Life Cycles: The Materials of Contemporary Design


Fernando Laposse. Totomoxtle. 2017 110

Corn husks and glue on MDF board, approx.: 47 1/4 x 47 1/4 x 1 1/2" (120 x 120 x 3.8 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Architecture and Design Funds

Designer, Fernando Laposse: In a time where we're completely lost about what's going to be the future of humanity in relationship to nature, our indigenous communities really can trace the path towards an alternative future.

My name is Fernando Laposse. I'm a designer and artisan from Mexico.

Totomoxtle means corn husks in several of our indigenous languages. We take the leaves at the end of the life cycle of corn, we flatten it, and we laminate it onto paper, and then we cut it into shapes to create a continuous surface. And we work with it as if it was wood veneer. That's what Totomoxtle is in terms of creating the material, but it's also a social project.

Corn is this wonderful crop that produces abundant sources of pure energy. But with the introduction of large scale agro-industrial operations using chemicals and using GMO seeds, almost no one was planting heirloom corn anymore. This affects, for example, the amount of recipes that we can make, but it’s also a big loss of culture. We would have never had the amazing civilizations of Central Mexico and Guatemala, without this plant.

Tonahuixtla is a small farming community practicing indigenous traditions of agriculture. We've created heirloom seed stock that we give to new members of the project for free. And then once the corn is reaching its full maturity, we buy the leaves from them. That's where the transformation happens from raw leaves to final Totomoxle.

So this is a way for them to meet all of their economic needs and eat well. The waste, if you want to see it as waste, is the grain. How many projects can say that the byproduct of their production is food?

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