fungi furniture: reviewing studio flek

 

By Ben Wood

Waste is one of the most significant challenges of our time. Australia produces approximately 540kg of household waste per person, per year. Melbourne alone can fill the Eureka Tower 50 times annually. Although some of this material is recycled, the vast majority is stockpiled in warehouses where it remains unsorted and continues to grow.

Fortunately, design is an industry that flourishes when presented with a challenge. A single material has the power to capture the imagination of a designer and inspire them to develop new, innovative products. Recently, the design scene has embraced the challenge of repurposing various forms of waste generated from daily life and business. We have seen the likes of iron residue and algae repurposed into striking new products for consumers to enjoy. The industry is on a mission to turn our waste into something of value, and challenge our current perception of the life cycle of a product.

For this year’s Melbourne Design Week, Brickworks Showroom teamed up with the Gold Coast creative studio, Studio Flek, to produce an exhibition of biodegradable, home-grown furniture. The founder and head designer at Studio Flek, Chris Miller, partnered with Balter Brewing Co. on the Gold Coast to develop their latest range of bar stools. Not, however, from the traditional materials you might expect. Chris and his team are repurposing the beer hops that remain after the brewing process to grow bar stools, using mushroom spores as a binding agent. In an almost poetic cycle, Chris is creating bar stools that are made from beer themselves, and will hopefully seat visitors in the Balter Brewery one day.

According to Chris, who I was lucky enough to speak to on the opening night of the exhibition, the bar stools will be entirely compostable. Spent hops and mash grain are bound together by mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms, to create a composite material that is 100% biodegradable. Previous testing has found that mycelium has a compressive strength greater than standard brick, whilst maintaining a light and spongy texture, similar to that of high-density foam. In addition to these incredible qualities, the mycelium is also cheap to create, fire-proof, and sound-proof. When I asked whether he believed it was commercially viable, Chris mentioned that there were already a number of studios in the United States and Europe finding commercial uses for the material, including acoustic panelling and insulation within buildings, or as a substitute for foam or plastic in packaging. Chris explained to me that there are a number of benefits of designing with materials perceived as waste. They are low cost, sometimes even negative, as businesses will pay you to take them off their hands. The potential properties are currently unknown and destined to shift and improve with new technology and production methods.

The need to design products with a considered, cyclical life cycle is incredibly important.

Chris also spoke about the Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi as a key influence for his explorations, where imperfection and aging are embraced as natural parts of the life of a product. His stools are able to be broken down and used for a secondary purpose when their primary function has been fulfilled. While these ideas of cyclic design are not new, it has taken until now for them to be adopted into the mainstream consciousness.

Exhibitions like this one, supported by the NGV and Melbourne Design Week, play a huge role in integrating and normalising these ideas, into new designs and materials. Neurasthenic research shows that we perceive design and art differently if it is labelled and displayed in a gallery or show, as opposed to a store, or even a studio. The recognition from an external ‘trusted’ body alters our perception of a product’s validity, especially if the show is world renowned. A product is unconsciously assumed to be vetted and tested in order to have made it to the stage. This phenomenon has the power to lead individuals within the wider design community to take the leap of faith and invest in these emerging technologies, helping them to become more mainstream. When knowledge is shared, it becomes a tool for entire communities of designers and innovators to push the possibilities of an idea, technology or material.

I for one, am incredibly thankful that Melbourne Design Week chose the theme, ‘Design the world you want’. In a time where resources are precious, it is a holistic theme that asks a very pertinent question. Designers can no longer be seemingly thoughtless in their production and encouragement of a consumer-based society. My hope is that we can all play our part in shifting this narrative of waste towards a circular resource economy before it’s too late.

Photo by Ben Wood

the universe was never as cruel as the moment it woke me up

 

by Eli Rooke

 

The cosmos forged me a new body

and I was finally made of stardust.

Constellations traced along my scars,

and the sun warmed me to my bones.

The galaxy embraced me, and it was love.

I held myself, and it was love.

 

The sky turned dark, as stars

suddenly fell from their places.

I became a shooting star,

and I was falling.

I was burning.

 

I held and clutched

at the warmth still blessed to my skin.

But in a moment of burning ash, I was awake.

I was back in skin, stretched tight over my soul

and back in breaths, caught in cages.

