In the United States, a French luthier makes mushroom guitars

Providence: Frenchwoman Rachel Rosencrantz is at the same time an industrial designer, a musician and an innovator in biomaterials: From her workshop in the northeast of the United States, she makes guitars from mushroom mycelium.

The use of mycelium—a type of “root” of a mushroom—in the manufacture of biodegradable items is not new. But 42-year-old Rachel Rosencrantz, originally from Montfermeil near Paris, and who has lived in Providence, Rhode Island state for years, is a pioneer in building corded instruments that respect the environment.

An industrial designer by profession, she became passionate about creating lightweight, biodegradable and plastic-free mushroom guitar bodies.

“In the design world, everyone works on biomaterials. It’s exponential,” says Rachel Rosencrantz, who received AFP in her studio surrounded by books, musical instruments, tools and plants in Providence, where she lives on the famous Road Teaches in the island. Design School.

Of course, like any innovation, “it’s still a bit of the ‘Wild West’ and we’re trying all kinds of things”.

Biodegradable at BMW and Hermès

“But it’s not a hippie thing anymore, as companies like (German carmaker) BMW are now using flax fiber to make dashboards” and French luxury conglomerate Hermès has used mushroom “leather” for bag linings, she tells.

So how did Rachel Rosencrantz create her guitar, which is nicknamed the “Mikocaster” in reference to the famous Fender Stratocasters?

She takes a bag of mycelium and corn husks from her fridge and pours the contents into a mold she’s disinfected.

The mycelium is the vegetative part of the mushroom, which is made up of white fibers. In a way their roots and their digestive system.

All smiles, the craftsman explains: “The roots can take whatever shape you want. There is something very beautiful about it. Even though the fruit has a specific shape, the roots do not. So it is possible to mold them without shaping them.” to remove material, because it is material that will fill the empty space”.

To “sculpt the guitar rather than mold it”, the material would rest for one to two weeks before being put in the oven to dry completely and the French woman would compare it to a crust of brie cheese.

Traditionally, luthiers make their instruments from cedar, mahogany, ebony or rosewood, depending on the quality of the sound.

Wood is of course biodegradable, but eco-lover Rachel Rosencrantz is sensitive to deforestation and is looking for more sustainable materials.

“Should we continue to use the same species (of wood) as we did 400 years ago? Because who really plays music like it did 400 years ago? Some students at the (New York Conservatory of Music) Juilliard? C That’s cool, they need,” she says.

“But if we create new types of music, we also need new methods to achieve it”, he also cited poplar and bamboo, which according to him are rarely used in the manufacture of musical instruments. .

mushroom sound

And what does a mushroom guitar sound like?

We’re far from traditional guitars, the sound is more nasal, she hears AFP.

The green designer says, “It’s just a new sound. It won’t replace cedar because it’s not cedar.”

Rachel Rosencrantz recounts, “The idea came to me while studying polystyrene packaging.”

“Since the mushroom was used to replace polystyrene, which is known to be a good conductor of sound because it is filled with air, I began testing whether its natural counterpart would do the same. And that’s what happened. passed. But the seal was different”, she clarified.

Of course, given the time it takes to build the guitar, first price starts at… $6,000 (5,500 euros).

But Rachel Rosencrantz’s dream is to have a big company say, ‘Let’s make them a guitar for $50 (so that) every kid has a guitar.’

“Fender, if you can hear me!”, he concluded, calling out to the famous American maker of electric guitars.

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