“Fiki” seaweed biopolymer sculpture, Niki Sperou in collaboration with Peng Su, CMBD.

This post is regarding Fyki seaweed biopolymer sculpture, named after the Greek word for seaweed. As the artefact has precipitated much interest and many questions since it was made early in the Green Plastics-Blue Ocean project, I will address the concepts associated with its creation.

As well as being an aesthetic object which invites tactile response (I have noted that everyone wants to run their hands over her), Fyki  clearly demonstrates the attributes of the polymer beyond the 2D pour and cast method usually adopted in laboratory practice.

My intention was to develop an intimate understanding of the properties of the polymer through intensive manipulation. The substructure of the sculpture is a  glass model of a head that I have used many times in my art practice. It is a generic form, pertaining neither to a particular gender or ethnicity. I wanted to test if the polymer could form a skin which would hold together over the 3D glass form. Glass and polymer are not compatible and it was clear that any attempt to simply pour the polymer over the head in quantities available in the lab would not result in a suitable ‘skin’ formation.

I drew upon prior experience from sculpture workshop i.e. lost wax casting method and developed a layering technique, that after several attempts to cover the form with unrefined brown seaweed (Durvillea Pototorum) polymer, finally resulted in minute polymer aggregates. These aggregates were very delicate and could easily be dislodged through subsequent polymer layers and the tendency for polymer swelling.

After extremely careful rendering and heat drying of 100+ polymer layers, the polymer finally formed a strong skin with the ability to readily absorb polymer moisture and less carefully applied additional layers.

Further to this, the human form evokes the potential of bioplastic polymers for personal, regenerative, and other medical use.

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