My body was cold.

 

–  The universe was never as cruel as the moment it woke me up.

 

About Eli Rooke:

Eli Rooke is a non-binary entity who enjoys writing queer stories, with a particular focus on trans journeys and experiences. They can usually be found playing god with original worlds and characters. Eli has a passion for collaborative storytelling, and believes the best stories are the ones created with others.

Photo by Matheus Bertelli from Pexels

pride

This piece originally appeared in the Identity issue of SWINE Magazine

 

By Alex Edwards

I get asked every so often whether pride events are still important.

Do we still need to celebrate being queer?

When I hear these types of questions, I think about all the pride events I have attended and what they meant for me….the most recent being Midsumma Pride March, held on the 23rd of May, 2021.

The march was a great event which ended up having around 8000 marchers from about 240 groups and a couple of hundred spectators. As one of the marchers at the event, it was amazing to attend – especially after the wild year that was 2020. Being part of the march, you can feel the love and support that exists, and for a moment you forget about the rest of society and just focus on the fact that there are other people like you with similar experiences. When you live in a society that is run by rich cis white men, a society that doesn’t understand you or your experiences, being in an environment that makes you feel included and a part of society is a huge thing. Pride events are a celebration, but they still act as a form of protest against a society that doesn’t accept us.

This is what pride has always been about. Queer people fighting for equal rights and acceptance in a society that doesn’t understand us. That fight isn’t over but also, sadly, we have our own problems accepting others, which continue to persist in the queer community (as in the community more broadly), including racism, gate-keeping of queer identities, and ableism. These things work to further isolate queer people who don’t fit into the more widely understood boxes of queerness or who aren’t cis or white, and who don’t have disabilities. These are issues that the community needs to work on.

I love being part of the queer community, however at times I am ashamed by the behaviours of some of its members. Instead of letting this dishearten me though, I see it as on opportunity to become better informed and then pass on that knowledge – something I work towards in my role as the SSU Queer Representative. I try to pass on knowledge about our history to those who are new to the community or want to become better allies. I also work towards finding out how we can better assist those who are marginalised within the community.

All of us deserve to feel safe and accepted for all elements of our identity. While we continue to fight for acceptance and recognition from wider society, it’s also important for those of us who understand what it’s like to be excluded, to ensure that we don’t continue to perpetuate those feelings of erasure or exclusion in our own communities.

 

Alex Edwards is the current SSU Queer Rep.

Photo by Raphael Renter on Unsplash

our private cubicle

 

By Lachlan Bowden

The bed was caught in a limbo between comfortable and irritable – itchy at every touch. The concave deepened after that evening, indifferent to permissible reasoning. A time limit had always been agreed upon, out by 10, no matter what. The democratic rulings of a bedroom always seemed more agreeable before fucking, and tortuous once the door closed on the way out. Always carefully shut to avoid a slam, and thus unwanted attention. Sliding on unbuttoned jeans, shortly before the exodus, the silence proved to be an excruciating companion, though a faithful one.

Albert only had his left sock on. He assumed the right resided beneath the shadows of the bed, or on the right foot of Harvey, who was most likely cycling toward the far end of Coventry Street by this point. Stoic and calm, Albert lay diagonally on his bed. Half consumed by the sheets, half vulnerable to the biting cold air that filled the room. His erectile sheath still bearing him, knowing that he would not sleep in that state. It seemed as though moving from that position – comfort purgatory – may contain the potency to, only just, kill him. Harvey’s actions were premeditated, this was routine. Harvey’s rapid evacuation never surprised Albert, though he was always paralysed on the site of passion, which never seemed to not catch him off guard.

***

The hors d’oeuvres had an overbearing artichoke component, with a lot of what seemed like pepper, though Albert couldn’t be sure. He had dropped the appetiser on the floor as he attempted to nonchalantly navigate his way through, peers, acquaintances, friends of friends, pricks and arseholes, to the sanctuary of the free bar. It seemed like a social obligation to either subsidise or – if you really respected your friends – pay for the lot. Albert had just subsidised when it was his 21st. However, Amalie insisted on drinks being covered until at least 10 pm and, seemingly, Mum and Dad had no issue. This disparity promised to linger only momentarily under Albert’s skin, as somewhat of an irritation, though not warranting formal action. Much like a small, semi-itchy rash on the back of your calf, not worth the energy of an appointment to address, rather, it was fixable with an Epson salt bath and the application of some Cetaphil.

