Author Mara Schiavetti
Some people think colonizing Mars is the solution for humanities future survival. Whether you agree, a mere star gazer, or possess an ardent interest in space exploration and the mysteries of the Universe, there’s no denying that curiosity is the mother of invention. When artist and fashion designer Tanu Vasu, and founder of Made Of Mars J.R. Skok’s worlds collided, they began to explore the possibilities of Volcanic Magma as a potential wearable and sustainable option from today’s conventional textiles.
As with many climate conscious designers and artists, the pursuit of cutting down on their carbon footprint has become an urgent priority. Some aspire to produce zero waste production; where the design and pattern making of the garment follows strict guidelines to eliminate any waste by using leftover material for either added product detailing or new merchandise. Others focus on sourcing pure handmade, organic fabrics, while the more science-minded seek out innovative technology to produce new textiles from biodegradable materials.
Originally from Sydney, Australia Tanu Vasu now resides in NYC, where she frequently exhibits her collections as installations in art galleries in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn. Tanu assimilates traditional methods such as knitting, weaving, and pleating with modern techniques of laser cutting, 3D printing, heat-activated materials, and textile manipulation. Currently, her materials of choice are wool remnants (sourced from old factories), recycled metals, and Magma. Her inspirations come from diverse aspects of life, such as historical motifs, architecture, and science; using unconventional materials, she can create groundbreaking concepts while incorporating artisanal techniques.
Basaltic lava, or mafic lava, is molten rock enriched in iron and magnesium and depleted in silica. Basaltic magmas are formed by exceeding the melting point of the mantle either by adding heat, changing its composition, or decreasing its pressure.
‘Basalt magma is one of the most common rocks in our solar system. The more that we can make from it, the easier will be our journey to the stars. Basalt covers much of the Martian surface and would be available in some form to most landing sites. Current techniques can turn basaltic rocks into fibers that can be woven into a wide range of fabrics. Made of Mars is developing the techniques to work these fabrics into all of the products that we want and will need for our future on Mars’.
AGB: Hi Tanu, how did you decide that Magma would make a good clothing material?
TV: Honestly, I didn’t know it would. It was a process of trial and error. There are so many different weaves of the magma material - from very fine to more open weaves leaving a lot of room for experimentation. I enjoy this process of trialing how we can take materials beyond traditional ‘textiles’ and create clothing from it - learning to build sustainable collections from basaltic Magma has been my most recent endeavor.
AGB: Where do you source the Magma, and what’s the process in which you’re able to use it as a material?
TV: The magma clothing projects are a collaboration with Made Of Mars, a team of sustainable individuals re-thinking materials beyond what is currently in use.
The Magma has been extruded and created into filaments which have then been woven to create a ‘fabric.’ The material has not been combined with any additional support fiber, ensuring it is 100% rock.
This allows me to experiment with fabric manipulation and pattern making - as it’s such a unique “fiber” it has unique properties and needs to be managed differently to conventional material. Magma has not been previously used to make clothes, so there is much to learn; however, it is presenting an exciting and insightful project.
AGB: Do you have other projects lined up, with other materials, or will you be doing further experimentation with Magma?
TV: My nature is to work several projects simultaneously- each idea, whether it be weaving with a Japanese loom to draping Magma each idea sparks energy and insight for the next. This notion of synchronizing my work allows me to have a united vision.
Currently, Magma is a significant focus while also working on a few new weaving projects with an old loom I found at an estate sale. This ‘old world’ aspect is fascinating to me, and to be created on a loom from the 1800s is divine.
AGB: What does the texture of the magma material feel like? Is it like armor, pliable, or rock hard?
TV: There are various weaves and thicknesses - The fiber weave drapes gracefully; however, the thicker pattern is more armory and sturdy. By the way, it’s also fire repellant.