Live@ICFF Schools: MICA

In the ICFF student yearbook, the Maryland Institute College of Art, or MICA, would be the crunchy freshman in Birkenstocks, brandishing a Lonely Planet guide to Cambodia. The school’s low-tech exhibition, also called MICA (for Material Inspired Concepts & Artifacts), uses simple materials simply. Jute, cork, felt, and banana leaf are the basis for projects that wear their lack of elaboration as a (reclaimed-from-the-scrap-heap) badge of honor: a canopy for outdoor living, a transparent hemp body pillow with a striking geometric structure, bamboo digging tools to get tykes connected to the dirt, and a braided hemp-and-jute sandal with a removable banana-leaf insole. (Hemp is a perfectly fine material on its own, though I started getting other ideas when I was handed a business card made from a Trader Joe’s cereal box; it had just one word of the original packaging on it: “HIGH.” A coincidence?) IMG_6577_rz

The most ingenious designs revel in the struggle, delight, and mess of production. To make the nappy cloth of her felt purse (above), Sunny Chong drove around town for several days while sitting on a plastic bag filled with a mix of wool, water, and soap. A little friction and body heat and—presto!—felt. Meanwhile, Karine Sarkissian turned rough thread into a sculptural swing (below) and a petite, slouchy chair (top). The seats came out of long period of experimentation with jute, a cheap fiber that’s found in abundance in nature. When it proved too unwieldy to knit with, she simply created a giant spool of jute thread, using a trash can and a lampshade to get the shape right, and molded it into a structure that can support a person. Like the rest of the student projects, her chairs are made from biodegradable materials that require few chemical or mechanical processes. “Though I used some organic glue,” she says somewhat apologetically.

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