Profile Artworks

Julia Lohmann

Kombu Ahtola

10.09. - 23.10.2021

Made from Japanese kelp – kombu – the Ahtola is a dialogue with seaweed: A reflection on the material's properties, its potential to rebalance damaged eco-systems and its future role as a material for making. 

An Ahtola is the mythical underwater palace of the sea goddesses. As kelp is an eco-system builder that supports underwater organisms big and small and supplies us with our oxygen it can also give shelter to the deities of the ocean – or is it the deity itself? 

Seaweed can be cultivated sustainably and it can improve the eco-system in which it is grown. It can be grown and processed without the use of harmful chemicals, fertiliser or pesticides. It is a superfood, has antibacterial properties and can be used to make a wide variety of materials that have the potential to replace plastic, fabric, leather. The sustainable use of seaweed can help to heal damaged socio-environmental systems, such as coastal communities of human and non-human stakeholders.

Julia Lohmann founded the Department of Seaweed, a transdisciplinary group of artists, designers, scientists and sea-lovers, to collectively develop seaweed as a sustainable material for making. In the Kombu Ahtola, the seaweed is used as a skin on a rattan structure. Between each of the rattan, one single piece of seaweed is affixed. The drying seaweed pulls the shapes into convex forms and thereby deforms, tightens and stabilises the entire skin on frame structure.

German-born designer and researcher Julia Lohmann investigates and critiques the ethical and material value systems underpinning our relationship with flora and fauna. She is Professor of Contemporary Design at Aalto University, Finland, and directs her eponymous Helsinki-based design practice. Julia studied at the Royal College of Art, where she has also taught and completed an AHRC-funded collaborative PhD scholarship between the RCA and the Victoria & Albert Museum. As designer in residence at the V&A in 2013, she established the Department of Seaweed, a transdisciplinary community of practice exploring the marine organisms' potential as a design material. Julia Lohmann's work is part of major public and private collections worldwide and has received awards, bursaries and support from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the British Council, Jerwood Contemporary Makers, D&AD, Stanley Picker Gallery, the Arts Foundation, Wellcome Trust and Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.