Just as the body will decompose, so materials made from the body will also do so
In order to make the innovative plastic, Vailly mixes the human hair with glycerine and sodium sulphite. Once it is melted the outcome is a type of bioplastic that closely resembles leather. Vailly has already made cups, lamps, mirror frames and a jug but he hopes the sustainable and biodegradable material could be used for more everyday household objects.
Vailly explains that the theory behind his work is centered around bringing the cycles of life and death into design. “The cult of youth and beauty has us firmly in its grip. Botox, face lifts, implants, dental whiteners: no procedure is too costly or invasive in our insatiable quest for eternal life and aesthetic perfection. This obsession goes further than our bodies. We also demand that the objects we surround ourselves with are every bit as polished and flawless as we are. Yet death and decay are a part of life. And so, they should also be part of design. Carrying on in the tradition of Dutch Vanitas paintings, made as a reminder of man’s fragile condition and transient existence.”
While some may deem the use of human hair as vulgar or disgusting, Vailly is eager for us to look deeper into natural processes of deterioration in design with his innovative new bioplastic.
“Mixed with glycerine and sodium sulphite, the hair melts into a type of bioplastic resembling leather. By crafting this controversial material into a modern still life including a cup, jug, mirror and lamp, I invite us to reflect on the natural process of deterioration. Just as the body will decompose, so materials made from the body will also do so. My Vanitas acts as a modern mirror of our own mortality and imperfection, offering not only a daily glimpse of the distasteful truth behind our carefully constructed facades, but also realistic options for the creation of new materials.”
Vailly believes that as we are all deteriorating we should be making better use of the human materials we shed each day. The breakdown and decay of the human body is a central part of life, therefore why shouldn’t it be a central part of design? While Vailly is hopeful that his new material will be a success, he does admit a sense of apprehension to how the public will react to his new material. Vailly says: “Although realistic and sustainable both ecologically and economically, the success of the project will depend on social reaction.”
On that note, it really is over to you? Would you ultimately have a problem drinking a latte from a cup made from human hair? It could be the biodegradable material of the future if we can get over the initial yuck factor.