‘Beers, Wine, and Cider’, was written with ill-penmanship in mossy green, above the chef’s specials that had been served moments before, and were now probably half-digested in the guts of the previous patrons.

‘Uh, maybe just a pint of stone and wood,’ Albert squinted and sloped his brow to appear somewhat experienced in the tedious dance of bartender interaction.

‘Here, mate.’ He handed Albert the glass.

Moments after the first sip – which promised so much, according to adverts of hard-working men in tight singlets taking that initial heroic sup of light protruding lager, which was actually rather disheartening – the speeches began.

‘Hellllo everyone, hope you’re enjoying your drinks… on me!’ Dad was a little pissed. Usually, a joke in front of this capacity was unthinkable. Though, the crowd laughed in their timely facade, as the panel of speakers lined up – some bearing faces of unfortunate souls facing a firing squad, the others just a little tipsy and daft-looking.

Next to brave the microphone was Harvey (one of the unfortunates), ‘Heya everyone. Hope you’re all having a grand evening, thanks for coming.’

Albert lingered at the back of the bar, strangling the neck of his pint.

‘…yeah. Uh, as most of you know, Amalie is very special to me. I couldn’t ask for a better girlfriend. It’s been nearly…ah, 4 years now.’ His eyes flicking to the left, assessing Amalie’s body language. Heavily intoxicated by this point, an acceptable smile gripped Amalie’s cheeks, one that she most definitely practised in the mirror beforehand. Harvey’s speech continued with no noticeable moments.

 

With every scheduled scan of the room during Harvey’s speech Albert simultaneously begged for Harvey’s eye contact, and callously refused it. Impatiently wrapping up his speech, Harvey passed the mic to the subsequent victim.

They both disappeared, separately (seemingly always separately), to the toilets. ‘Albert?’ whispered Harvey, with a firm hunger. The cubicle door opened to reveal Albert. Both stood still, waiting for the other to break. It soon became apparent the other would not, so Harvey moved in. Pressing his chest against Albert, he closed the off-white cubicle door behind them. Harvey’s tie pin pushed directly into the exact adjacent spot on Albert’s frail body. The pain was not worth mentioning, like the rash. Their close proximity was no match for the tension drawing one to the other. Both their lips argued, then caressed, contested, then held, teased, then mimicked. Neither of them had a choice. All whilst the external party vibrated back and forth, the perennial faceless dance continued

 
 

 

About Lachlan Bowden: 

Lachlan moved to Melbourne in the winter of 2021 to study Screen Production and Film. With a keen interest in literature, and as a way to understand his new environment, Lachlan has found creative writing to be an engaging practice.

Photo by Hà Nguyễn on Unsplash  

dead butterfly in my belly

 

by Manaswi Dawadi Rimal

I was waiting for love,

just like they said.

My tears in his handkerchief,

his tears in my letters.

His smile in the tea I made,

my smile in his essence.

Our breaths fighting with each other,

against our locked lips,

like the rivers flowing through mountains.

 

But I felt the butterflies in my stomach
when her jhumka communicated with my shirt.

The butterflies were flying inside,

when my ear heard the sound of her walk.

Her walk rhyming with her ghungru.

 

I felt the rainbow in my soul,
when her hair was fighting with that air.

Even when her voice was sharp like a chisel,
I felt like fitting into that groove.

 

When her Saree laughed with the tune of classic,

That’s when I had butterflies.

Her kajal falling through her ocean, in the form of tears.

Nothing was more magical,

like pearls turned into grey.

They were more precious than her tears.

 

And no, it was not just tea.
It was the whiskey,

the rum,
the cocaine,

running through my blood
in the form of her reminiscence,

even when she was not around.

 

What do I do now?
Neither can I tell her,

nor can I leave him.

They said, ‘love is only for HIM,’
waiting for him on the white horse.

 

They said, ‘love is only for HIM,’

running towards me from the mustard field.

 

They said, ‘love is only for HIM,’

giving me his hand on the train or a bus.

