As the brains behind Studio Swine, Azusa Murkakmi and Alexander Groves specialize in figuring out ways to transform trash into beautiful design treasures. Previously, they have created furniture from São Paulo trash, designed chairs out of sea debris, and even designed a series of beautiful bespoke stools melted down from discarded aluminum cans.
For the pair’s latest project, Studio Swine is turning their back on trash to another kind of refuse: human hair. Using discarded locks, Studio Swine has created the Hair Highway, a beautiful series of objects that look as if they were made of tropical hardwood.
As part of a five-month residency, Murakami and Groves spent time investigating the global hair industry, which is centered in China, even going as far as to travel to the Shandong Province to visit the world’s largest human hair market. They realized that far from being a worthless material, human hair was a material with almost infinite possibility.
Why hair? With the global population expected to expand to over 8 billion people in the next 15 years, human hair is in many ways a perfect sustainable resource. It grows up to 16 times faster than many tropical hardwoods, and it’s incredibly strong as well. Despite these advantages, there are currently very few ways in which hair is being put to good use in the west outside of putting it in wigs and, bizarrely, pizza.
A collection of beautifully polished vessels and small objects such as combs and boxes, Hair Highway is Studio Swine’s proof that human hair can be put to incredible use. Mixed with resins and dye, each of the objects in the series looks as if it is carved from tropical wood, horn, and tortoise shell yet were produced at a fraction of the cost.
With the project, Studio Swine hopes that the Silk Road of ancient times will become the Hair Highway of tomorrow. Most recently on display as part of Design Miami/Basel 2014, you can find out more information about the project here.