While many forestry operations reclaim waste like bark to transform it into mulch or biomass for energy, sometimes, it goes to waste. A new concept called “PineSkins” by Studio Sarmite finds a novel new use for it: transforming it into a leather-like material that’s surprisingly supple, and usable for all sorts of projects.
“The pine bark differs from traditionally used tree barks; it cannot be harvested from a living tree. A pine tree would die without its skin. Therefore the bark is harvested in collaboration with a tree cutter. Harvesting takes place right after the tree cutter cuts the tree for his business. This leather-like material surprises with its softness in contrast to the thick and harsh character associated with pine trees. Fresh bark is treated with natural ingredients that preserve its softness. Afterwards it can be coated with an enriching layer of finishing and colour pigments.”
“It is important for me as a designer to let the material take the shape it wants to take. We often bend and transform materials into shapes we envision. However, for me that magic happens when the material determines what it wants to become. As a result I design every day products that respect the character of the bark and in its shape reminds us on trees with its irregular shapes.”
It really does look like leather, and it’s interesting to think about what kinds of applications it could have in various industries. Designer Sarmite Polakova, who believes that each material, new or old, “has a story to tell,” pictures it woven into baskets or cut into rugs. You could also imagine it in use as wallpaper, place mats, notebook covers, handbags and other items.
She doesn’t say exactly how it’s created, other than those “natural ingredients” that keep it pliable long after it’s stripped from the tree, but her project isn’t the first to use bark this way. The Ugandan traditional craft of barkcloth making is one example, while “tapa cloth” is a bark cloth made in the islands of the Pacific Ocean from species like the paper mulberry tree. Both are often used for clothing.
Sarmite’s “PineSkins” are a cool way to utilize excess materials generally thought of as un-marketable. Check out two more examples – pine needles transformed into renewable plastic, and wood floors made of waste pulp.