Growing Crystals, Learning about Bioplastics, and Papermaking with Invasive Species

During The Nature Lab's Graduate Liason Fall Workshop Series, members of the RISD community grew crystals, learned about bioplastics, and made paper using invasive species.

At the Crystal Growing Workshop, Sculpture Graduate Liason Maria Eugenia Moya Martinez [MFA '18] gathered attendees into the The Nature Lab's Aquarium Room to learn about crystals and how to grow them in the studio setting. Inspired by crystals from the Edna W. Lawrence Natural History Collection and crystallography models from the Arthur Loeb Design Science Teaching Collection, students created various structures and formed their own crystal solutions with borax or epsom salts. In one of the processes, they placed cardboard structures into a salt saturated solution mixed with ammonia and Mrs. Stewart's Bluing. Students watched the tiny salt crystals grow on the cardboard as the salt expanded and the water and ammonia evaporated. Using the Nature Lab's Inverted Compound Microscope, they got to see how these salts grow microscopically in real time.

At the "Playing with Bioplastics" workshop, Research Assistant and Industrial Design Graduate Liaison, Adam Chuong [MID '19], guided students through cooking up different bioplastic recipe while exploring building processes and applications. Fifteen students and faculty, from various departments across RISD, got first hand experience with the often very DIY and messy process. As Adam states:
"We envisioned this workshop as a way to overcome the initial hurdle in exploring a new material. There's a dearth of information on bioplastics and often recipes you do find on the internet are vague and ratios of ingredients proprietary. I just wanted people to be able to get their hands dirty and start to understand how green plastics could become a part of their practice."

Furniture Design Graduate Liason Peter Lokken [MFA '18] and Interior Architecture Liason Kylie King [MDes '18] led the two-day "Papermaking with Invasive Species" workshop. Over 20 RISD students learned the basics of the simple yet fun papermaking process, from pulp preparation to paper couching with molds and deckles. They used several species of paper pulp, including hemp, abaca, cotton and even ground up blue jeans. Invasive species were provided for use as inclusions, while many students opted to use their own supplements, including coffee grounds, flowers, plant husks and colorful string. This specific workshop was done in conjunction with The Nature Lab's Biodesign Makerspace student-led renovation and some of the paper made will be used for the Biophilic Ceiling Installation project.

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The RISD Nature Lab is an EPSCoR|C-AIM Core Research Facility supported by the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreement #OIA-1655221 and EAGER Grant Award #1723559. ​​​Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed on this site are those of the Nature Lab and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.​

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