Prickly pear


Made in

Biodegradable 232 Circular 217 Fibre 64 Plant-based 168 Oil 4

Prickly pear

Photos: Martina Taranto


Nuovomondo is a material research which explores the characteristics of the fibre extracted from the Prickly Pear and its potential applications to sustainable product design.

The fibre with its unique natural pattern and properties opens up the design of items with a paradigmatic aesthetic. Nuovomondo fosters a conception of the design practice divergent from one motivated by impact minimisation, towards the logic of bio-integrated material design.

The plant’s biological necessities and survival skills were used as inspiration for the vision of material application. The festering nature of the plant makes it a good ecological partner for sustainable material design. The objects produced demonstrate the possible applications of the fibre and have been developed to be completely organic and free of synthetic components.

The approach was undertaken with Nuovomondo, fosters ecosystemic logic of design against traditional synthetic readings of life, divergent from bio-integrated conducts, biological creativity and aesthetics. In order to empower the practice of symbiotic design, to redefine the perception of the role humans can play with our technical intelligence in the ecological economy of life.

Additional information

The Prickly Pear is invasive, it doesn’t need nurturing or major sources of energy to sustain, it has innate water reserves and propagates by cutting. The material is retrieved from the green cladodes of the plant after their desiccation, the process doesn’t procure harm to the natural life cycle of the cactus, nor to the environment in which it is located. The festering nature of the plant makes it a good ecological partner for sustainable material design.

The fibre’s physical characteristics are heterogeneous and non-uniform. Once exfoliated from its skin peel, it presents a layered structure from which it is possible to obtain an unpredictable fashion and number of fibre ‘sheets’, foils of wooden texture that constituted the flexible bone of the plant. The foils of the fibre can have different colours and consistency. The material is hydrophilic and suitable for thermoforming. The fibre can also be hydrated with oil, and treated with water-proving agents, natural or otherwise. Different processes of colouring were experimented with: vegetal dye, mineral dye, water-based impregnating agents. The fibre is able to absorb different kind of colours, but while the mineral colouring ensure an unaltered colour on the fibre, the vegetal dye changes while drying and through time, the shade of the colouring mutates.

The material research is intended to respect the ecosystem while producing design solutions, maintaining organicity in the product making stage, creating a craft that would enhance the natural aesthetics of the fibre, making a case for circular indigenous design.

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


Prickly pear fibre, natural oil for finishing


JCP Universe (commissioned a series of purple bowls naturally dyed)