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MaDe Participant

Pia Högman

Pressed Birch Bark / Näver

Pia Högman is a designer with a great interest in exploring and developing traditional materials and techniques. Applying old working methods within a modern context to conserve, modernize and learn from a historical way of creating. 

Her work is often hands on and with a close relationship to the raw material within the design process, experimenting and researching new ways of using traditional techniques with sustainable, local or in other ways interesting resources.

Högman graduated from the masters program in furniture design at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture, Design and Conservation in Copenhagen in June 2018.

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Project Information
Material Qualities
Water resistant, heat protection, flexible, colourful, light, resistant to rot etc.
Colour: The colour of birch bark range from dark brown, red, purple, pink, white, golden. A red coloured bark might be a sign of a fir tree growing close to the birch.
Soft / Hard: Mostly soft, but thicker or older sheets can be hard.
Shiny / Hard: The material can shimmer and be matte.
Smells: Sweet like cake if baked or like a autumn forest when freshly pealed.
Texture: Cork-like, dry, fragile, waxy, smooth, leather-like, mix between paper, leather, cork and wood.

Material Recipe
Pieces of clean birch bark + moist + heat + press.

Bake at 160 degree Celsius for 15 minutes while adding great pressure, cool down while still under pressure. Since birch bark is a natural material that comes in different shapes and thickness the results will be slightly different from each other.
Material Application
Birch bark pressed sheets can be used for:
- As a heat protective material, for protecting other materials or people from hot (or cold) temperature, for example a coaster for pans or storing heat inside cans or bottles.
- Storing food inside shaped bodies of the birch bark composite material will contribute to a longer life span of the food.
- Thin sheets of the material could be used as a veneer with its decorative, heat and water resistant properties.
- On it’s own as a more natural and ethical substitute for leather.
- Thicker boards made with the
Material Method
1. Getting the material (harvest or buy), wipe of moss if there is a lot.
2. Press with heat.
3. Cool down, under pressure
Material Narrative
s a traditional crafts material from the northern parts of Scandinavia and other regions on the northern parts of the globe, like Siberia and Canada. The material has a lot of valuable qualities and has been used for multiple purposes during history. It’s a great material for water proofing roofs since it doesn’t easily rot. The anti-rot abilities makes it a great material for storing food. It’s been used for clothing, back-packs, music instruments, religious symbols, decoration, writing, cooking, eating, cleaning, painting and so on.

“Comparing birch bark to a modern material, poly-eten is the closest comparison. … Poly-eten is cheap, versatile, water resistant, sturdy and shapeable. The same characteristics as birch bark.” (free translation from: *Stigsdotter & Hertzberg). The material was even used as disposable cups for drinking water because of the accessibility of the material in nature, before there was plastic. (*Stigsdotter & Hertzberg)

By finding modern areas of application for the material, where the many characteristics can show their full potential, the value of the material can be re-established. Birch bark should be gently harvested and used as the luxury material that it is. There’s a lot of ways to use birch bark, but the result I’ve choosen to submit is pressed birch bark sheets, that can be used in different products, as a heat-protective material, decoration, a leather substitute, a veneer, storing food or other ways of making use of the abilities of the material.
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MaDe, a project co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of The European Union, aims at boosting talents towards circular economies across Europe partnering with design and cultural institutions, Elisava, Ma-tt-er and Politecnico di Milano.

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