by questioning the current systems & ethics through materiality. Human hair, currently considered as waste, functions as the base for the material. A fabrication method was developed to turn Human Hair into a stiff material, reminding on plastic due to shine and translucency. Aesthetics of the resulting material are controlled and designed by traditional textile techniques as knitting, weaving and non-woven processes.
Materiality plays a crucial role in the daily life of our western society. The prognosis of a further rising population up to 11 billion people around 2100 (United Nations, 2019) increases the pressure on our current living and consumption systems. These must not only guarantee the supply of food and other material goods, but also have to preserve our earth as a resource for future generations.
In today‘s western society, our lives are guided by many preformed norms and established ethical standards, that stop our self-perception as being part of the world of nature. If we aim for living in a circularity in the future, it is time to rethink our systems with a new mindset.
We have to rethink out current mindset & systems. We are part of nature.
The project Kera-Plast calls for inclusion of mankind in the cycle by introducing human hair, currently treated as waste, as a material base.
The amount of hair of approximately 1000 km length that a person grows over a whole life span gradually goes to waste over time. Considering that it is a renewable, natural material that does not consume any additional resources during its growth as a by-product of life, the question arises why we do not appreciate the many great material properties of hair. Like other renewable fibres, hair has excellent properties waiting to be used. About approximately 700 mio kg of Hair are simply thrown away worldwide every year (Visser, 2016)
Hair is a biodegradable, keratin-based material and a side product of human life.
A production method for hair was developed, combining traditional textile techniques with a compression molding process. Through this process the Keratin-based fibers glue together resulting in a stiff and shiny material. Different aesthetics can be achived through the application of different textile techniques like dyeing, knitting, weaving or non-woven processes. Kera-Plast shows a variety of patterns and 3D surfaces.
The basis of the Kera-Plast samples is cut human hair, which is currently considered as waste in western society.
The developed fabrication method merges traditional textile techniques with thermo-compression molding, a fabrication being used to be applied in composite processing. Herewith a plasticization of the flexible and dull keratin-based fiber takes place resulting in stiff, translucent material.
The short waste hair fibers (in average 3 - 15 cm long) are fabricated by traditional textile techniques like knitting (inlay, domestic knitting machine), weaving (hand-loom), non-woven processes and dyeing in order to control and design with the base material. Due to the knitting and weaving process some samples are a blend with Wool or Cotton. Wool is also based on keratin and, therefore, also "melts" during the thermo-compression process resulting shiny and stiff, Cotton stays flexible and dull.
After a pre-treatment the wet textile piece is pressed with low heat but very high pressure. The keratin-based fibers glue together even without a binder and result in a stiff and translucent material.
Different colors of the keratin-fiber are effecting the outcome. The previous applied textile techniques and blend material have a big influence on the aesthetics of the result regarding pattern, surface and qualities. Knit has a more organic look, while weaving helps to create more structural patterns (removing the warp thread before pressing enables structured pure hair samples). Through the molding even 3D surfaces are possible. Thin layers reacting highly translucent when exposed against light. The variety of techniques enables the designer to create different aesthetics even if being dependent on the waste material.
The developed processing is applicable to all kind of keratin-based fibers and materials like e.g. Hair, Wool, Horsehair etc. The methodology enables to generate a natural, biodegradable stiff material through textile thinking by making human hair – waste available for designing.
Text submitted by the maker
Human hair (pure, or blends with wool or cotton).
University of Borås, Textile Design X Polymer Lab