words Sophie Webb
Julia Lohmann has taken kelp, a large seaweed normally found in the shallow oceans around Japan and Ireland, and transformed it into a beautiful material for making lighting objects.
“I was on S-Air, a residency program in Sapporo in Japan, when I first became fascinated with kelp and the form it took,” says Lohmann, who was working at the icon experiment with Gero Grundmann.
She uses two varieties, green Irish seaweed and the stronger brown Japanese kelp. They start with dried seaweed as a raw material, and soak it in water until it becomes a malleable material. “I have developed a way of wrapping it around geometric forms to really give it structure,” says Lohmann. It is dried and then thinly varnished. The resulting shapes range from spiral to flatter, angular pieces, and Lohmann likens the material to plastic from the 1970s.At the icon experiment, Lohmann has suspended light features from the ceiling, using lengths of kelp clustered around the bulb, accentuating the material’s natural translucency. “The material becomes really beautiful if you look through it you can see the light coming through,” she says.
Lohmann has also created a variety of small, polygonal nesting lampshades on wooden and metal legs; they fit together, creating new sculptural structures and casting off different qualities of light.