Rhode Island designer makes instruments from mushrooms and eggshells

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In Rhode Island, luthier Rachel Rosenkrantz used the pandemic lockdowns to create a line of instruments using alternative biobased materials, such as eggshells, mushrooms, and honeycomb. 

Originally from France, Rosenkrantz tells ecoRI News she came to the US as an exchange student at Rhode Island School of Design. She hopes her work will help address the environmental impact of guitars, which often do not source wood in a sustainable way. Luthiers require tonal wood and use wasteful cutting techniques to achieve proper acoustics. 

 “IKEA recently switched from using Styrofoam to using mushroom-based packing materials,” Rosenkrantz says. “I figured they must be similar. And I know that Styrofoam conducts sound because it’s full of air, so I tested RISD’s mushroom sample with my sound diffuser and realized that I could make a solid body sound like a hollow body.”

Rosenkrantz has also experimented with fish leather pickguards, sourcing tilapia skins from a woman in São Paulo; eggshell inlays; and kombucha leather. The latter took time to perfect but was eventually used in a banjo.  “It took 11 tries before I made enough leather for one instrument,” she says, adding that she “did not have a boring lockdown.”