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Imagining New Ways to Design with Natural Fibers


What do bamboo, pineapple, flax and loofah all have in common? They feature in a stunning exhibition by Danish designer Sara Martinsen currently on show at the Bygning A gallery at the A Petersen showroom in Copenhagen. The exhibition, titled Phytophilia, explores different natural fibers in the hope of promoting sustainable design and building practices.

sara martinsen natural fibers


Martinsen spent a year collecting 20 different plant fibers and collating them into a tactile archive. In the exhibition she shows these amazing materials in different states: raw, dried and debarked, ready for spinning, as fabrics, and processed ready for use or as objects. Her work demonstrates not only the beauty of these wide ranging fibers, but their usefulness in all sorts of applications, from insulation to furniture design. 

As lovers of sustainable, natural flax we were delighted to see the plant featured in the exhibition. You can see the flax in bundles of dried fibers. Martinsen invites visitors to see, smell and touch the fibers, hoping we will make a connection with them and be more likely to use them in our lives. 

flax fiber sustainable design


Her philosophy is about using natural materials to reduce our carbon footprint and impact on the environment. Instead of synthetic materials that don’t biodegrade and use toxic chemicals to process, Martinsen believes we should be looking to other, more sustainable sources. She says, ‘We are raised and educated to believe in the importance of leaving a mark. When in fact we need to leave zero and nothing. This is where the plant fibers become relevant. They can vanish and degrade.’

sara martinsen sustainable design


By experiencing new materials and seeing them almost as artworks in themselves, we can think differently about the natural resources around us. Instead of exploiting the planet we can use materials that benefit both ourselves and the natural world, and get inspired about innovative ways to create products. Martinsen presents her fiber archive in various forms, including as sculpture and finished objects, fusing the beauty and utility of each. 

As we know, flax in one of those incredibly versatile fibers that people have used for thousands of years in many different ways. From super-cosy linen bedsheets to artists’ canvases, linen lends its strength, durability and softness to a wide range of uses. We love that Martinsen has included flax in her exhibition, and hope more designers, architects, craftspeople and artists find new ways to bring it into our lives.

For some simple ways to make your home more eco-friendly, go here.

All photos credited to Kristian Holm 

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I'm Inga and this is a space where I celebrate simple, slow living. It's a place to be curious and creative, to share ideas on how to live and work sustainably and mindfully. Being the creative force behind I also write about my love for linen and natural fabrics. Linenbeauty weaves inspiring stories of slow living with interior style features, travel and cookery tips and outfit ideas. Thanks so much for stopping by.