I created this mycelium network display for a local lighting festival In County Durham in December 2022. Ushaw Historical House, Chapels & Gardens have a yearly festive lights show in December where local artists exhibit their work. Set in a beautiful garden amongst some trees I was allocated a clearing in a wooded area to work with. I wanted to create something natural and organic, that would fit into the surrounding scenery.
Apart from being completely obsessed and passionate about fibre optic lighting, I’m also very interested and inspired by mushrooms too, with their magical and medicinal properties. So it was the perfect opportunity to collaborate both of my hobbies into a work of art. When people see mushrooms, few are aware that what they are seeing are the reproductive fruit of the massive network of mycelium made up of millions of thin white fibre beneath the ground which produces fungi to spread its spores.
I planned to create a display that included three main concepts, colour changing clusters of mushrooms, the mycelium network below as a different zone of colour and most importantly, the animation of the mycelium, which represents the root structure being alive and communicating. Two separate fibre optic light sources and fibre optic bundles were used for this. One for the mushrooms stipes and caps and one for the mycelium. This is because in my head I knew I wanted to be able to have the mushrooms on a slow colour change and the mycelium to be on a separate colour with some additional effects. The second kit illuminating the mycelium is also animated which makes the roots look like they re moving around and communicating.
The display covered an approx 6m circular shape and consisted of 200 mushrooms of different shape and size and another kit of 200 fibres for the myceluim. This setup offers hundreds of different colour combinations and scenes and is controllable, expandable and customisable for different environments. The mushrooms slowly transition through several colours whilst the mycelium below strobes and pulses and almost looks as if its moving around and sending messages around like the human bodies nervous system. It can all be one colour and change very slowly, or it can be a crazy and fast kaleidoscope of colour.
The display had amazing feedback from the event and I’m really pleased with how everything turned out. I’m looking forward to developing the idea further with even bigger and better ways to display it. I’d love to see this feature installed on an interior wall amongst some artificial plants, it could be a full on display or even just a few mushrooms popping out here and there. I also imagine them in some beautiful hotel gardens subtly lighting up a pathway at night.
The additional benefit to all of these installations is that everything that you see glowing is maintenance free. With fibre optics, the point of illumination has no heat or electricity present so you would never need to worry about changing hundreds of lamps in difficult areas. Instead the light source would be kept somewhere accessible for easy maintenance. Even though led light engines typically last 50,000 hours its always best to forward think future maintenance to prevent awkward and expensive repair work.
Please get in touch if you would like to see my mycelium network at your public or private event. This can be made into a temporary or permanent feature and also made larger or smaller.
Keep an eye out for more products and concepts I design using these mushrooms such as chandeliers, garden kits and sensory room features.