BigSteps is a pouf that pays tribute to the traditional craftsmanship and heritage of esparto grass, a plant that grows in the arid regions of the Western Mediterranean and is commonly used to make baskets, rugs, and espadrilles.
This piece of furniture draws inspiration from these traditional objects. The rope that brings it together is made with a specific braiding technique exclusively used to make the famous Spanish "espardeñas." The flat plane of the pouf starts with an espadrille silhouette at the center and expands outward through concentric turns of the cord. This piece of furniture can be used in multiple orientations and the handles that appear around the volume, reminiscent of basket craftsmanship, enable easy movement within a space, making it comfortable and lightweight. It will bring a glimpse of nature to any home space.
BigSteps is made of natural, regenerative, and biodegradable materials. On one hand, the rope that gathers around the piece is made of esparto grass. This fiber is harvested through a selective technique that only removes the longest leaves of the plant, allowing the rest to continue growing. On the other hand, the core of the pouf is made of natural latex foam, which comes from a milky fluid in the bark of the rubber trees. The harvest of this material allows forests of rubber trees to grow since these trees can be harvested for 24 years. BigSteps not only looks to promote the use of regenerative materials but also respects and rejuvenates the natural and cultural ecosystems surrounding it.
This object seeks to reimagine the human relationship with nature, slow materials, and old knowledge. I believe some of the ecological challenges we face can be addressed through the objects we make and use.
BigSteps pouf in a living room
BigSteps pouf on a living room
Pair of espadrilles
Esparto grass plant
I began this project by researching regenerative materials and came across esparto grass, a plant that grows in semi-arid regions of the Western Mediterranean. Not only does it thrive in dry soils, but it also helps to improve land fertility and curb soil erosion. This plant can last for over 60 years due to the selective harvesting technique that only removes the longest leaves, allowing the rest to continue growing.
There is a long history of craft and tradition behind esparto grass. This fiber allowed people in rural areas to make their products for their daily needs such as baskets to transport goods, shoes, hats, and curtains. Even the well-known Manchego cheese, is still made with esparto molds that tighten and dry the cheese while it's cured. Esparto culture was declared World Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2019. Nowadays esparto grass still is typically used to make baskets, rugs, and shoes: the Spanish espadrilles. However, synthetic fibers have started replacing them. Designing new objects with this material will help promote its use while keeping the heritage and craft of this material.
The manufacturing process of the BigSteps pouf follows the same steps as the traditional espadrille-making process, which involves coiling the rope around and sewing it to fix the final shape. This process was adapted to create the final flat surface of the pouf.
When it comes to the design process, I started making myself an espadrille by coiling the rope around to achieve the shape. Once I made the espadrille silhouette, I decided to continue turning the rope around to create a bigger surface. This free-form exploration allowed me to arrive at the final form of the pouf. After that, I extruded the silhouette to achieve the necessary height to transform it into a seat.
The design of the pouf allows for versatile seating options, as it can be rotated and placed in any direction. The handles that encircle the pouf serve both an aesthetic purpose and a practical function, enhancing the user's experience by making interaction with the pouf more playful. The concentric turns of the rope around the volume also create an intriguing visual resemblance to a fingerprint or a Japanese garden's sand pattern.
BigSteps is not only a pouf made of esparto rope but a celebration of regenerative sources, natural materials, and circular design. Its core is made of natural latex foam, which comes from the sap of rubber trees, making the whole seat fully compostable and biodegradable. Both esparto grass and natural latex are materials that promote the growth of the plant. In both cases, the extraction of the material doesn't mean killing the plant, but only removing a part of it that will soon regenerate and regrow. The world needs objects that not only are ethically made but make a positive impact. BigSteps is an example that we don't need to extract rocks from the earth or use petroleum, we should use what nature brings us and then give it back.