FORM on Design: Nienke Hoogvliet’s New Work Turns to the Sea

Nienke Hoogvliet's new Sea Me rug uses algae yarn. The fiber, already readily available, could have impressive applications. Image courtesy Studio Nienke Hoogvliet/photograph by emke Poort.

Nienke Hoogvliet’s new Sea Me rug uses algae yarn. The fiber, already readily available, could have impressive applications. Image courtesy Studio Nienke Hoogvliet/photograph by emke Poort.

The work of Studio Nienke Hoogvliet, the textile, product and concept design firm founded by Nienke Hoogvliet last year, focuses largely on products made of natural materials and with traditional production processes, inspired by in interest  Delft-based Hoogvliet’s newest design, Sea Me, blends both. It’s a rug, made of yarn derived from sea algae fibers and hand-woven using an old fishing net—a creative commentary on the state of our oceans from plastic pollution. We talked to the up-and-coming young Dutch designer about her experiments with the unusual material and the resulting one-of-a-kind piece.

How did you decide to experiment with sea algae?

I found the yarn in a wholesale shop that specializes in experimental yarns. It fascinated me—I was wondered how it was possible that a yarn, so beautiful and sustainable, was not yet used on massive scale in the textile industry. I started researching and found out that algae grows much faster and needs fewer nutrients then cotton, for example, so this yarn could really be a good solution [in terms of sustainability].

I wanted to raise awareness for this material and, at the same time, focus on the problems with plastic pollution, therefore I choose to start working with it in combination with an old fishing net.

What’s the process like to get the material usable for the rug?

It’s similar to how they make viscose, they take the cellulose out of the sea algae (with viscose they mostly take it out of wood) and after that the process is kind of similar. The huge advantage of course is that algae grows much more sustainably then wood.

What about the coloration? Did you dye the fibers or did you use a range of naturally occurring colors?

The yarn becomes white through the process, so I dyed the it in different shades of green. I wanted to have an algae feel to it again, so I worked with a lot of gradients green.

What was the prototyping process like?

I first made some small samples. After I was satisfied with the coloring and structure, I started working on the “big” one (although that’s still kind of small, 135 x 60 cm). I knotted it by hand and, during the process, I decided where I wanted what color and what length. So the carpet really grew, and I also wanted it to have that organic feeling.

Is this piece one of a kind or might you do more?

This one is a one of kind, because it took me a lot of time to make it. But I really would like to make more, but then in collaboration with a company who specializes in making rugs.

How realistic is it to think the fiber could be used in large-scale applications?

Very, since it is already possible to make this yarn on a industrial level. I think it only needs some more research and some companies that want to invest in it, but then it can conquer the world.

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