Yesterday I attended session 2 of 3 of the Mycelium Materials workshop at Genspace, New York.
Think of mycelium as the roots of a plant (if fungi were plants) and the mushroom you see sprouting out of the ground as the fruit. This mesh of hyphae can be grown into almost any shape imaginable, assume a wide range of material properties, and “glue” together strong material composites. Often hailed as the future of plastics, but also leather and building materials, it forms chitin which is water repellent, fire retardant and light weight.
Mycelium is fantastically versatile to work with. While nothing is perfected yet, designers and scientists have already figured out how to turn it into bricks, make chairs and tables of it, and even leather like fabrics. Watch some of the videos at the very end of this post.
The workshop itself is a mix of theory, examples, and hands-on mycelium growing. Last week, we extracted mycelium from an Oyster Mushroom bought from a normal supermarket and grew it in a petri dish for a week.
This week, we inoculated the mycelium with “food” it needs to grow into various moulds. We shall see how it all turned out next week.
Videos to watch and other resources:
An introduction to the company Mycoworks who are working on perfecting mycelium grown leather
How to make a fungus brick by Mycoworks (you’ll find more of these guys on Yotube and Vimeo)
Paul Stamets talks about six ways how mushrooms can save the world
Ecovative, who have specialised on producing mycelium packaging solutions as a styrofoam alternative, also sell a DYI kit
Ali Schachtschneider, who runs the course at Genspace, offers a whole bunch of projects with fascinating materials – amongst them mycelium
And your search engine of choice will throw up many more great ideas and projects.