Sustainable Design Taken to Another Level
Back in 2006, the world of interior design experienced a whole new perspective on their business in the form of the Danish brand, Mater
Mater was awarded ‘Best New Design Brand’ in 2008 by London-based industry leading Wallpaper magazine. From day one, Mater has always been a very conscientious brand, carefully considering everything inside and outside the walls of the company. This is made clear when it comes to the name of their business and the meaning behind it.
“Mater means ‘Mother’ in Latin and fits the ethical and sustainable thinking of Mater – the name is a daily reminder of the challenges that Mother Earth faces, and why we need to prevent it. Unfortunately, we are increasingly aware that the choices made during design processes often have environmental consequences. However, as a manufacturer, we have the opportunity to rethink dubious practices and create ethical and sustainable design that minimises adverse social and environmental impacts.” - Henrik Marstrand, CEO & Founder
Mater produces high-end furniture and lightning, using methods that support people, local craft traditions and the environment. Mater is an ethical and sustainable brand which focuses on the design and craftsmanship of their products.
“In the beginning we wanted to go with the company name ‘Mother’, which links to our values about ‘Mother Earth’ and being a responsible mother that cares for people and the environment for themselves and the children's sakes.”
The Scandinavian minimalist designs are all made with ethically sourced or sustainable materials. Searching for the best designs, Mater is always on the look for new inspiring collaborations with both established and fresh design talent. This always helps the company to push the limits of what they thought impossible and to learn about new production techniques and skills.
“An ethical choice of material such as renewable or certified wood, recycled waste and new efficient energy sources are our sources of inspiration.”
Mater has a unique design philosophy, to create timeless and iconic objects, irrespective of the fact that they use sustainable materials or their policy of corporate social responsibility, that can stand alone as products you simply ought to own because they are beautiful. Mater High Stool from Space Copenhagen is today a globally iconic piece of design, but the values of sustainability, use of responsibly sourced wood, and support of local craft traditions are not immediately apparent.
While employing both Danish and international design talents, Mater are proud of preserving the heart of Danish design. Mater are constantly looking for established and young design talent – from Denmark and abroad – who can work within Danish design traditions and Nordic values, where aesthetics, minimalism, quality and durability go hand-in-hand. When Mater collaborates with new designers, they often bring a fresh design perspective on sustainable materials or a unique craft to the process.
“When we think about the resources, it's about what legacy we’re giving the next generation when we produce and consume goods.”
The main focus for Mater is working with high quality materials that are sustainable or ethically sourced and incorporating them into a simple, timeless style with a colour scheme of calm, organic, muted tones.
As well as Mater’s own creators, the commissioned designers produce exquisite craftsmanship by working with materials such as certified wood, leather and natural fibres. The purpose of their furniture and lighting are to achieve aesthetic appeal by simple, organic and contemporary methods of design. Mater’s collections are a mix of design talent, sustainable techniques, premium materials, ethical production and shared wisdom from craftsmen.
“We want to create a universe of sustainability, where aesthetics and ethics merge in a surprising way, so you think ‘Can it really be so beautiful?’. We can choose sustainability without any design compromises.”
Unique Design History – Ethics and Sustainability
It starts with a ‘why’. Every time Mater produces a new product they’re trying to define why they launch it. Instead of focusing on what Mater produces, they ask themselves: “Are we promoting a new recycled or eco-friendly material? Are there craftsmen we can be supporting?”
This defines why Mater launches new products and want to tell the stories behind them. Their biggest inspiration are the materials. Every single component has its own story, such as renewable or certified wood, recycled waste and new efficient energy sources.
For a unique example of how you can create absolutely exquisite design with unique materials, have a look at Mater’s Alu Bowl Table, a minimalist table designed in the most beautiful way – but that’s not the best part of the story. The aluminium the table is made from is 70% recycled from old cars and bicycle wheels, which are melted down and reformed into this little work of art. Mater sees the potential opportunity in waste and scrap materials, rather than discarding them. The recycled aluminium is sand casted in Moradabad in India. There sand casting is a traditional, metal casting process characterised by using damp sand as a mould. The ancient technique requires time and precision, and only the best craftsmen can do it. This is just one of the many stories behind Mater products which gives them their unique design philosophy.
“We believe that the good stories lie in the history of sustainability, being transparent about what products you actually buy.”
Mater are now utilising new materials, such as plastics collected from the oceans, including old fishing nets, recycled yogurt cups and other plastic packaging, as well as waste products from wine and beer production, which can be converted into wood fibre-like materials. If Mater succeed commercially with the collection, the hope is that one day we will run out of plastic waste from the oceans, as they continue to clean up and give the materials a new life in an up-cycled classic design object.
The Story of the Mango Tree
Many years ago, when looking for new sustainable materials to use in their products, the directors of Mater took a research trip to India. It was there that some locals introduced them to the mango tree and they jumped on board immediately.
Mater quickly found out the wood is, fundamentally, a by-product of the thriving industry that produces mango fruit. The mango trees have long life spans and some specimens still bear fruit after 300 years, but compared with other towering trees such as oaks, which take 50 to 100 years to mature, it only takes the mango tree a maximum of 15 years to grow between 24 and 30 meters. Once the tree grows too high and it’s too difficult to harvest the fruit, the trees are cut down for timber and new trees are planted. This makes the whole lifecycle very sustainable because the population won’t decrease, like other species of tree that get cut down.
“Today we can trace every single product we create out of wood back to its origins, and therefore we can safely say that new trees are planted every time one is cut down in our partner network.”
Previously the trees were simply burnt or left to break down naturally. Now the wood not only gives the farmers an extra income, but also provide furniture manufacturers, like Mater, with an affordable and sustainable product to work with.
The Mater Way
Mater cares about the environment and the Mother Earth. They want to be the leaders in ethical and sustainable products, and to demonstrate that it is possible to make and create quality and beautiful designed furniture without overloading the Earth we live on.
Mango Wood Facts
- Mango wood is as strong as cherry or ash wood, ranking 1070 on the Janka hardness scale.
- As the material is readily available, mango wood furniture is more affordable than its hardwood contemporaries like oak and teak.
- Mango trees are prone to both insect and fungus attack, but don’t worry, once the wood is dried and treated, both disappear, leaving behind the gorgeous patterns and colours in the wood.
- The mango wood furniture by Mater is made for everyday use, so each piece is treated with water-based lacquer to protect the surface. It only needs cleaning once in a while without use of chemicals and is in general sturdy and maintenance-free.