- Sustainability-conscious guitar maker Rachel Rosenkrantz trained as an industrial designer.
- In recent years, luthier has been incorporating fungi and other biomaterials to create environmentally friendly tools.
- Leave the mushroom spores in a mold for a few weeks, she told AFP in a recent interview, and they will turn into a puffy substance similar to brie.
- The mycelium, the root-like structure of the fungus that produces mycorrhiza, mimics the mature cheese rind that Rosenkrantz dried into a lightweight, biodegradable building material.
Leave the mushroom spores in a mold for a few weeks and they’ll turn into a puffy, brie-like substance, says Rachel Rosenkrantz, a sustainability-minded biomass maker.
Once a fungus, the root-like structure of the mushroom-producing mushroom mimics the rind of ripe Rosenkrantz cheese which he dries into a lightweight, biodegradable building material—in this case, the body of a guitar.
Trained as an industrial designer, she began her career as an industrial designer a decade ago, and in recent years has incorporated fungi and other biomaterials in her quest to create plastic-free and eco-friendly tools.
Rosencrantz laughs as he offers his analogy to fromage blanc which is also a nod to his French roots; The designer grew up in Montfermeil, in the eastern suburbs of Paris, and now lives near Providence, where she teaches at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design.
The basement workshop under his sunny apartment, filled with plants and books, is his workplace and also serves as a science lab, growing materials like kombucha skin to make banjo heads and using fish skin to craft guards.
“In the design world, everyone works with biomaterials, it’s exponential,” the 42-year-old told AFP from her studio.
“It’s no longer like a hippie solution,” she continued, referring to BMW, which used flax fibers in the construction of the dashboard, or Hermès, which used leather derived from mushrooms for its dashboards and the linings of its bags.
“It’s not pie in the sky like it was five years ago. It’s actually very tangible.”
“Frankenstein Pieces for Guitars That Are Still Good”
Traditionally, luthiers made guitars with woods such as cedar, rosewood, mahogany, and ebony, depending on the desired tonal qualities.
Wood, of course, is also biodegradable, but issues like excessive afforestation have pushed manufacturers like Rosenkrantz toward more sustainable options, reclaiming wood, and sourcing local wood.
Referring to the Manhattan Conservatory, she said: “Do we really need to use the same genres as 400 years ago, because who really plays music like 400 years ago? A few Juilliard students.”
“I think it’s an industry because it’s craft-based and there’s a lot of ‘how things ought to be’,” she continued, adding that woods such as poplar wood or bamboo have long been neglected but may offer new opportunities.
“What if the Frankensteining had some guitar parts that were still pretty good, so we didn’t throw out the whole instrumentation?” said Rosencrantz.
“We have to keep our eyes open and see the potential of different things.”
French luthier Rachel Rosenkrantz displays her model guitar body made of mycelium in her studio.
Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP
French luthier Rachel Rosenkrantz performs “Mycocaster”, a guitar instrumental and instrumental recording, in her studio.
Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP
French luthier Rachel Rosenkrantz plays a fungus-made harp in her studio.
Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP
The mycelium, the fungal network that lies beneath the fruit that we know as mushrooms.
It is easy to grow, easy to shape and replace even if it begins to fall apart, and can be made into acoustic and electric tools.
Is it wise? Rosenkrantz’s mushroom guitar is layered, fine-tuned, and doesn’t really sound like a traditional guitar.
It’s a little nasal – but it’s full of possibilities.
“The idea came to me when I was looking for packaging where mushrooms were used as a substitute for polystyrene,” which is “known to be a good conductor of sound because it is filled with air,” she said.
The designer found that his pie conducts the sound as well, “but it has a different tone. So it’s unlike anything else before.”
“It’s just a new sound,” she continued. It will not replace rice because it is not rice. »
I’ve found that mushroom textures in general work best with electric arrangements: “There’s a normal pickup, so it sounds like a regular electric guitar, and there’s another pickup in the mushroom as well.”
“So you can then vary the amount of mushroom bran that you want.”
The work is driven by curiosity
Some Rosenkrantz custom guitars are entirely made of wood, while others incorporate more experimental biomaterials.
Considering the time it takes to build a unique guitar from scratch, their kits start at around $6,000.
But when it comes to the mushroom-based prototype, Rosenkrantz said, “My dream is for a big company to say, ‘Let’s do it, $50, every kid can have one.'”
“Some students don’t have the means to buy an instrument… What if that was a solution? Fender, if you hear that,” she said, smiling.
Much of Rosenkrantz’s work is driven by curiosity: she keeps bees and trains them to build a guitar masterpiece by providing the instrument’s spine, the part “that guides the sound and gives a certain solidity to the instrument”.
She explained that the strut mimics the top bars of a beehive, and “the bees communicate through the comb at 309 Hz, and that’s in the range of guitars.” “So we will create a honeycomb that will be a natural diffuser of sound.”
And it worked: the bees built combs along her hull, ate their honey in the winter, and left Rosenkrantz with a clean, humming guitar.
She said the project is less about future use and more about “hair”, another test for finding biomaterials with acoustic qualities.
It’s an exploration she hopes will help build a more sustainable future: “I’m trying to help the cause in some way.”