Scooping first prize meant he secured funding to push the project on. Not only could he buy more equipment that enabled the residents of Tonahuixtla (the Mexican village where his project is based) to manufacture the husks of corn, it meant he could spend more time, quite literally, in the field.
‘I’m at a point now where I’m organising proper production,’ he says. ‘So alongside the equipment we bought, we spent a couple of months training people. Previously I was still manufacturing the material myself. The plan was always to get people to do it over there.’ Another recent installation, at the London Design Festival, involved ‘sisal’, a sustainable fibre made from the agave plant – once a mainstay of Mexican manufacturing. In ‘Sisal Sanctum’, Laposse used the fibre to create giant sculptures, and start a conversation on why this hardy material was replaced by plastic.
Laposse is a graduate of London’s Central Saint Martins art school, and began by creating ‘glass’ that you could eat (it was actually sugar).And while he admits there’s a huge amount of food design to what he does, he’s careful not to lurch too far into what he describes as ‘catering’. ‘I think that’s the trap with a lot of food designers,’ he says. ‘When people ask for a definition of food design, the truth of the matter is that most people don’t really know. My vision is based upon remaining a designer.’ His design skills, both aesthetic and functional, are at the heart of Totomoxtle. Here, he takes the husks from Mexico’s rich native corn (there are over 60 varieties) and transforms them into a veneering material that can be used for making marquetry, interior furniture and wall panels. One of the central aims is to encourage farmers to plant native corn again.
And here, Laposse’s collaboration with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (better known by its Spanish acronym, CIMMYT) has also been beneficial. Denise Costich, CIMMYT’s Head of the Maize Collection, contacted Laposse with a view to using some of the traditional seeds it holds in its vast seed bank.