For their Fungi Club Project, Susy & Tom decided to make a mycelial sculpture in order to explore the potential for creating forms out of mycelium. Susy was interested in the creative potential of mushrooms, whereas Tom brought his architectural eye to the project, exploring the potential of funghi as a building material. After exploring a range of ideas, we settled on the idea of making a “mycelial orb” which could be suspended for the Fat Fox Fungi Club launch event.
'To make the orb, we first had to think about making a mould to shape the substrate in. We had to consider how to create two large bowl shapes, that would have limited air flow and would compress the substrate to support the mushrooms growing. We decided to create a large papier mache mould, as we didn’t have the budget for large enough bowls, but if you had more budget using two large bowls would also work.'
'We also considered the differences in strain, in terms of the end result. We used a blue oyster substrate for one half, and a pink oyster substrate for the other. Both were a straw based substrate to help the binding together process. The blue oyster colonised quicker and was more robust. The pink oyster took longer but quickly began pinning. Depending on temperature, time and desired outcome, you can chose which substrate works better for you, but we would recommend using a straw based substrate.'
The team followed the following steps:
Create two papier mache moulds over a balloon.
Create a support for the moulds using cardboard.
Line the moulds with plastic to prevent the substrate touching the papier mache.
Fill each plastic lined mould with inoculated substrate about 5cm thick.
Cover the exposed substrate with plastic.
Blow up a balloon into the empty space of the substrate, and inflate it, to add pressure to the substrate to keep it in place.
Wrap up the two pieces of the balloon around the substrate to reduce airflow, and tape the plastics closed, leaving a little bit of air that is able to access the sculpture.
Repeat with the second mould.
Once the two strains had colonised the substrate, we left the two domes to dry. Sadly, the sawdust inoculated with Pink Oyster Mushroom spawn did not hold together well. The straw inoculated with with blue oyster spawn, however, head together well. We Suspended the half-orb from the ceiling and within a few weeks both halves of the orb actually began to fruit!
While this project was inexpensive to undertake (just the cost of the balloons and the substrate and mushroom spawn) if you have a larger budget, stacking a smaller bowl inside creating the mould was quite difficult and using large bowls stacked into one another would be a much simpler method.
'I loved making this! I have grown mushrooms before at home, but was attracted to the idea of being able to be confident enough to play around with mycelial sculptures. It helped me to understand that you can make anything really, just being stubborn is enough to do it! The experience and knowledge at Fat Fox helped me to understand the differences between strains in a way that will be helpful going forward.'
'It’s encouraged me to try more things, I want to try making bowls and plant pots from substrate and to try and make some sculptures for my art practise @queer.as.funghi that explores nature, bodies and queerness for example a trans flag made from pink, blue and white oysters.'