It is the objects we value that will outgrow the everyday and become representatives of our times.
Specialising in the spectrum between preservation and decomposition, Marcin Rusak Studio was established with the premise to create pieces that represent the changing notions of value and symbolize the passing of time. Durable and timeless, or, on the contrary, dissolving under the pressure of external circumstances, the objects and materials developed by the studio scrutinise the seeming stability of the world around us, questioning excess consumption and the overproduction of goods.
Elevating overlooked source materials such as waste flowers or discarded metal, we create pieces that not only question the widespread notion of design as an activity that helps produce disposable, short-lived commodities and discuss the notions of waste and excess but also encourage the owner to become a custodian of the piece, developing an engaged, emotional attachment with it.
Observing the life cycles of our materials enabled us to implement a philosophy based on an analysis of ephemerality, spanning from preservation to decay.
The Unnatural Practice developed by Marcin Rusak Studio embraces independent research in the fields of contemporary visual arts and design as well as industrial production, manual crafts and engineering. The vast material library – a Living Archive – is built around organic (degradable) and synthetic (durable) matter, including floral waste sourced from an extended network of dedicated collaborators and supporters. As an ever-evolving entity, the Living Archive helps us design, observe and witness the life cycle of our creations. The dialogue between the human, the natural and the artefactual continues beyond the former’s temporal axis, with the aim of instilling future scenarios and communicating with the generations to come.
Thinking about the perceived value of man-made objects, we acknowledge different stages of engagement we have with them. The “aura” of a piece implies various stages of encounter, from approaching the unknown, to observation, sensual experience and emotional attachment.
Phenomena at the crossroads between nature and culture, botany and economy, the digital and the material, prompt us to conduct new bodies of research and come up with alternative approaches to materiality and production.
From ideation to implementation, we have full personal control over the creative process, adopting custom-developed methodologies for each new project.
Resulting from experimental, time- and labour-intense processes that range from applying meticulous handicrafts to reinventing and adapting industrial methods for small-scale production, our pieces are usually one-off, conceptual prototypes and unique collectable items that aspire to redefine historical references and provide a new perception of the world through an expression of their own. Their aesthetic qualities are balanced by the need to come up with the most sustainable, economical solutions, optimising the production process to minimise waste and reduce the carbon footprint emitted during production and transportation. We always try to make objects that can be taken apart, repaired and restored if needed, so that generations can enjoy them.
Over the course of years, we have researched and developed a number of unique materials and in-house techniques that formed the basis of our signature collections. Inspired by endless examples of botanic ornamentation found throughout history, we have treated flowers not as mere decoration, but as the very fabric and inspiration for the functioning of our materials. From observing the slow decay to preserving them in resin or metal, we make use of flowers that are „unsellable” due to their condition, withering and fading, and thus reveal their subtle beauty and transformative potential. Upcycling them into new pieces not only brings a new aesthetic and emotional merit, but also helps us educate our audience about the values we believe in.
Flora & Perma
Sourcing from flower growers, private gardeners and event organisers who collect and donate flowers that are either unsellable or no longer needed after weddings, large events or regular garden maintenance, we have built up our vast library of floral material, including a large variety of botanic species segregated by their sculptural qualities and colours.
At the very beginning, the purpose of trapping the botanic tissue in resin was to perceive its slow decomposition. Enveloped in a translucent material and catalysed by a special set of bacteria, the plants were to disappear slowly, leaving a sheer memory of their shape. With further development, the premise of burying a once-living matter in a solidifying composite provided a solution to preserve its beauty and make it last for centuries to come. Sealed resin provided us with the required stability and durability of the final material.
With the Flora and Perma collections, we closely observe and take part in the dynamic growth of the plastic industry. We currently use resins that are 26% recycled, and we aspire to increase the recycled components even further each year – up to 60% by the year 2024. We also invest in developing biodegradable resins, with the aim of transitioning to bio-based components. The raw materials we use come from certified European sources, and our production is based in Europe as well.
Tephra & Protoplasting Nature
Guided by the need to solidify and preserve while building with what once was seen merely as decoration applied onto the main body of a piece, Protoplasting Nature provided a shift in perceiving the fragility of plants. Organically merged with welded metal, it took a series of trials and errors, burned leaves and broken machines, to come up with a new take on an assemblage that plays with an illusion of a precious, die-cast bas-relief. Enveloped in paper-thin layers of molten metal, the plant is still present at the very core of the structure – protected, immortalised.
Thermocoating, an industrial method used e.g. in the naval industry, proved to be much more efficient and sustainable than metal-casting, traditionally used in high craftsmanship and collectable design, while achieving a similar solid metal effect. This technique enables us to retain the natural material under a thin layer of metal without damaging or burning it, and to use (and merge together) various types of metal without the need to melt large quantities of each of them, as would be common in metal casting. The resulting pieces come out much lighter – therefore, less carbon miles are emitted during their transport.
From an observation of natural processes and components to the creation of archetypal shapes, the Perishable Series is made using 100% natural, bio-based and biodegradable materials, including cut flower waste, shellac, beeswax, tree resins, and natural binders such as sugar and cooking flour. The Perishable Vases are quite stable in a controlled indoor environment. However, when treated with a special cocktail of enzymes and bacteria, they disintegrate and dissolve within a short period of time.
The digital sphere enables us to visualise what is impossible to reify in more traditional materials. Whether it is a chimeric projection of an ideal flower, an active-negative representation of voids left by ancient buildings, or a speculation on a self-destructive, site-specific sculpture, we turn to digital ideation and 3D printing to envisage the most daring of concepts.
For 3D printing, we utilise filaments made of nylon or polylactic acid (PLA) that is biodegradable under commercial composting conditions. We expect that this technology will continue to develop to become the go-to solution that will eventually replace “traditional” petroleum-based plastics.