Made in

Animal material 61 Biodegradable 228 Circular 215 Calcium carbonate 5 Milk 6


Photos: Tessa Silva

Chalk & Cheese

‘Chalk & Cheese' is a material developed by Tessa Silva using surplus milk sourced from a raw organic dairy farm in Sussex.

Skimmed milk is a by-product of the butter-making process. The farm has a very small herd that is individually named, grass-fed, and milked considerably less than the average dairy cow.

Milk products have helped shape cultures and Western civilisation as we know it, with some of the earliest human artefacts including vessels containing residues of cow’s milk. Working predominantly with a unique, but historically originated, formula of surplus milk to create a sculpting and manufacturing material free from synthetics, the designer utilises a valuable raw material that would otherwise be wasted.

The project celebrates the history and mythology of milk and aims to create a dialogue around our culture of waste and the farming industry. Tessa’s research and exploration prompts the inspection of our material culture retrospectively and prospectively, using design as a tool to explore the relationship between humans and animals; particularly the female mammal's role in a patriarchal social and cultural structure. The aim of the project is to assign value to a discarded and disregarded material, but also present it as a catalyst for discourse. By turning this fraught liquid into solid form, pieces are produced as a homage to the femininity, beauty and controversies surrounding milk.

The Chalk & Cheese project is an endeavour to understand how the development and application of novel materials can affect actual change on both local and global levels. The project hopes to contribute to the recalibration of our relationship with materials from an impatient and unapologetic one, back to a more nurturing, appreciative and regenerative model of existing.

Natural pigments derived from food and plants are used to colour the material, with all pieces handmade in London.

Additional information

The material is an evolution of one existing in the UK during the 1300s, originally used to lay flooring in Tudor houses. An example of this is at the Alfriston Clergy House, built in 1350, where the ‘sour milk’ floor is still in place. Through a series of experiments, a new material has been developed using surplus milk sourced from a raw dairy farm. The material is essentially a completely natural and locally sourced (from waste) variety of plaster or clay. It can be used to cast objects and furniture in various different forms.

The production methods used are originally inspired by cheese-making techniques; traditionally once the curds and whey were separated, cheese was wrapped in fabric and set into a form. The use of fabric forms give the milk material freedom to bulge and swell, like an inflatable. A certain amount of control over the final outcomes is curated, from there the material is encouraged to take on the shape it is naturally inclined to.

Information submitted by the maker and edited by the Future Materials Bank.


Raw organic milk, calcium carbonate, natural pigments