Mari Koppanen

The Ritual of Amadou

Oslo National Academy of the Arts, Design

Amadou is a unique fungal material derived from polypore mushroom called Fomes fomentarius, better known as "tinder mushroom". Tinder mushrooms grow widely in Europe, northern Asia, and north America and they are known to have many medical benefits. Amadou has absorbent, antiseptic, and insulating properties, it is also vegan and contains no harmful substances. In the small mountain village of Corund in Transylvania, amadou craft tradition has been passed down for hundreds of years. Local residents use this suede-like material to create small handmade items such as hats and bags. The material knowledge has been handed down from fathers to sons. Now the expertise is in danger of being lost as the aging amadou artisans pass away.

Amadou offers a range of health benefits and a fascinating historical background, but it also has a tactile and soothing sensation upon touch. The surface reminds of a horse's snout or the softest spot behind puppy's ear radiating comfort, safety, and empathy. It’s no surprise that people often want to place the material close to their face or breast.

The interest of this research lies in understanding the behavioural aspects of amadou and whether its primal, animalistic characteristics are what cause us to feel connected to it. The project explores if amadou could offer us a first-hand experience of the fungal world, serving as a physical, tactile bridge to the universe of this mystical organism. By approaching the use of amadou not only from the cultural or historical perspective, but also seeing it as a pedagogical and social element, the project seeks to contextualize the material in a modern framework and contribute to the evolution of this nearly lost material.

Mari Koppanen is a Finnish designer currently working on her Ph.D. in Artistic Research at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts. With a background in fashion and furniture design, she is committed to embedding ethical, environmental, and social issues into her work. Koppanen's design work spans a wide range of medias, including furniture, textiles, pottery, and biomaterials, showcasing her versatility and dedication to pushing the boundaries of contemporary design. Through photography and film, she captures the visual and tactile qualities of the materials she works with. Koppanen's aim is to gain an understanding of possible future applications of fungal materials while approaching the organisms with sensitivity and respect.