My initial vision involved creating a minimalist planter out of mycelium, which is basically the roots of mushrooms. Mycelium is a really fascinating material because it can be grown in any shape, is low cost (easily upcycled), is completely biodegradable, and when it is baked, it becomes very durable. I was familiar with mycelium as a material because I work with it in the Living Matter Lab at ATLAS.
Healthy Mycelium Sample from the Living Matter Lab
Mycelium Planter Sketches
I found a lot of great inspiration for mycelium pieces, from design companies like Ecovative design. I was particularly drawn to the simple, clean look of mycelium products, which fits into the modern minimalist aesthetic.
Mycelium Inspiration 
Unfortunately, growing mycelium is a long and unpredictable process, and the mycelium I inoculated for this particular project got very contaminated. Due to this minor disaster, I had to completely start again, but because mycelium is so time-consuming I had to start again with another material.
The material I pivoted to was papier-mâché. I was inspired to create something out of papier-mâché given the readily available materials (newspaper, glue, and paint) and my experience with the craft from my elementary school years. Despite picking another material, I decided to stick with the same structure, a pot for plants. I was mostly inspired by my small, but mighty, plant collection that sits on my windowsill.
Windowsill Plant Collection
When I did some inspiration searching on Pinterest, I found a papier-mâché sculptor, who made som incredibly cute cacti.
Papier-mâché Inspiration from Kim Baise 
Based on this artist, I decided to make both the pot and the plant out of papier-mâché, instead of just making a pot. After some plant research, I couldn’t make up my mind between making a ball cactus or a snake plant, so I decided to do both. I was particularly drawn to these plants because neither are a part of my current plant collection and I like their shape and form.
Snake Plant  and Ball Cactus 
Plant Sculpture Sketches
Just like with the mycelium, I found that I was particularly drawn to a modern minimalist plant aesthetic, involving clean white pots with little to no decorations, letting the plant be the main attraction.
Minimalist Plant Aesthetic 
So in summary, my functional goal was to create two plants (a ball cactus and a snake plant) and their respective pots out of papier-mâché, while my artistic goal was to make my sculptures adhere to the modern minimalist aesthetic.
My initial, idealized design process for the mycelium planter was very linear, with no iterations. I would typically include iteration in a design process, but because I was working with mycelium, which takes a good amount of time to grow, I had no time to go through an extensive prototyping and iterating phase. I also honestly thought that I would not need to iterate and that everything would go as planned.
Ideal Design Process
Because my mycelium got so contaminated, I had to throw my ideal design process out the window and go through a massive design iteration. Because I had no time to iterate with mycelium, which would have meant just iterating within the fabrication phase, I had to jump all the way back to the ideation phase. I had to start from the beginning because I had to choose a less time-consuming material.
Actual Design Process
Unlike the mycelium, I had no major issues during the fabrication phase with the papier-mâché. This meant I could move onto determining the overall success and enjoying my result without any more iterations.
Before I began fabricating my plants and pots, I wrote out the general steps of the papier-mâché sculpture process.
Fabrication Process Summary
I already had the materials required for the fabrication process, making it easy for me to jump in and get started.
Glue for the Papier-mâché Mix, Newspaper Strips, Plastic Covered Molds for Pots and Ball Cactus
Covered Molds Drying
Painting Supplies, Painting Process, Drying, Assembling
There was some iteration within the painting and assembling process’. Painting required multiple layers to hide the words and images from the newspaper and multiple different colors to create a realistic plant effect. This meant that there were multiple iterations of painting and drying. The assembly process included filling the pots with newspaper, covering the newspaper with papier-mâché, letting the papier-mâché dry, painting the papier-mâché to look like soil, letting the paint dry, cutting a hole with an Exacto knife for the plants to sit in, placing the plants in the hole, and finally gluing the plants to the soil so they don’t come apart from the pot.
After completing the assembly step and touching up certain areas with more paint, I had two, papier-mâché, plant sculptures.
Papier-mâché Snake Plant and Ball Cactus
Achievements vs Goals
Functionally, my initial goal was to create a pot out of mycelium for a real living plant to grow in. This goal was obviously not achieved, however when I changed my material to papier-mâché, my functional goal also changed. My goal instead was to create two papier-mâché plant sculptures, one of a snake plant in a pot, and the other a ball cactus in a pot. When comparing my final product to this goal, I would consider myself successful.
Artistically, my initial goal was to adhere to a modern minimalist aesthetic. Unlike my functional goal, this goal did not change when my material changed. To determine how successful I was with achieving my aesthetic I decided to rank my product on a scale from 1 to 5 for how well it achieved various qualities of the modern minimalist aesthetic. 1 being the product did not achieve this quality at all and 5 being it nailed it. The qualities I chose included realism, sleekness, cleanliness, simplicity, and overall aesthetic. I chose these categories based on photos of modern minimalist plant inspiration I found. In these photos, the pots were almost always clean, white, and sleek with little to no texture or designs. As for the plants in these photos, they almost always looked real and healthy.
Realism: Snake Plant Sculpture 5, Ball Cactus Sculpture 2.5
Sleekness: Snake Plant Sculpture 3.5, Ball Cactus Sculpture 3
Cleanliness: Snake Plant Sculpture 5, Ball Cactus Sculpture 4
Simplicity: Snake Plant Sculpture 5, Ball Cactus Sculpture 5
Overall: Snake Plant Sculpture 4.5, Ball Cactus Sculpture 3.5
In general, I was happier with how the snake plant came out than the ball cactus. If I was to repeat this process, I think I could improve the sleekness of both sculptures by being more intentional with the papier-mâché of the pots. As for the ball cactus, I think it would be more effective if I painted it more realistically and was more intentional with the papier-mâché. Overall though, I think both sculptures adhered to the modern minimalist aethetic.
While I killed this particular round of mycelium, I ended up inoculating another mix of used coffee grounds with oyster mushrooms to start growing more. This time I was super careful about contamination and aggressively sterilized everything. I even decided to grow the mycelium in lab-grade Petri dishes.
New Healthy Mycelium
Because I am growing healthy mycelium again, I might consider making my final project out of it. Although, I have learned that mycelium is time-consuming and unreliable. To save me some stress, it would probably be safer to pick another material to work with for the final project. As for my papier-mâché plant sculptures, I placed them with my living plant collection and I will enjoy looking at them.
Windowsill Plant Collection with Papier-mâché Plant Sculptures
 Ecovative Design, 2020. [Online]. Available: https://ecovativedesign.com/. [Accessed Jan. 26, 2020].
 D. Krysa, “Kim Baise”, The Jealous Curator, Jun. 6, 2014. [Online]. Available: https://www.thejealouscurator.com/blog/2014/06/06/kim-baise/. [Accessed Feb. 7, 2020].
 “Snake Plant Laurentii”, The Sill, n.d. [Online]. Available: https://www.thesill.com/products/snake-plant-laurentii?variant=30412141035625. [Accessed Feb. 7, 2020].
 “Golden Ball Cactus Echinocactus”, Succulents Box, n.d. [Online]. Available: https://succulentsbox.com/products/golden-ball-cactus. [Accessed Feb. 7, 2020].
 Judith, “The 15 Best Indoor Plants For Minimalist Homes”, JuniperOats, n.d. [Online]. Available: https://juniperoats.com/the-15-best-indoor-plants-for-minimalist-homes/. [Accessed Feb. 7, 2020].