Home products made from waste fats, to purses fashioned out of shedded snake skins. Our 2019 show saw new designers working towards the future to tackle global concerns by exploring bizarrely brilliant new materials.

Tŷ Syml is an award-winning experimental design studio based in Cardiff, South Wales founded by Adam Davies, Adam Humphrey and Daniel Davies. The studio currently focus on the use of mycelium (mushroom) composites as a material to create a range of products such as lampshades and acoustic wall panels. With a focus on sustainability, the materials they develop are designed to have a negligible impact on society and the environment.

Sustainability is obviously very important to you and your focus. What is it about sustainability that resonates with you as a designer?

The use of natural and ‘sustainable’ materials and a desire for an environmentally sound society has become the focus of my work and research. I have always felt a responsibility to design products and materials that are sustainable.

This sense of responsibility is down to my upbringing in Pembrokeshire, South West Wales, which is renowned for its diverse and varied natural environments and unspoilt natural beauty. Being close to these natural environments has allowed me to gain an appreciation of its beauty and had a significant impact on my approach to materials and design. The impact of our activities is more apparent when you live in areas of natural beauty, and any “plastic waste” that ends up in these environments stand out significantly. Seeing this take place on one of my local beaches I decided to start developing biomaterials that, if they end up here, they will have no environmental impact.

What is your goal as a designer?

I have come to realise that designers have significant influence on every aspect of people’s lives, and we are responsible for the environmental damage we are experiencing now. I have been fortunate enough to work and grow mycelium for the past 4 years, I have come to understand its capabilities as a material within the design process and our design studio aims to introduce this material into
mainstream design.

Our aim as a design studio is to develop products and materials which have negligible impact on the environment, so that the burden we put upon the environment is mitigated. When we design and manufacture new materials and products its entire lifecycle is considered and ideally the materials of each product will have no negative environmental impact at end of life.

Who or what is your biggest influence/inspiration?

Fundamental to my research and the work we do at Tŷ Syml is the ‘cradle to cradle’ principle established by Braungart and McDonough, and now widely embodied in the ‘Circular Economy’. I was given Cradle to Cradle whilst studying GCSEs by one of my design tutors and this book has been a guiding factor in my development as a designer and where I am today.

Also, Elven Karana’s work on “do-it-yourself” materials at Delft University has opened-up possibilities for designers to engage in material development through material experimentation, often with bio-based feedstocks such as mycelium and seaweed has been a big influence.

How do you push through a creative block?

From early in my studies as a designer I have always had an experimental approach to the design process, where materials and manufacturing processes go through non-linear and extensive experimentation to develop new products. This approach has allowed me to understand the material’s capabilities and what processes can be used to develop a new product. This experimental approach has pushed me through any creative blocks as it provides new possibilities of what I can do as a designer and expands the limits to what each biomaterial can do.

What’s next for you, where will you focus your next project?

Tŷ Syml are currently working on several new restaurant projects for which we have been commissioned to design and grow new products. Our first commission was 8 Mycelium lights for FREA Berlin, the world’s first Vegan Zero waste restaurant in the heart of Berlin. We have been commissioned again by David Johannes Suchy, the founder of FREA, to design and grow the acoustic panels for the restaurant.

We have also designed new lighting to go into SILO London’s new restaurant at CRATE Brewery and been asked to design and grow several foldable tables for Plates London, allowing them to maximise space when tables are not in use.

Hypothetically, if your studio was a blaze and you could save one thing, what would it be? 

Saving our mycelium mother spawn would be the main priority if the studio was on fire. The mother spawn is the basis from which all our products are grown. Without this, our whole production of materials and products would not be able to continue. Its relatively inexpensive, but the valuable of the mycelium mother spawn is immeasurable.


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