 

They said, ‘love is only for HIM’

while he unbuttons my shirt and I submit myself.

 

But what if I want it to be her?

 

What if I run away with her on the horse,

in the plane,

in the mustard field,

riding in the train?

 

Why is it okay to do these things with him,

but not okay with her?

 

What if I want to unravel myself to her, not him?

 

The butterflies inside me have turned back into caterpillars and died,

with no hopes of being butterflies ever again, and so have I.

 

About Manaswi Dawadi Rimal:
Manaswi is a writer, adventure seeker, travel enthusiast. She is a foodie and happy go-lucky person who worked as a Bartender and Barista. She is doing her degree in Engineering and is involved in various clubs, volunteering and events.

Photo by Gursimrat Ganda on Unsplash

father, child, brother

 

by Matt Richardson

At twenty-one, he was the father of a sixteen-year-old boy. His brother. Not for any conventional reason. His parents were very much alive and both boys still lived with them. In fact, not only was he his brother’s father, but he was his mother’s best friend and his father’s confidant. He wanted to be none of those things. He wanted to be a twenty-one-year-old man, father to no one and friend to those who weren’t twice his age.

But there were some things he was unable to change. His mother’s loneliness, his father’s emotionless demeanour, his brother’s hatred. And so, he appeased each one, because without him, the family would fall apart.

For his mother, he gossiped about people he didn’t know, watched shows he hated, laughed at jokes he didn’t find funny, and spoke in the particular tone she needed. All so she wouldn’t scream at him again.

For his father, he listened to the harsh insults about his mother, passed messages between them, and let him drink in solitude and silence even when others needed him. All so that his parents’ marriage wouldn’t fall apart.

For his brother, he did everything. He got him out of bed in the mornings, forced him to school and work, made sure he ate and showered and cleaned his room. He helped his brother with homework, soothed him when he cried, helped him find a therapist, scolded him when he did something wrong. All these things he did to stop his mother and father from doing them.

If they did them, if they suddenly decided they cared about the late arrivals and school absences, the tantrums and the insults, then his brother would no longer be alive.

There were rules to follow in the house. Speak a certain way, or his mother would guilt trip him, somehow believing that a slight tone could mean that no one wanted to speak with her. Put everything back in its particular spot, or his mother would yell that he was useless. Clean and clean and clean, or his father would scream until they were both exhausted.

So, he followed those rules, staying in the house only to look after his brother. If he left and didn’t take his brother, then he would never see him again. And that was the last thing he wanted.

There was a day, halfway through a long year, where his brother became his sibling, and ‘he’ became ‘they’. He was the only one to know, because he was the only one to understand. He too, had gone through a transition, but he had been accepted by their family. He knew from the start that his sibling would not be.

His mother came to him late most nights and demanded he tell her what he talked to his sibling about. She tried to make him believe that her knowledge of their secrets would make everything better. She was manipulative and, sometimes, he wasn’t able to stay silent.

When he came home from work one day to find his sibling in a screaming match with their parents, he knew exactly what had happened. In the face of his mother’s dismissal and his father’s disgusting rage, the boy—because that’s what he felt like at that moment—took his sibling’s hand and dragged them away.

They were poor, a man in his twenties and a child who was not quite an adult, and they would struggle, but they needed solace and safety. They needed to be free from the rules and the stress. He needed a place where he didn’t have to be anyone’s best friend or confidant unless he chose to be.

And as he walked down the hallway with his bag in hand and his sibling at his side, he ignored his mother’s probing questions about what they were doing, her tears and demands. He ignored his father’s jabs and insults, his disbelief that they would actually leave.

He ignored the urge to turn around and tell them everything, just to please them, just to make everything better, because that was so much easier than what he was about to do.

He did it anyway. Bag on his back, his sibling’s hand in his, he walked out the door. He turned his back on the screams that came from the driveway and searched for a place where his sibling—his child—could be safe. A place where he could be safe too.

 

About Matt Richardson:

Matt is a first year editing student. He writes short stories and novels about queer people being queer in every kind of universe imaginable. His work has previously appeared in anthologies for TL;DR Press. Any updates on his projects, including the novels he is working on, can be found at @MattRAuthor on twitter.

Photo by Hugues de BUYER-MIMEURE on Unsplash