Integral to a host of diverse ecosystems, adapted to thrive in extreme conditions (from arid deserts to snow-covered mountains and everything in between), and able to absorb large amounts of CO2 and combat soil erosion — among other virtues — moss is a powerhouse in the plant world.
It also sprouted inspiration for Poppy Pippin, who, during the final year of her product and furniture design undergrad at the Kingston School of Art four years ago, began paying attention to the flora while on “observational walks” through her Central London, U.K., neighbourhood. “I started noticing where and how moss occurred naturally, in the cracks and crevices of concrete, along sidewalks and the sides of roads,” says Pippin.
At the same time, she was discovering a love for hand-throwing clay and playing with surface textures by using bits of bark, fabric and anything else that would leave an impression. Seeing an opportunity to combine the two — and wanting to produce something that would help decrease air pollution and add greenery to urban settings — Pippin began developing what would become her Moss Tiles.
Working with terracotta, she first created flat tiles, then tested a number of ways to imprint a suitable pattern before ultimately landing on a quarter circle that repeats and radiates outward from an inner corner. Next, she took two approaches to the moss, transplanting and propagating, and found the former more successful for establishing moss growth. Once it takes hold, the rootless plant is relatively maintenance-free and lightweight, making it an ideal choice for vertical installations.
With an award for Moss Tiles already under her belt (2019’s Green Heroes category in London’s Grand Designs Live program), Pippin is paying attention to feedback from the industry and refining her product further. “I would love to develop a range of differently sized tiles to address a variety of projects, from homeowners who want to create an installation in their backyards to architects and designers working on larger commissions.”
With her in-development product, designer Poppy Pippin hopes to decrease air pollution in urban settings.