Mushroom Mycelium Mask
South Korean design studio Kuo Duo designed five different masks made from mycelium and inspired by mushroom shapes, to promote the use of biomaterials in design.
Mycelium is the vegetative part of fungi, consisting of branching, thread-like hyphae. Mycelium absorbs nutrients from the substrate to grow, acting like a natural glue that binds loose particles together. When dried, it becomes a lightweight bio-composite that can be used for anything from a Styrofoam alternative to construction materials.
While there is growing interest in biomaterials, Kuo Duo felt that there were too few opportunities to get to know and experience promising biomaterials, like mycelium. The intent is to let more people know the material by designing hands-on content that anyone can experience. Kuo Duo worked together with ‘Biolab Seoul’, a public biology laboratory that allows people to experience biology through various types of workshops.
For the workshops, Kuo Duo designed the Mycelium Mask, which can be decorated or played with to experience the material.
The designers designed five different types of masks, from a ‘bubbly’ one to one that almost looks like a ghost, all inspired by the shapes of various mushrooms. To create the shapes, the mycelium is grown in clay moulds using hemp (agricultural waste). To create masks that were white and sturdy enough, the process of growing and drying the mycelium had to be repeated three or four times.
According to Kuo Duo, “We truly felt that the more we study this material, the more advanced it becomes, and the more people know, the more the development doubles. The key is to empathise and move with the public through low entry barriers and easy-to-understand communication.”
The design duo went through the process of growing mycelium in mask moulds several times, concentrating on creating high strength, dense and white surfaces. During the process, Kuo Duo discovered another characteristic of the material. After experimenting with various conditions, they found that the more times the mycelium was grown and decomposed, the stronger the mycelium became, and the whiter the surface grew. Repeating the process three or four times achieved the optimum strength and surface for the masks. However, if mycelium exceeds a certain period of time, the surface starts to turn yellow.
Text submitted by the maker