Doncaster man’s designs to save the planet...

He is only 22, but Ashley Granter of Doncaster is fast becoming a leading light in sustainable designer products that are actually made from mushrooms. The former Hayfield School pupil, now a mycological designer and consultant, lives in Finningley but travels to London at least twice a week to further his creations.

By Sally Burton
Thursday, 24 January, 2019, 07:30
Ashley Granter

  He explained: " I was first inspired by mycology while studying at university, to produce sustainable products that include a sense of material heritage and history. 

"Products with a moral story provide a higher level of personal value and teach users to have sensitivity towards their environmental impact."

Bowl by Ashley Granter

He continued: "By using what's known as mycelium (the 'root system' of mushrooms) you can produce magical products. 

So there are mycelium lights, chairs, plant pots and the list goes on.... 

"Really any product that can be made in a mould can be made using mycelium. I envision a future household having many mycelium items, all long-lasting and produced with a positive impact, that, once destined to be thrown away, will decompose it the garden rapidly, leaving no trace.  

"The mycelium strands serve as a bonding agent to bind together compostable components such as wood, straw and paper into solid objects.

Ashley Granter working with mycelium

"Currently, I am working on products that challenge the high amount of waste produced when hand carving wood. 

"We undervalue what trees do for our planet.

"Carving an object from timber should be a privilege, but the amount of wood shavings going to waste goes against that principle. 

"Through the use of mycelium, I am able to give wood shaving waste a new lease of life, imbuing a story and history to the piece."

In the future, Ashley hopes to see many mycelium products in shops. 

He said: "With increasing perceptions against harmful plastics, I believe there's a huge gap in the market for solutions to overcome this issue and good design shouldn’t come at the cost of our planet and its limited resources.      

"As my background is in product design, rather than biology, most work I do revolves around trial and error. I see this as an advantage because I have no preconceptions about how things 'should' work.

" I was recently explaining to a fellow designer about the hurdles you have to overcome using trial and error, but once you crack the next step it is one of the best feelings in the world and I have been spotted dancing around my lab when breakthroughs are achieved."

To create a mycological product, you first need to decide on two things; the substrate and the species, he explained. 

The substrate refers to core material that makes up the product, which is almost always organic byproducts such as wood-based materials. The species is the type of fungi you use and decides many of its properties, such as colour, texture, strength and even fragrance.

"For a successful combination, you have to pair species and substrate like you would a board of expensive cheese and wine," said Ashley. "This produces different fungal materials that can be tailored to applications such as fire resistance, waterproofing or structural loads.

"Once a combination has been achieved, the substrate is sterilised and mixed with samples of the fungi to initiate the growth and spread of the mycelium. The fungi make take up to three weeks to grow throughout the substrate which can then be packed into a mould. 

"After a few more weeks, you have a fully fledged product."

Ashley's work is in demand.

He said: "My customers are people looking for bespoke pieces of furniture, who are interested in exploring how good design doesn't have to harm the environment. 

"When you are first introduced to a mycelium product, most people are shocked by the texture and the wonder that comes from 'growing' a piece of furniture. 

"As each product is unique and often made for its owner, the price can vary, but it is by far one of the most affordable ways to own a part of what I would consider the sustainable revolution.

"As well as producing products myself, I strive to help others in the same industry, to accelerate the change from harmful plastics to more beautiful and natural materials. 

"I honestly believe that  by working and sharing with others, the increasing  knowledge about this material means that both myself and the industry benefit massively.  

"My hope in the future is to see mycelium products as commonplace items in our homes and to see less harm being done to our planet in the sake of the next piece of design."