Designer Beth Esponnette wonders why it is that we are comfortable wearing cow, but uncomfortable wearing other materials like hot glue, chia, and crystal. She manipulates the materials that we are comfortable in, and tames the ones we are not. Is there an optimum level of familiarity with a material for our comfort level?

“If we are not at all familiar with a material we are uncomfortable wearing it, and if we know too much about a material we are also uncomfortable wearing it. We reside in that happy medium between no familiarity and uber-familiarity by readily adopting the norms around us, rejecting the unfamiliar, and not asking questions”,  Beth Esponnette explains

Through her recent work, Beth aims to build and grow products as the biological world would. In her latest wearable experiment, she grew a thick, green chia seed vest. To achieve this, she first designed and patterned the vest, cut it from muslin, laid the muslin on water-saturated foam, and then planted chia seeds into the muslin. Once the chia had sprouted into the muslin, she sewed it into a vest. The vest was grown in just one week during the California drought, in a downtown Palo Alto, California garden. The product can continue to grow while being worn with additional watering.

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Although impractical to wear, the relationship between the vest and the user is not unlike the relationship between humans and their own skin. There is a symbiotic connection at play, in which the user needs oxygen in exchange for carbon dioxide for respiration and the chia needing carbon dioxide in exchange for oxygen for photosynthesis. The vest also uses the moisture that the wearer produces for sustenance while the wearer is cooled by the chia.

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