Slow tile: Colored snail poo makes vibrant material

Lieske Schreuder
© Lieske Schreuder

Houses made out of mushrooms, jewelry from larvae, and paintings made with fly vomit? One may wonder what people are going to think of next, and Dutch designer Lieske Schreuder may take the proverbial cake in this case with her floor tiles that are made out of colored snail poop.

© Lieske Schreuder

Seen over at Dezeen and currently on view at the Biodesign show at The New Institute in Rotterdam, Schreuder apparently chanced upon this idea after observing in her ravaged garden that the little critters were also fond of eating paper and cardboard -- materials that have a similar cellular structure to their preferred plant food.

She then decided to test a hypothesis: what would happen if they ate colored paper? A trip to a snail farm later, Schreuder discovered that the snails' systems will not absorb most of the coloring, instead resulting in vibrantly colored feces, which the she says has a malleable feel.

© Lieske Schreuder
© Lieske Schreuder
© Lieske Schreuder

Schreuder's custom-made laboratory consists of transparent chambers that allow snails access to colored paper, and allows her to collect excrement. She adds this to a portable machine she created that mixes, grinds and flattens the poop into roughly speckled tiles.

© Lieske Schreuder
© Lieske Schreuder

It may seem gross, but Schreuder explains it's a matter of perspective, and seeing it as "snail-paper-recycling":

Walking outside, in the garden or on the streets, we are constantly walking on snail excrements. But because these excrements are very small and look like normal dirt, we are not aware of this. This made me think of a situation where these excrements are in colour. This would be some sort of snail excrement carpet.

© Lieske Schreuder

This carpet would take a while to produce, though, as Schreuder admits that her filaments of poop (which when processed measure 5-millimeters wide) are made literally at a snail's pace:

One metre of thread will take me an hour and contains six grams of excrement that is ground before processing. It will take approximately nine snails five days to produce these six grams.

Practical? Probably not. And maybe it might be better to eschew the color altogether (seeing that no one asked the snails). But certainly intriguing, once we figure out what other uses snail feces may have. More over at Dezeen and Lieske Schreuder's website.

Tags: Materials