This Designer Wants to Change the Way You Think About Corn

With his Totomoxtle project, Fernando Laposse is revitalizing Mexico’s heirloom corn industry.

Many artists have created pieces that focus on the environment. But for Fernando Laposse, a London-based Mexican designer, Mother Nature is an integral part of his work—natural materials, as well as readily available substances including found objects and trash, are his jam. Of particular note is his Totomoxtle project, where his inventive use of organic matter shines.

Laposse taught local Mexican farmers his technique of transforming the otherwise wasted husks from heirloom varieties of Mexican corn into colorful tiles and marquetry. To create this surfacing, the vibrant, naturally colorful husks are flattened with an iron and glued onto fiber boards, allowing them to be cut into geometric patterns. The resulting veneer is then applied onto pieces of furniture, giving them an earthy, rustic feel. The driving force behind the project is its potential socioeconomic effect: In addition to providing an additional source of income for local corn farmers, Laposse hopes his project will reinvigorate the heirloom corn industry in Mexico, which in recent years has been overwhelmed by the influx of cheap, pesticide-laden American corn.

You’ll get a taste of Laposse’s work if you’re heading across the pond for the London Design Festival: From Sept. 15–23, the designer will present “Sisal Sanctum,” an immersive outdoor installation at the CitizenM hotel in Shoreditch. Intended to create an environment for relaxation and reflection, the space incorporates sisal, a sustainable fiber native to Mexico, through interventions like carpet and wallcoverings.

(Photos: Courtesy Fernando Laposse)

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