Botanic Color LAB Élodie Gobin

Límulus interviewed the industrial designer Élodie Gobin on her project Botanic Color LAB*.


Límulus: How does the idea for this project come about?

Élodie Gobin: The sensitivity to color and the search to change the standards of paint have been present for many years now. The idea for this project came about in 2010 when my Masters project materialized, which was about the second life of everyday objects. I decided to work specifically with shoes and collaborate with FYE, a French company from Nantes that designs and produces eco-friendly sports shoes.

I thought about the possible parameters of intervention, looking to extend the life of these small shoes: I believed it was important to renew the image of these objects in relation to the current trends and fashion. I then sought to use fleeting colors that could be reutilized every season.

It was then that I started working with natural colors, looking for a way to equally extend the life of the materials. My research began by dyeing natural textiles and, little by little, it extended to other natural materials in general: paper, felt, wool, cotton, wood, etc.


L: Where do conventional and commercial dyes come from?

EG: The paint that covers the material of a thick film and uniform is acrylic or vinyl polymers obtained from hydrocarbons that come from petroleum. On the other hand, dyes for wood, for example, can be extracted from natural materials but they do not offer the possibility to obtain bright colors.

L: What problems do you encounter with this type of preparation?

EG: The industrial preparation of colors for textiles in particular greatly pollute the environment of the countries where they are produced, affecting the landscape and inhabitants.


L: Where do you find the raw material to produce the colors?

EG: My project is inscribed to a personal research where I seek to be a conscious designer with professional ethics that propose moderate consumer circuits facing the predominantly massive ones that take place nowadays. I studied the possibility of producing color with a base material little or non-pollutant, in order for it to have a second life.

It was equally important to obtain local products, made in the city with a maximum perimeter of 10 km. Fruit and vegetable waste were obvious in my everyday life in Paris, where food waste is huge. The wastes that are directly collected from the farmers are non-qualified or damaged products; the ones left after a day at the market, the ones that weren’t sold; in the supermarket where very strict norms are applied regarding the quality of products, the goods that are not sold are disposed of. Evidently, the collection of the unsold product is possible after the solidary grocery associations and other parallel markets have gone through them.

Later on, in the process of applying color to the object, I searched for the same principle of recuperating the material and/or some object. For the series of cutlery, the wood came from trees cut in the city and the metal came from a thrift store.

The wood used for the collection I presented in Mexico was from logging and the dyes were extracted from fruit and vegetable waste picked up throughout the city. Once again, it’s about objects made in town, at kilometer 0.


L: How do you extract color from waste?

EG: Each waste has its specific extraction mode, each is a new experiment.

L: How do you preserve the extracted colors?

EG: I usually don’t preserve anything, I create the exact amount for a production. For mass production to occur, the preservation of the extracted juices could basically be done in a refrigerator or a cold room. However not all colors resist preservation in the same way.


L: What has been the most difficult surface to paint with botanical colors?

EG: I wanted to work with a new type of paper, created by a company from Como in Italy, which is made to not kill trees for the production of paper, it’s made with rock and resin. The texture of the paper was very soft, impermeable and indestructible. But I was not able to dye it. Usually with this type of color, synthetic papers can’t be dyed.


L: How do you apply the theory of color or that of emotions to your experiments?

EG: Yes, you could say I apply my knowledge on theory of color in my work, in a way, since I produce palettes of colors according to the local culture. These colors might have a special echo in the lives of the inhabitants of the neighborhood of a city. My work springs from a sensitivity and curiosity towards the surroundings of each project, more than specific theories.

In general, the theory of color is a good base for the projects of color design I do. But the theory of the psychology of color is something I don’t believe in. I wrote my memoirs on this subject when I finished my studies on industrial design. It was then that I asked myself about the notions of color perception and the powers attributed to them sometimes. The translation of waves responsible for the vision of colors between the eye and the brain is an extremely complex phenomenon, just like the brain’s translation of it. We also notice that the establishment of the responsible cones of perception of color in the retina is unique in every individual and that, according to the contexts of life, each one adapts the vision of colors to his or her surroundings.

I thus believe that the perception of colors and their psychology are, without a doubt, marketing creations that try to impose an attitude or emotion on human beings to feel certain impulses. Personally I believe that each one of us creates our own sensibility to colors according to the context of our life.



L: What’s your favorite color?

EG: Klein blue.

L: What are the advantages of botanical colors over synthetic ones?

EG: Botanicals don’t pollute. In the production and application, only natural products are used and when recycled, no damaging emanations are produced. Hence, botanical colors have low impact in their creating process.

Botanical colors are local and seasonal: they depend on the time of year and the city they are made in. This way they reconnect people with a closer and more real production. In addition, they are bright colors and make aging perceptible due to the use of the object; they transmit a message regarding the current world of consumption.

Lastly, my project, Botanic Color LAB, translates to an endless search for existing natural resources that we can reuse.


*Botanic Color LAB was brought to life in an exhibition that took place in Mexico City from November 12 to 17, 2014, in Café 123

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