“How can products, like people, come from dust, and to dust return?” A poetic way of talking about no-impact design, that’s the inquiry that drives the aesthetic investigations of Israeli artist Adital Ela—or, as she calls herself, a "designer-gatherer"—and her newest product, Terra, an all-natural stool made from compressed earth.
The TED Fellow was inspired by her travels in India, where she watched locals drink chai from clay cups, only to throw them into the street after they were done—the original, and all-natural, single-serving mug.
"The cups, made of clay, dried in the sun, touched the earth, and blended," she explains in a talk delivered at TEDxJerusalem, "And within minutes, they disappeared, as if they never existed. Seeing this, I knew that all I ever learned about sustainability design turned pale in front of this ingenious invention."
Studying traditional Middle Eastern construction methods that rely on earth and fiber, including a type of oven her grandmother made when living in Iraq, Ela began experimenting with wasted dirt and fibers found at construction and agricultural sites.
Finished with flax oil, the stools look almost like the mud ovens that inspired them. Ela calls them "truly organic" and "living artifacts that can bring a rare and unique sense and scent to every room."
Just make sure the room has a roof. Leave these stools out in the rain and they’ll fulfill Ela’s mission by returning to dust (or mud, more likely).