Vegan leather alternatives like renewable, biodegradable materials are enjoying increasing popularity. Latvian designer Sarmite Polakova also focuses on a natural resource: pines – the most abundant tree in her home country. After all, there are 500 times as many pines as people populating this Baltic state.

“It is important for me as a designer to keep the material as natural as possible.”

From a food source to medicine – over the course of history pines have served many purposes. Today, the tree is predominantly appreciated for its soft wood. Its other components are hardly used.
This is not the case with Samite Polakova: this Latvian designer has discovered the inner skin with its leather-type properties hidden beneath the thick and hard outer bark. She coats this secondary product of wood production with a protective layer of wax and colour pigments thereby leveraging the full potential of this natural resource. As a designer it is important for her to keep the material as natural as possible.

Polakova converts the inner bark into everyday objects such as rugs or woven baskets. The design process always focuses on the material and the Latvian designer describes her approach as follows:

“Today we often bend and transform materials into shapes we envision. However, for me that magic happens when the material determines what it wants to become.”

She also takes into consideration here that this soft material has a maximum useful life of up to two years. Decay therefore becomes an integral part of the product: over time and with use the shape of the object changes. At the end of their lifecycle these products can return to the soil enriching future growth with their nutrients.