CARACARA COLLECTIVE, truly sustainable design

Located in Helsinki, Caracara Collective is a biodesign studio specialising in creating design collections, art installations and materials that use organic waste as a resource. Imagining a future without harmful materials, the studio’s goal is to promote a new, totally sustainable Nordic design.

Specifically, all products are handmade from local waste and, thanks to the binder composed of 100% natural ingredients developed by Caracara, almost any type of organic waste can be used. The materials developed are completely biodegradable and, at the end of their useful life, can be composted or broken down to make new designs.

In addition to organic waste, Caracara also works with mycelium. In this case, projects are cultivated by feeding different strains with by-products such as sawdust and textile waste. The mixture is grown inside a mould and, within a couple of weeks, the mycelium binds the material into a solid object. “In this way, we let nature drive the process of creating a zero-waste design.”

“We aim to step away from contributing to the harmful environmental impacts caused by toxic ingredients, irresponsible use of natural resources, and international shipping of raw materials. Conscious design can be created anywhere in the world using locally available waste streams. Sustainability cannot be just a bonus. It has to be the starting point of design!”

Caracara’s projects and materials

Among the studio’s installations, products and experiments we can find Reclaim, a collection of lampshades with different palettes that uses orange peels – collected from supermarket juice dispensers – or pine needles – fallen from discarded Christmas trees – as a resource. In the first case, Reclaim is made from the peel of about 20 squeezed oranges, in other words it is the by-product of one person drinking two litres of orange juice. The production time, including the harvesting and preparation of the raw materials, the pressing of the lampshades and the finishing touches, is about two hours to make one lampshade. The work is then spread over a period of 2-3 weeks to give the materials time to dry.

Caracara’s materials selection is made from the most abundant waste around the Helsinki studio, and colours may slightly vary depending on each batch of material collected. In addition, the textures of the mycelium products may also vary due to the natural growth of the material. Samples are available as tiles and the studio also creates customised products on request. Caracara is currently developing a new ‘limited range’ sample pack, with a more defined origin for each type of waste (coffee chaff from coffee roasteries, sea buckthorn and lingonberry residues from berry oil producers, spent tea leaves from a tea house, sawdust from a wood workshop).

The diversity of organic materials developed by Caracara makes it possible to create customised solutions with unique finishes and textures. Although the studio tries to maintain the natural colours provided by the raw material, it is also able to create custom colours using natural pigments. Not only products but also walltiles, artworks, installations and murals, Caracara wants to show us the full potential of bio-based materials.

The studio will also undertake projects abroad to help in the production of materials from local waste. The idea is to develop co-creative workshops and, in the future, to start offering more activities and courses (offline and online) and consultancy services to other people who want to produce their own biomaterials.

Caracara Collective is among the studios featured on the new and free Materials Design Map. To discover all the studio’s projects and materials, visit the website and follow Caracara on Instagram!

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