We Grew Together
We Grew Together is a culturally sensitive exploration of amadou, a suede-like material derived from Fomes fomentarius, also known as tinder mushroom. This material is traditionally used for crafting hats and bags in Transylvania and is deeply rooted in local folklore. Amadou has a rich history that dates back centuries. It has been used by various cultures throughout Europe and Asia for a wide range of purposes, such as starting fires, wound dressing, and as a spiritual substance. This natural material possesses absorbent, anti-septic, and isolative properties, and is also cruelty-free. Even Ötzi the Iceman understood the value of amadou; the 5000-year-old mummy was found in the Alps carrying a small pouch containing pieces of amadou.
Tinder fungus was once a valuable resource that was not only gathered from the forest but also cultivated with great success. During the 1800s, the major manufacturers of tinder fungus were in German cities such as, Frankfurt, Strasbourg, and Ulm. Ulm had the most well-known factories, which delivered tinder fungus to large parts of Europe. Later on the use of the material dwindled and knowledge of it began to fade. Nowadays, Transylvania is perhaps the only region where this material tradition still persists.
We Grew Together aimed to discover new ways to use amadou while also preserving the disappearing tradition of amadou handicrafts. Designer Mari Koppanen travelled to Transylvania to learn more about the craft and the material tradition. Drawing inspiration from the cultural patterns of the village and the historical significance of the material, she created a 3-piece collection that highlighted the unique qualities of amadou. The resulting objects fused the natural characteristics of amadou with the region's rich cultural heritage, using the same techniques as the local artisans. By doing so, Koppanen aimed to capture the essence of the village's handicraft culture and the historical significance of amadou.
Since then Koppanen has continued working with amadou and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Artistic Research focusing on fungal materials. Through her hands-on approach with amadou she translates it into various forms such as items, objects, surfaces, samples, and textures contributing to the evolution of this nearly lost material.
”Amadou is a material of its own. Not only because of its performance qualities but because of its cultural and historical value. Fungal materials are coming more and more into the industry but in my eyes, amadou is the mother of them all", says Koppanen.
Amadou preparation is entirely done by hand, starting with harvesting mushrooms during the summer and late autumn. To create amadou, a soft and flexible layer found inside the mushroom is peeled, trimmed, and stretched. This delicate layer is carefully separated from the cuticle and pore tubes and stretched using circular motions before being left to dry. Although the preparation process may appear straightforward, it demands extensive practice and knowledge. Choosing the appropriate mushrooms is crucial and recognising the areas where to pick them is important. Even though you may find a group of 20 mushrooms growing on the same tree, it's best to only pick a few, and the harvesters also respect the forest and the trees. The skilled amadou artisans master specialised techniques to enhance the processing, ensuring that they obtain the largest possible sheets of amadou.
Information submitted by the maker and edited by the Future Materials Bank.
Tinder fungus (amadou), wool (lining of the vest).
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Accessible to visitors of the Future Materials Lab